Veterans Issues

 

 

 

 

The information enclosed by the *********** is general source information.

For general information and informative articles see the section below the **** area.

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Veterans Family  Resources 

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Veterans Family Resources       

Resources for Parents and Families

American Hospice Foundation
Simple talking guidelines for helping kids deal with grief and anxiety: http://www.americanhospice.org/articles-mainmenu-8/grieving-children-mainmenu-12/33-military-kids-responding-to-their-grief

Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund
This group provides scholarships to children of service members who have sacrificed life or limb in service to our country: http://www.freedomalliance.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=22&Itemid=93

Operation Military Kids
The Army’s official outreach to kids affected by war and deployment. Local resources to achieve a sense of community and enhance well-being: http://www.operationmilitarykids.org/public/home.aspx

Our Military Kids – National Guard
Assists the children of National Guard and Reserve troops and injured service members through grants, providing access to sports, fine arts, and academic tutoring programs: http://www.ourmilitarykids.org

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Offers videos and guides for children and families welcoming a veteran back home: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/reintegration/returning_from_the_war_zone_guides.asp
Medical and Mental Health Benefits for Families

Family Service Members’ Group Life Insurance
The VA offers life insurance benefits for military spouses and dependents: http://www.insurance.va.gov/sglisite/fsgli/sglifam.htm

Medline Plus
A directory of links to useful information for families dealing with deployment and separation, illnesses and injuries, mental health issues, and other family stress: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/veteransandmilitaryfamilyhealth.html

National Military Family Association
Resource-rich site of family benefits: http://www.militaryfamily.org/your-benefits/

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD
A treasure trove of information to help kids deal with the trauma of a veteran parent suffering from PTSD: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/web-resources/children-and-adolescents.asp

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Resources for suicide prevention, child trauma and anxiety, grief management, depression, caregiver support, and much more: http://www.samhsa.gov/militaryfamilies/

Family Assistance for Fallen Service Members

Department of Veterans Affairs: National Cemetery Administration
Military burial is available for our fallen service members at no cost to their families: http://www.cem.va.gov/ or call the VA at (800) 535-1117 to make burial arrangements.

Army One Source Survivor Outreach Services
Too many of our brave service members have paid the ultimate price to protect their country. This group provides support and services to their families: https://www.myarmyonesource.com/familyprogramsandservices/familyprograms/survivoroutreachservices/default.aspx
Kids Corner

Sesame Street Workshops
Helping kids deal with deployments, homecomings, changes, and grief, with programs featuring beloved Sesame Street characters: http://www.sesameworkshop.org/initiatives/emotion/tlc

VA Kids K-12th
Games, activities, and information to help kids understand deployment: http://www.va.gov/kids/

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The following posted 8/15/13

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DVNF Applauds Executive Order for Creation of PTSD, TBI Research Consortia

Posted on: August 15, 2013

Washington, DC- August 15, 2013 – The Disabled Veterans National Foundation (www.dvnf.org), a non-profit veterans service organization that focuses on helping men and women who serve and return home wounded or sick after defending our safety and our freedom,  is applauding an Executive Order that will have the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs create two joint research consortia for the study of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Continue reading:  http://www.dvnf.org/dvnf-applauds-executive-order-for-creation-of-ptsd-tbi-research-consortia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dvnf-applauds-executive-order-for-creation-of-ptsd-tbi-research-consortia

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How will Affordable Care Act affect veterans? New VA website has answers

Aug. 9, 2013 -

The Veterans Affairs Department has launched a new website explaining the likely impact of the Affordable Care Act on former troops and their families.

The site addresses questions such as whether the law affects those already receiving VA health care (it doesn’t), who is eligible for VA care, and options available to uninsured family members.

Under the Affordable Care Act, veterans who qualify for VA health care — including all who fall into the Veterans Affairs Department’s eight health care priority groups — do not have to buy health insurance under the law’s requirement that all individuals must have coverage.

VA wants all eligible veterans who aren’t already in the system to visit the website and sign up.

“VA encourages eligible veterans who are not enrolled in VA’s health care system to take advantage of the world-class care we provide to the men and women who have served this nation in uniform,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said.

For eligible veterans, VA health care carries no enrollment fees, monthly premiums or deductibles.

According to VA data, nearly 8.6 million veterans are enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration. An estimated 6.6 million more of the nation’s 23 million veterans are eligible, but many have other insurance.

VA believes that roughly 1.3 million veterans are uninsured and may be eligible for VA care.

Nearly 1 million spouses and children of veterans also do not have health insurance. For them, the law created a health insurance marketplace where the uninsured can shop for a policy.

By law, U.S. citizens who do not have health insurance and do not qualify for government programs could face penalties starting in January. Annual fines would start at $95 for an adult, $47.50 for a child and $285 per family or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

In 2016 and beyond, fines would rise to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child; and $2,085 per family or 2.5 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

The fines would be paid out of an individual’s tax return.

Federal and many state marketplaces or insurance exchanges are set to open for business on Oct. 1.

Visite the site at www.va.gov/health/aca

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New Carrier “Defense Mobile” Pairs With Sprint to Provide Troops Service

Jason Mick (Blog) – August 12, 2013

Veterans are also eligible for the new discounted MVNO

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) (more specifically, Sprint’s Emerging & Wholesale Solutions Unit) has signed a major deal to sell 4G LTE services to a new mobile network, Defense Mobile Corp. (DMC). The partnership aims to provide top service and the latest 4G smartphones and tablets to the men and women who serve in or have served in the U.S. military and their families.  That’s a pretty big group — an estimated 51.6 million Americans.  The new carrier launches November 11.

Continue reading: http://www.dailytech.com/New+Carrier+Defense+Mobile+Pairs+With+Sprint+to+Provide+Troops+Service/article33150c.htm

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Veterans programs at risk amid budget battle, Sen. Murray warns

By Amy M.E. Fischer / The Daily News

Sen. Murray visits renovated veterans sanctuary in downtown Longview

A recent series of across-the-board federal budget cuts is “strangling” the Longview Housing Authority and affecting programs that serve military veterans, staff members told U.S. Sen. Murray on Tuesday.

“If something doesn’t give, it’s going to get worse,” said David Pennington, the housing authority’s veterans case manager.

Continue reading: http://tdn.com/news/local/veterans-programs-at-risk-amid-budget-battle-sen-murray-warns/article_2c3e5364-0481-11e3-ac00-0019bb2963f4.html

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How the VA Funding Fee Makes No Money Down Possible

Posted by Kimberly Duncan

One of the most coveted benefits of the VA home loan program is the ability to purchase with no money down, a guarantee made possible through the VA Funding Fee. The VA Funding Fee is a set fee applied to new purchase loans and refinance loans, paid directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The primary purpose of the fee is to compensate for losses on loans that have gone into default, but there’s some other purposes too.

Continue reading: http://www.veteransunited.com/futurehomeowners/va-funding-fee-why-pay-who-pays/?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=fmh&utm_campaign=blog

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Student Loan Deal Signed Into Law

Posted: 13 Aug 2013

President Obama has signed a broad student loan deal into law last week. The new law restores public subsidies of student loan interest rates, translating to lower costs of borrowing for those taking out federally-guaranteed loans for school.

The new law is expected to benefit about 11 million college students and former students. Some estimates peg the annual savings for the average borrower at $1,500 per year.

Continue reading:  http://militaryhandbooks.com/student-loan-deal-signed-into-law/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MilitaryHandbooks+%28Military+Handbooks%29

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Servicemembers with Student Loans Could be Missing out on Help

Many members of the military with student loans are spending way too much to pay off those loans. They are not accessing the student loan repayment protections and forgiveness benefits that have been granted to them under federal rules.

Continue reading: http://blog.usa.gov/post/35643824385/servicemembers-with-student-loans-could-be-missing-out

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Welcome to the Inaugural Edition of IVMF’s Veteran Homelessness Report!

The number of veterans who are homeless is declining as a result of the push by the Obama Administration to end veteran homelessness by 2015. However, on any given day over 60,000 men and women who have worn their country’s uniform are still homeless. Initiatives like the Veterans Administration Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF), the Department of Labor-VETS Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), the VA/HUD supportive housing collaboration (HUD-VASH) and other public and private investments are important efforts supporting veterans and their families who are currently or at-risk of becoming homeless.

Addressing the causes and solutions to homelessness among veterans and their families is central to IVMF’s mission. Through a strategic partnership and grant from the New York State Health Foundation, the IVMF developed the nation’s first state-based SSVF Direct Training and Technical Assistance Center (DTA). The DTA worked with organizations across New York State over the past year to triple the amount of VA SSVF funding earmarked to serve New York State veterans and their families — from $8.2 million last year to more than $24 million in the coming federal fiscal year. IVMF, under contract to the US Department of Labor-VETS, is the National Veterans Technical Assistance Center (NVTAC) providing on and off-site training and TA to over 150 HVRPs across the country. We regularly publish Research Briefs on the topic of veteran homelessness and will produce original research in the future. IVMF Senior Leadership recently helped facilitate a National Listening Session on Women Veterans Issues sponsored by the US Department of Labor-VETS. These are only some of the ways that IVMF will contribute to the goal of ending veteran homelessness.

This report is another example of IVMF’s commitment to addressing the causes of and solutions to veteran homelessness. Future issues will present demographic information to help gauge our national progress in achieving the veteran homeless elimination goal and we will highlight themes and issues that could derail this important national priority. We will also publish articles, news releases and guest editorials that help us think differently and creatively about what works and what may not work in ending veteran homelessness. We will also invite editorials from veterans with lived homelessness experience. For this inaugural edition, we feature an editorial by Ms. Barbara Poppe, Executive Director of the US Interagency Council on the Homeless (USICH).

We dedicate our first Report to women veterans with the lived experience of homelessness. We present national demographics of women veteran homelessness by Mr. Vince Kane, Director of the VA National Center for Homelessness among Veterans. We also include a brief overview of IVMF’s National Summit on Women Veteran Homelessness, held recently in Chicago. You can download the full Summit Summary Report from http://vets.syr.edu/ivmf-releases-summary-of-the-2013-national-summit-on-women-veteran-homelessness/ .

Mike Haynie, Ph.D.Executive Director, FounderInstitute for Veterans and Military Families

http://vets.syr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/HomelessnessReport_July2013.pdf

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Staying Positive as a Veteran and How It Can Change Your Life

by Levi Newman

On too many occasions, I’ve fallen into the trap of being the negative veteran.

I’ve cursed Veterans Affairs when I felt they weren’t acting quickly enough; I’ve felt misunderstood by friends, family and peers; I’ve even chosen to stand apart from other veterans at times, angry at them because they reminded me of the tough times in my life.

And with each of these choices — and I strongly emphasize the word “choices” — I was leading myself away from who I was capable of being: a happy, positive member of my family, my workplace and my community.

Why did I choose the path of negativity when I could have just chosen to be content from the start? The answer is simple — fear and pride.

Continue reading:  http://www.veteransunited.com/network/staying-positive-as-a-veteran-and-how-it-can-change-your-life/?utm_source=status&utm_medium=fb&utm_term=vbb&utm_campaign=bp

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PTSD Awareness Day and What You Should Know

June 27, 2013 by The Disabled Veterans National Foundation

Shell shock, battle fatigue, PTSD—the name has changed over the years, but one thing that has not changed is the fact that this illness, this disease, can dramatically alter lives. Not only are the lives of service members and veterans being changed, so too are the lives of the ones who love them.

It amazes me that there are still people out there who are not familiar with what exactly PTSD is, and how pervasive it is among combat veterans. Even veterans who have only been in a combat zone are affected by it. So why does it seem like more veterans are affected by the illness than before, and what misconceptions does the public still have about PTSD?

“Shell shock” was the term given to a constellation of mental symptoms during World War I. Mental illness during those times was often seen as character deficiency rather than an involuntary reaction or innate disease. Perhaps more understanding of this post-combat phenomenon or the natural evolution of a more modern and tolerant society could contribute to the perceived increase in PTSD.

I believe that is one part of it.

Though I am no scientist, I believe that the main reason for the seeming uptick in PTSD is partially related the style of combat that soldiers face today. Fighting against a largely unseen enemy can certainly take a psychological toll on someone. Anticipation of an IED blast, and losing friends and brothers in service from those blasts are also extremely devastating to these men and women.

This seems to be somewhat similar to what happened in Vietnam. Troops were constantly ambushed, and the enemy chose to use guerilla tactics, killing and wounding so many brave service members. Sadly, their return from combat was greeted with anger and disdain from their fellow Americans, which ultimately led many of them to retreat into the shadows of society.

Make no mistake; very many Vietnam veterans undoubtedly had PTSD. In fact, because of the difficulties Vietnam veterans faced, the “posttraumatic stress disorder” term was coined a few years after the Vietnam War ended.

The difference from Vietnam to today is that now, it is more widely recognized as a mental condition, rather than just an inconvenience left over from combat. PTSD is real. And it is devastating.

It is unfortunate that less involved people are bound to hear about PTSD from the tragic headlines that sometimes pop up. Stories like the one about Chris Kyle’s death at the hands of a disturbed friend and fellow veteran are not the norm. They are extreme examples in which one should not base a perception.

More often than not, they are everyday men and women. Many of whom have been out of the service for a while, and have adjusted back to civilian life relatively well. They, however, are the ones that can be at risk for a challenging road ahead, because they are the least likely to feel that they need help. Their refusal to acknowledge this creates strain on families. Sometimes, they eventually learn to cope with it and, to an extent, move past it. But sometimes they don’t.

The 22 veteran suicides per day you hear about are not a result of “fatigue.” Nor are they a result of insanity. They are a result of horrific experiences, fear, anxiety, and despair. We have to keep up a relentless pursuit of finding an aggressive treatment for this illness so that sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and friends don’t find themselves another statistic of tragedy.

This PTSD Awareness Day let’s all remember the heroes who have fought—or who did not fight—and call attention to this disease. Let’s concentrate on how to fight this sad and difficult illness and how we might be able to help those who suffer from it. Join the discussion and understand the cause.

We will find a way to better confront and treat PTSD. Until then, DVNF urges you to know that PTSD is more than shell shock and battle fatigue. It is both—and much more.

http://disabledveteransnationalfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/ptsd-awareness-day-and-what-you-should-know/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ptsd-awareness-day-and-what-you-should-know

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The simple case for hiring veterans

By Karen Ross  Published May 23, 2013  FoxNews.com

As my company spearheads software training for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I am asked, “What can veterans offer a company?”

There are many answers.

Veterans can handle themselves in a myriad of environments. They are professional, and accustomed to working in a team setting.

Vets have leadership capabilities that can effortlessly transfer over to the civilian workplace.

But if this is all true, why does the unemployment rate for returning heroes hover around 30%?

We’re not blind to the damage the sluggish economy has done to millions of working Americans. We have lost a lot of jobs to foreign markets via off-shoring. Civilians are surrounded by this, and other bad news, on a daily basis.

Hiring a veteran gives you a natural-born problem solver, who is most concerned with the ‘mission’—the goal that the employer has set out to achieve..

But veterans, fresh from deployment, have been out of the loop. Service members who have spent the last year of their life far away from home may find themselves out of touch with the job market when they finally return.

They don’t know what employers are looking for, which job skills in which markets are in demand and which ones are flooded.

When asked, many veterans are not able to translate their service occupation into a civilian resume.

With dozens of organizations pitching in to help out-of-work veterans, one would think that every corporation would be putting their best foot forward. Some of these efforts, however, are in vain.

Veterans have high turnover rates when they finally do land a job, and the ugly reality of post-service health concerns—such as PTSD—blanket these warriors with a heavy stigma.

So what do vets have to offer employers looking for talent? The answer is plenty—more than anyone realizes.

I’ll use the team we trained at my company as an example. The first component of our ‘boot camp’ integrates basic computer savvy with more professional-level software analysis.

As the group started to move towards highly specialized material, they produced a series of virtual notecards to assist future training cycles with the subject matter that was most difficult to grasp. These ‘flashcards’ are very similar to ones used by troops studying for promotion within military ranks.

This was not part of the curriculum. Creating the flashcards, overseeing their application in the training process, this all was something the team did on their own.

They collaborated with one another and produced study materials to aid our trainees in the months and years to come, taking into account that not all of the trainees have the same learning curve.

Our trainees come from different services, with backgrounds ranging from infantry to logistics to military police.

This is the case for hiring veterans. They can see things other employees cannot (or things others would refuse to see.)

Hiring a veteran gives you a natural-born problem solver, who is most concerned with the ‘mission’—the goal that the employer has set out to achieve.

That person will take whatever route is open to them for success without anyone ‘telling them’ to do it. They are not afraid to challenge the status quo. And perhaps most importantly, these individuals will act with selfless intent.

In a perfect world, the welfare of returning troops would be a top priority. We don’t live in a perfect world.

We as a nation must not lose sight of what these amazing young people have to contribute to society.

What is asked of veterans requires great courage and fortitude. They deserve the strength and support of their citizens in return.

Karen Ross is the CEO of Sharp Decisions, an award-winning consulting firm recognized by Crain’s New York as one of the largest woman-owned companies in NYC. Sharp Decisions’ V.E.T.S. Program is a private initiative to place veterans in tech jobs across the country.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/05/23/simple-case-for-hiring-veterans/#ixzz2UA6BVDTX

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/05/23/simple-case-for-hiring-veterans/

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Free Food, Services and More for U.S. Veterans

FoxNews.com

All across the country people are thanking U.S. veterans in many different ways — and that includes retailers.

Here are some businesses that are expressing their gratitude with free goods and services this Veterans Day:

FREE ARBY’S: The owner and operator of 19 Arby’s in the Richmond area, will offer free roast beef sandwiches to all veterans and active duty military men and women on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11. Current and former members of the military can present a valid military ID at any local Richmond Arby’s to receive the free Regular Roast Beef Sandwich.

FREE APPLEBEES: Applebees                         restaurants across the country are offering free meals to Veterans and active Military on November 11th. Just show proof of military service.

FREE KRISPY KREME: Krispy Kreme is honoring America’s service men and women on Veterans Day by giving away free doughnuts to all veterans and active military personnel. Veterans and active military personnel who visit any participating U.S. Krispy Kreme store on Veterans Day will receive one free doughnut of any variety.

FREE OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE: At Outback Steakhouse , all veterans and active duty military will receive a free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage on Veteran’s Day 2009. Just show proof of military service.

FREE GLADSTONE’S: Gladstone’s 4 Fish in Los Angeles giving free meals to all active duty and retired military.

FREE SAM’S CLUB CANES: On Veterans Day, November 11, 2009, Sam’s Club is giving away 25,000 Hugo canes free of charge to United States Military Veterans in need of mobility assistance. Limited quantities per club, available only while supplies last. Sam’s Club Membership is not required but, proof of military service is.

FREE ADMISSION TO COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG: Colonial Williamsburg is offering free admission to Veterans November 6-11 as part of its Veterans Day tribute. The free “Honoring Service to America” pass will also be available to active duty military, National Guard and reservists, retirees and Veteran’s dependents. Colonial Williamsburg will hold a military parade and ceremony on Veteran’s Day.

FREE ADMISSION TO SHIRLEY PLANTATION: In appreciation for service to the the U.S., Shirley Plantation in Charles City is offering free admission for all Vets on Veteran’s Day, November 11th. Bring your U. S. military identification. The historic site is on Route Five.

FREE ADMISSION TO NATIONAL PARKS: U.S. Department of the Interior Honors Veterans with A “Fee Free Day” at National Parks, Refuges, and Other Interior Lands for everyone on Wednesday, November 11. Visitors to public recreation lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation, and the Department of Agriculture are invited to take a day to honor and reflect on what our service men and women have done to maintain our freedom and keep peace around the world.

FREE GOLDEN CORRAL: Golden Corral’s 9th annual Military Appreciation Monday dinner is Monday, November 16, 2009, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. If you are a veteran, retired, currently serving, in the National Guard or Reserves, you are invited. The free dinner meal is a special “thank you tribute” to anyone who has ever served in the United States Military.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/11/11/free-food-services-and-more-for-us-veterans/?intcmp=related#ixzz2b899akAp

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1.7 Million Vets Lack Health Insurance

Associated Press

WASHINGTON –  Nearly 1.7 million military veterans have no health insurance or access to government hospitals and clinics for veterans, according to a report Tuesday from a doctors’ group that favors federally financed health care.

The number of uninsured veterans jumped by 235,000 since 2000, meaning they are losing health insurance at a faster rate than the general population, said Physicians for a National Health Program (search), which advocates a universal national health insurance program (search). About 45 million Americans have no health insurance, including 5 million who lost coverage during the past four years, according to the Census Bureau (search).

“We’re sending men and women off to war and yet the people who fought previous wars can’t get the basic things they need to go on with their lives afterward,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, a Harvard Medical School (search) professor and an author of the study.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the Bush administration has opened 194 community health clinics for veterans and increased spending on medical care for veterans by 40 percent. “The president wants to make sure they get the care that they need and they deserve,” Duffy said.

However, the report traced some of the increase to the Bush administration’s decision last year to suspend health care services for higher-income veterans in order to reduce waiting times for doctor’s appointments.

Other veterans reported that they were on waiting lists for appointments, could not afford co-payments or lived in communities with no veterans’ facilities, the report said.

Like other Americans who are uninsured, most veterans have jobs. More than 85 percent worked within the past year, the report said.

Many uninsured veterans reported serious health problems, the report said. Between 20 percent and 30 percent said that they delayed or could not afford care, medications and eyeglasses.

More than 40 percent said they had no medical visits in the past year and two-thirds said they had no preventive care.

Another 3.9 million people without health insurance live in veterans’ households and also are ineligible for veterans’ health care, the report said.

Almost all uninsured veterans served during the Vietnam war or more recently. Those who fought in World War II (search) and the Korean War are older than 65, making them eligible for government health care through Medicare.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2004/10/19/17-million-vets-lack-health-insurance/?intcmp=related#ixzz2b89Fwysr

http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/105301

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No holidays or parades for homeless women veterans

Meet America’s fastest growing homeless population. The harrowing stories of women who served — and were forgotten

May 27, 2013 By Lizzie Warren

As we rightly commemorate those who perished while serving in the Armed Forces today, another group of veterans is getting little attention, and its numbers are swelling: homeless women veterans. In fact, while the problem among male veterans has dropped, homelessness among women veterans has risen sharply. It may come as a surprise, but women veterans are the fastest growing homeless population in the nation.

I recently completed production of a documentary, War Zone / Comfort Zone, in which I followed the story of two women — one of them a Gold Star mother — who fight to establish Connecticut’s first transitional, supportive house for women veterans. The women and their allies faced neighborhood opposition in several towns, and establishing a home with fifteen beds for women veterans and their children took more than four years. (A house in Delaware is currently facing a similar response.)

I also followed women veterans as they struggled to create stability for themselves and their families in the wake of war and trauma. Too many veterans — especially women — are falling into homelessness in record numbers and in record time.

Gladys is one who has struggled with homelessness and depression since she returned from Iraq. She is a funny, resourceful and generous person who grew up in a Colombian immigrant household in the Bronx. Gladys initially joined the Air Force to see the world and better herself — a pioneering move in the 1970s. She settled in Connecticut and worked for the U.S. Postal Service, and remained in the reserves for twenty years.

When Gladys turned forty, she wanted to challenge herself again and decided to join the Army Reserves, serving two tours of duty in the Iraq War. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and serious spinal damage, and spent a year recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center.

While in the hospital, she lost her house in a real estate deal gone bad. She returned to Connecticut, homeless, devastated and dependent on a walker.

“Every night I ended up finding a different spot,” Gladys said. She lived in her car and, unable to get the help she desperately needed, tried to commit suicide. She ended up sleeping on her ex-husband’s couch for a while, but they’ve since been evicted.

Gladys had difficulty engaging in treatment, because she found the male-dominated environment at the Veterans Administration alienating. “These groups I was attending at [the VA], most of the time, I was the only female,” she said.

Women make up 14 percent of active duty service members and about 20 percent of the National Guard. Despite their significant numbers, when they come home they’re often returning to communities that are ill-equipped or unwilling to deal with their needs.

Stories like Gladys’s are all too common. Women veterans face a dense constellation of issues: low wages, a lack of childcare and family housing options, inadequate gender-specific services at the Veterans Administration and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat and Military Sexual Trauma.

“You come out of the Afghan or Iraqi war, as an American woman veteran, at a time when the housing market is terrible, the banks don’t trust you, and its hard to get a job, and you’ve experienced mental health issues as a result of what happened you in the military,” said Dr. Cynthia Enloe, a professor at Clark University and author of Nimo’s War, Emma’s War. “It’s not any wonder that there so many women veterans now who are really suffering the loss of housing.”

Military Sexual Trauma is a common thread in the stories of women who become homeless after returning from service. A recent study by Dr. Donna L. Washington of the UCLA Medical Center and the VA of Greater Los Angeles, estimates that just over half of homeless women veterans were victims of sexual assault. Then, after they serve, they’re faced with a supply of housing for them that remains woefully inadequate. This is all happening as the ranks of women in the military grows and grows.

Lauren, who served as a military police officer, recalled what her commanding officer told her when she reported being drugged and raped by a member of her unit: “You’re just about to stir a pot of shit that we’re just not willing to deal with right now.” After leaving the service, Lauren was able to move back in with her parents.

Caroline, another veteran, had planned to spend her entire career in the military — until she was raped by two fellow soldiers that she had considered friends. As a result she struggled for years with alcoholism and homelessness, and hated the idea of going to the V.A. for help.

“It’s almost like coming back to your very rapist and saying help me. Even though they’re not the actual rapist, they represent them because that’s who they protected,” she said. Caroline eventually found a welcoming V.A. center and went through an in-patient treatment program, but still had nowhere to live.

“They have all sorts of different transitional housing they can offer the male veterans…. and they didn’t have any place for me to go. So for me to get treatment and just be put out on the streets… it’s like you get treated for frostbite and they’re going to throw you back out in the snow,” she said. “And it actually was snowing. It was January, It was pretty cold.”

Lizzie Warren is a writer and filmmaker living in Brooklyn, New York. Her newest documentary, War Zone / Comfort Zone, produced with Connecticut Public Television, is airing on PBS stations across the country.

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/27/meet_americas_fastest_growing_homeless_population_women_veterans 

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Navigating the Disability Evaluation System

If your military service is cut short due to a service-related disability that occurred in the line of duty, you may be eligible to receive benefits. Federal law and military regulations require a thorough review of your case through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) to determine the level of disability and entitlement to disability retirement. Understanding the IDES process can be complicated and even stressful at times. This article provides an overview of the different phases of the IDES and support resources that can help reduce the stress of navigating the system.

Phase 1: Medical Evaluation Board (MEB)

Referral
When a military medical care provider refers a service member to the IDES, they are assigned a Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer (PEBLO) as a guide to help navigate the system and make sure they are aware of their options and the many decisions they need to make. Additionally, they are assigned a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Military Service Coordinator to help them file their VA benefits claim.1

To learn more about health care provider roles in the IDES, read the article, “Understanding the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.”

MEB Review
Once a service member is referred to the system, medical providers complete the necessary medical exams. The results of the exams are summarized and added to the MEB report (also referred to as the IDES case file), which is forwarded to the MEB for consideration.

The MEB consists of two to three medical officers that review the case file to determine the appropriate diagnosis and ability of the service member to return to full, unrestricted duty within a reasonable amount of time. If the MEB determines that medical retention standards are met, then the service member can return to full duty in their current job. If the MEB determines that a return to duty is questionable, the service member’s case is forwarded to the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB).2

Phase 2: Physical Evaluation Board

The PEB is comprised of two levels of boards: the Informal PEB and the Formal PEB. Both boards are composed of three senior and experienced military members, including one medical officer.2

Informal PEB
The Informal PEB will determine the percentage of the service member’s disability compensation using Defense Department Directives and Instructions, service-specific policy and the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. Then, the Informal PEB makes one of the following determinations:3

  • Return to Active Duty.
  • Separate without Benefits. The PEB will recommend that the military discharge the service member without benefits if a service member’s disability existed prior to entry in the armed forces, or if the injury was a result of intentional misconduct.
  • Separate with Severance Pay. If a service member’s disability rating is not high enough to be placed on a retirement list (i.e., less than 30 percent), the PEB will recommend that they be separated from active duty. The service member will likely be awarded severance pay based on their time in service and current pay grade.
  • Transfer to the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL). A service member can be temporarily retired and placed on the TDRL for a maximum of five years. The TDRL allows for the service member’s medical condition to stabilize before a final disability determination is made. Every 12-18 months the service member is reevaluated by a new PEB and can be:
    • Returned to active duty
    • Re-assigned to the TDRL
    • Separated with severance pay if the service member’s disability rating has decreased to less than 30 percent
    • Transferred to the Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL) if the service member’s disability increased to 30 percent or higher
  • Transfer to the PDRL
    • If a service member’s disability rating is 30 percent or higher, and their condition is considered stable (meaning the disability rating is unlikely to change within five years), they will be permanently retired for disability and placed on the PDRL.

Learn more about the IDES by taking the training course “Introduction to the IDES for Service Members.” This course takes about 20 minutes to complete and explains how service members are referred for disability evaluation and describes what to expect at each stage of the disability evaluation process.

Formal PEB2
If a service member disagrees with the Informal PEB findings and disability rating, they have a right to request a Formal PEB. At this point, the service member may elect to enlist the help of an attorney to prepare a petition and gather evidence for their case. Service members have the right to hire an attorney of their own choosing at their own expense, or they may ask to have a military lawyer represent them at no cost. After deliberation, the Formal PEB prepares a determination letter of fit or unfit, along with a written rationale to support their findings. If the service member does not agree with this determination, they have one last chance to dispute the findings of their hearing through a formal appeals process. The final appeals determination is made by each service secretary’s appointed approval authority.2

For help with legal services, find your local Legal Services/Judge Advocate General (JAG) Office using the Military OneSource search tool. Additionally, Veterans Service Organizations can help arrange legal counsel for you.

Phase 3: Separate or Return to Service

Separate from Service  
All service members placed on the disability lists are provided with disability retirement pay, access to TRICARE, commissary and exchange privileges and all other benefits of regular military retirement. Additionally, if a service member has more than 20 years of service and their disability rating is 20 percent or less, they will be allowed to retire with all the regular retirement benefits. 3

The military services determine retired pay by using two methods. The first is based on the disability percentage (minimum of 50 percent while on the TDRL). The second is based on the years of active service. The method that provides the greatest entitlement computes pay.4

Visit the Defense Finance Accounting Service’s retired pay calculator to estimate your retired pay.

Return to Service
If a wounded service member has been found unfit by the PEB, there are different service regulations in place that may allow that service member to return to service, with limitations:

Air Force5
Some airmen whom the PEB has found physically unfit can serve on active duty in Limited Assignment Status (LAS) with limitations and controls over their assignments. This option is open to members on extended active duty who meet the eligibility criteria and apply for LAS. Members who have some type of non-disability retirement or separation pending are not eligible for LAS. Serving in LAS depends on the type and extent of the member’s physical condition, the amount of medical management and support needed to sustain the member on active duty, the physical and assignment limitations required, the years of service completed and the Air Force need for particular grade and specialty.

Army6
All soldiers whom a PEB or MEB finds unfit for duty are eligible to apply for Continuation on Active Duty or Continuation on Active Reserve regardless of the extent of their injuries. The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Advocates assist soldiers who are interested in pursuing Continuation on Active Duty or Continuation on Active Reserve. The program notifies the Human Resource Command as soon as the soldier expresses interest in remaining on active duty and assists throughout the entire application process. To date, most AW2 soldiers who requested to continue to serve the nation have been able to do so.7 Leaders at all levels in military and civilian organizations recognize that veterans have vast knowledge, skills and expertise that they can use to enhance their training curriculum and workplace experience.

Marine Corps8
A Marine may be placed on Permanent Limited Duty (PLD) — a specified continuation on active duty in a limited duty status — if the PEB determines the Marine is unfit as a result of a disability. The PEB requests and authorizes PLD based on the best interests of the Marine Corps and the Marine.

Navy9
The Navy may also place an active duty sailor in a PLD status. Authority to grant PLD is limited solely to service headquarters.

Although navigating the IDES can be complicated and stressful at times, remember that you have a support team available to help. Your PEBLO will guide you through the MEB and PEB phases and your VA coordinator can help you file for benefits. Throughout the entire process, do not hesitate to reach out for help and ask your support team about anything that you do not understand.

Additional Resources

Sources

1IDES Overview,” Office of Wounded Warrior Care. Last accessed July 31, 2013.

2 Directive Type Memorandum 11-015 “Integrated Disability Evaluation System,” [PDF 760 KB] Defense Department. Published Dec. 19, 2011; Incorporating Change 1: May 3, 2012.

3Wounded, Ill and Injured Compensation and Benefits Handbook,” [PDF 724.67 KB] Defense Department. Published October 2011.

4Retired Pay Information,” Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Last accessed July 31, 2013.

5 Air Force Instruction 36-3212, “Physical Evaluation for Retention, Retirement and Separation,” [PDF 954.05 KB] U.S. Air Force. Published Feb. 2, 2006.

6 Army Regulation 635-40, “Physical Evaluation for Retention, Retirement or Separation,” [PDF 447.82 KB] U.S. Army. Published March 20, 2012.

7U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program COAD/COAR,” [PDF 304KB] U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command. Last accessed July 31, 2013.

8 Marine Corps Order P1900.16F, “Separation and Retirement Manual,” [PDF 1.54 MB] U.S. Marine Corps. Published June 6, 2007.

9 Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1850.4E, “Department of the Navy Disability Evaluation Manual,” [PDF 5.75 MB] U.S. Navy. Published April 30, 2002.

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Meditation helping war veterans

Date  June 9, 2013

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder can be treated with transcendental meditation, says a leading US expert on the practice.

Fred Travis of the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa has won a $2.4 million grant from the US Department of Defence for research on the use of meditation to help veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts cope with stress.

Dr Travis, who is speaking in Sydney this week, believes its application with Australian Defence Force staff should also be investigated.

There are concerns that, when the ADF pulls out of Afghanistan at the end of the year, there will be a higher number of veterans with PTSD.

A Defence spokesman said that, by the end of last year, about 28,300 veterans of all wars, conflicts, peacekeeping and other eligible services had an accepted disability through Department of Veterans’ Affairs for stress disorders, including PTSD.

Dr Travis said transcendental meditation helped to reverse the effects of PTSD in Vietnam veterans after 30 days. Symptoms went from severe to non-symptomatic.

”The very foundations of the problems of PTSD are turned off,” he said. ”Trauma is a specific type of experience and, when the mind settles down to silence within, you feel complete, you feel in control, which is the opposite experience of trauma.”

Renee Ireland of the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health at Queensland University said it was seeking funding to get a pilot study off the ground in Australia.

She said meditation could help people where more conventional treatments hadn’t worked. ”There isn’t as much stigma attached to it as there might be for people having to go into a psychologist’s or a psychiatrist’s office,” she said.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/meditation-helping-war-veterans-20130608-2nwr8.html#ixzz2WIX2SqN4

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How the Science of Fear Makes Soldiers Stronger

The U.S. military turns to science as it seeks new ways to create more resilient fighters and prevent PTSD.

By Kathryn Wallace from Reader’s Digest | February 2013

It’s 2 a.m. on the Navy destroyer USS Trayer, and the air is thick with the smell of fuel and 350 sweaty recruits who have been working too many hours. It’s another long, monotonous shift of routine maintenance when, suddenly, the night is ripped open by the piercing wail of an emergency alarm.

The Trayer is under attack. Explosions rock the ship as fires burn and the anguished cries of the injured fill the air. To escape the flames, the flooding, and the thick smoke, the men and women of the crew scramble through mangled compartments past gruesomely torn bodies. Lights flicker, turbines whine, metal rips, and the relentless scream of the alarm tells everyone what they already know: This is war.

Except it’s not.

As the recruits battle flame and rising waters and treat the wounded, Naval petty officers stand by, observing and evaluating the performance. The officers can remain almost eerily unflustered amid the chaos because the attack, and the ship itself, are simulated.

Read more: http://www.rd.com/health/using-the-science-of-fear-to-make-soldiers-stronger/#ixzz2VfqnKMxl

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GSA Connects Veterans to Opportunity

Posted by Tony Eiland, GSA Mentor-Protege Program Coordinator on May 6, 2013

Public Service Recognition Week, commemorated May 5-11, honors the work of the men and women who serve our nation. Veterans are an important part of this community, and GSA remains committed to increasing contracting opportunities for veteran and service disabled veterans. The agency recently hosted a Veteran’s Entrepreneurship meeting at GSA headquarters for more than 75 members of the veteran business community. Meeting attendees discussed ways to increase federal business opportunities for Veteran and Service Disabled Veteran Business Owners and how to navigate the veteran small business verification process.

Public Service Recognition Week honors the work of the men and women who serve our nation.

GSA has a strong track record when it expanding opportunities for veterans In fiscal year 2012, GSA exceeded its three percent goal to award at least three percent of its contracts to Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses.

Contracting with Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses is a win for both the federal government and veteran-owned small businesses. The government receives great service, at tremendous value to the taxpayer, while disabled service members are given opportunities to grow their businesses and create jobs.

In addition, the program helps make connections between smaller businesses and more experienced contractors.  The goal here is to develop our small business vendors into the best vendors possible, and the Mentor-Protege Program is a valuable tool to accomplish this need.

The discussion centered around ways to get the word out about:

•           The wide variety of federal agencies hiring, including domestic and international

employment opportunities;

•           Better understanding of the current status of the Veteran Department’s verification process for Veteran small businesses, and;

•           Upcoming Congressional legislative initiatives being considered in the House concerning Veteran small business.

The meeting was hosted by GSA in partnership with the Veterans’ Entrepreneurship Task Force.  GSA will continue to reach out and support Veteran and Service Disabled Veteran Business Owners with more business opportunities.

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GSA Exceeds Veteran Hiring Goals in 2013

Posted by Jacquin Kirkman, National Veterans Employment Program Manager on May 14, 2013

At GSA, we understand the importance of hiring the men and women who serve our nation and are committed to ensuring that our heroes have the opportunity of employment when they return home. Veterans bring attributes employers desire – integrity, diligence, and professionalism. We are proud that we are exceeding our goals of hiring veterans and service disabled veterans in 2013. Our goal was to hire 27.9% veterans and 13% service disabled veterans; to date we have exceeded those goals substantially by hiring 37.5% veterans and 22.9% disabled veterans with two more quarters left in the Fiscal Year.

GSA is committed to providing opportunities for our nation’s veterans.

GSA has long championed our veteran programs and participated in veterans’ recruitment career fairs sponsored by Veteran Service Organizations (VSO). We’ve also collaborated with other federal, state, and local governments veterans’ programs to actively recruit veterans and service disabled veterans. We’ve established relationships with military transition assistance offices to present employment opportunity information sessions to service members who are within 180 days of separation.

As a leader in innovation, GSA seeks out unique ways to help veterans by participating in the Wounded Warrior Program, which is sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Severely Injured Center, and Operation Warfighter. Recently, GSA’s Northwest/Arctic and Rocky Mountain Regions placed seven veterans in three states across the country.

Here at GSA we will continue to ensure veterans and disabled veterans have a place in the federal workforce. Veterans who would like more information on these programs should contact Jacquin Kirkman, GSA’s Veteran’s Program Manager at (202) 501-0598 or visit FedsHireVets.gov for more information on federal veteran employment.

http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2013/05/14/gsa-exceeds-veterans-hiring-goals-in-2013/

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Get help applying for government benefits

Are you eligible for Social Security or military benefits? Maybe you’re going through a rough patch and need financial assistance.

Whatever your needs, you probably have plenty of paperwork to fill out. And I’m sure you’ll have questions along the way.

They can’t fill out the paperwork, but they can help you find, understand, and get the benefits you need.

Government benefits http://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-finder#benefits&qc=cat_1&qc=cat_1 – Benefits.gov aims to provide citizens with access to as many government assistance and benefit programs as possible.

The site’s Benefit Finder will help you find out if you are eligible for any government assistance. But first, you will need to answer a series of questions to see what programs you may qualify for.

Government forms – http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference-Shelf/forms.shtml

Let’s be honest: No one likes to fill out paperwork, especially from the government. Not only is it tedious, you might not even be using the right form!

This site won’t make filling out paperwork any easier. But it can help you find the right forms. That way you only have to fill them out once.

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Labor Department Grants to Provide Veterans Job Training

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 – As part of an interagency effort to support America’s veterans, the Labor Department today announced $37 million in grants to provide job training for about 21,000 veterans, many of them homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis announced the grants today, awarded to continue successful programs into their second and third years.

Twenty-two grants totaling more than $9 million will provide job training to about 4,000 veterans to help them succeed in civilian careers, Labor Department officials said.

Those funds, provided through the Veterans Workforce Investment Program, emphasize training in “green” jobs related to energy efficiency and renewable energy, modern electric power development and clean vehicles.

“Our veterans sacrifice so much for our country, so it is important that we provide assistance to them when they return home from active duty,” Solis said. “These grants will help veterans access the resources they need to find good jobs and build a bright future for themselves and their families.”

Solis also announced 122 grants totaling more than $28 million to provide job training to about 17,000 veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

These grants, awarded under the Labor Department’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, include $4.3 million for the Homeless Female Veterans and Veterans with Families Program and $3.9 million for the Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program that helps veterans who have served time in justice facilities, officials said.

Homeless veterans may receive occupational, classroom and on-the-job training, as well as job-search and placement assistance and follow-up services, through the programs.

“The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program is recognized as an extraordinarily efficient and effective program, and is the only federal program that focuses exclusively on employment of veterans who are homeless,” Solis said. “I am pleased that the department can assist these veterans and their families.”

The Labor Department grants are awarded to state and local agencies, boards and nonprofit organizations that have demonstrated through first-year funding their ability to administer effective programs to veterans within their geographic areas, officials said.

More information on the Labor Department’s unemployment and re-employment programs is posted at http://www.dol.gov/vets.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen has been a staunch advocate of programs to support veterans who have transitioned from military service.

“They bring home a potential that is unimaginable for the future of our country,” he said May 11 at Arizona State University’s Phoenix campus. “This is an exceptional group, and they will make a difference for a long time to come.”

Mullen recognized the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a big step in helping tens of thousands of veterans get the training and education many seek. But he also called communities a key part of helping combat veterans make a smooth transition following wartime service.

“If we can just open up our lens to be inclusive of them as they return home, with that little boost, I really believe they will take off and make a huge difference for the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki is leading President Barack Obama’s effort to eliminate homelessness among veterans by 2015.

“As the president has said, ‘We’re not going to be satisfied until every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America,’” Shinseki told the Marine Corps League in February. “If you wonder what I will be working on for the next several years, this is it. We will end veteran homelessness in 2014.”
http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=64154

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For Combat Veterans Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, ‘Fear Circuitry’ in the Brain Never Rests

May 18, 2013 — Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or under-react in response to stressful tasks, such as recalling a traumatic event or reacting to a photo of a threatening face. Now, researchers at NYU School of Medicine have explored for the first time what happens in the brains of combat veterans with PTSD in the absence of external triggers.

Their results, published in Neuroscience Letters, and presented today at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatry Association in San Francisco, show that the effects of trauma persist in certain brain regions even when combat veterans are not engaged in cognitive or emotional tasks, and face no immediate external threats. The findings shed light on which areas of the brain provoke traumatic symptoms and represent a critical step toward better diagnostics and treatments for PTSD.

A chronic condition that develops after trauma, PTSD can plague victims with disturbing memories, flashbacks, nightmares and emotional instability. Among the 1.7 million men and women who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 20% have PTSD. Research shows that suicide risk is higher in veterans with PTSD. Tragically, more soldiers committed suicide in 2012 than the number of soldiers who were killed in combat in Afghanistan that year.

“It is critical to have an objective test to confirm PTSD diagnosis as self reports can be unreliable,” says co-author Charles Marmar, MD, the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Psychiatry and chair of NYU Langone’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Marmar, a nationally recognized expert on trauma and stress among veterans, heads The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone Medical Center.

The study, led by Xiaodan Yan, a research fellow at NYU School of Medicine, examined “spontaneous” or “resting” brain activity in 104 veterans of combat from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars using functional MRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain. The researchers found that spontaneous brain activity in the amygdala, a key structure in the brain’s “fear circuitry” that processes fearful and anxious emotions, was significantly higher in the 52 combat veterans with PTSD than in the 52 combat veterans without PTSD. The PTSD group also showed elevated brain activity in the anterior insula, a brain region that regulates sensitivity to pain and negative emotions.

Moreover, the PTSD group had lower activity in the precuneus, a structure tucked between the brain’s two hemispheres that helps integrate information from the past and future, especially when the mind is wandering or disengaged from active thought. Decreased activity in the precuneus correlates with more severe “re-experiencing” symptoms — that is, when victims re-experience trauma over and over again through flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts.

Key scientific contributors include researchers at NYU School of Medicine, the University of California at San Francisco, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the VA Medical Center in San Francisco.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130518153257.htm

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10 Reasons Why Veterans Make Great Employees

by Julie Rains

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of working with military veterans and active duty personnel who anticipate, are in the process, or have already transitioned to the civilian world. Some job descriptions line up with their military credentials: a helicopter pilot making evacuations in Baghdad might find similar work with a law enforcement agency stateside; ditto for a technician who is searching for a mechanic’s position. But others may have incredibly valuable skills that aren’t recognized in the private sector. And, like many job seekers, the language of their current or most recent employers may be misinterpreted by those who screen candidates and make hiring decisions. Based on my experiences with military personnel, here are attributes that veterans often have and that make them great employees.

Continue reading:  http://www.wisebread.com/10-reasons-why-veterans-make-great-emloyees?wbref=readmore-5

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Disposable Heroes: Veterans with traumatic brain injuries are being stripped of benefits, thrown out on the street by the Obama Administration

Written By: Bob – May• 21•13

The realities of modern 4th generation warfare sees heavily armed and armored American soldiers with generally excellent logistical and medical support (compared to previous wars) in contact with often stateless and uniformless enemy forces, who have adapted their tactics away from small arms to focus more on IED ambushes.

Continue reading:   http://www.bob-owens.com/2013/05/disposable-heroes-veterans-with-traumatic-brain-injuries-are-being-stripped-of-benefits-thrown-out-on-the-street-by-the-obama-administration

_____________________________________________________________________25 Signs That Military Veterans Are Being Treated Like Absolute Trash Under The Obama Administration

Michael Snyder  American Dream
May 31, 2013

http://www.prisonplanet.com/25-signs-that-military-veterans-are-being-treated-like-absolute-trash-under-the-obama-administration.html

Why does the Obama administration treat our military veterans like human garbage? Every year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Barack Obama and our other politicians make very nice speeches, but the truth about how they feel about our veterans can be seen in how they are treated every single day. In the United States today, there are well over half a million veterans that have been waiting for at least 125 days to have their benefit claims processed.

Many of them will ultimately have their claims sent back or denied just so a government employee somewhere can get a bigger bonus. Meanwhile, conditions at VA facilities all over the country are absolutely abysmal, and many veterans have to wait more than half a year just to get an appointment at one of those facilities. Once you start looking into how this country really treats military veterans, it becomes easier to understand why 22 military veterans commit suicide in America every single day. Our vets have a higher rate of unemployment, a higher rate of poverty, a higher rate of homelessness, a higher rate of depression and a higher rate of divorce then the general population. It is a crying shame. One of the ways that any society is judged is by how it treats military veterans, and the truth is that America has failed miserably. This has been particularly true since Barack Obama has been in the White House.

The following are 25 signs that military veterans are being treated like absolute trash under the Obama administration…

1. The average claim for veteran benefits takes more than half a year to be processed.

2. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a backlog of more than half a million overdue claims for benefits that are at least 125 days old.

3. In 2009, the number of veterans that had been waiting for more than a year to have their benefits approved was 11,000. Today, that number has soared to245,000.

4. Thousands upon thousands of military veterans that are waiting for their claims to be processed are dealing with absolutely horrible injuries

Of those who have sought VA care:

• More than 1,600 of them lost a limb; many others lost fingers or toes.

• At least 156 are blind, and thousands of others have impaired vision.

• More than 177,000 have hearing loss, and more than 350,000 report tinnitus — noise or ringing in the ears.

• Thousands are disfigured, as many as 200 of them so badly that they may need face transplants. One-quarter of battlefield injuries requiring evacuation included wounds to the face or jaw, one study found.

5. At one VA hospital in Wisconsin, one military veteran with a broken jaw that was seeking treatment still had not had his jaw fixed after a month and a half.

6. Today, it takes military vets an average of seven months to get an appointment at a VA facility.

7. Many VA facilities are in absolutely horrific condition. A while back, ABC News conducted an investigation of conditions at VA facilities across the United States. What ABC News discovered was absolutely shocking. The following are just a few of the things that they found during the course of their investigation

*Bathrooms filthy with what appeared to be human excrement

*Dirty linens from some patients mixed in with clean supplies

*Examining tables that had dried blood and medications still on them

*Equipment used to sterilize surgical instruments that had broken down

*Some patients were forced to beg for food and water

*Veterans that were neglected so badly that they developed horrific bedsores and dangerous infections

8. As I have written about previously, applying for veteran benefits is extremely complicated, and VA employees are actually paid bonuses for denying claims…

The truth is that we have made it extremely difficult for our military veterans to claim the benefits that we have promised them. Vets have to fill out an absurdly complicated 23 page application and if they make even one small mistake their applications can be stonewalled for years. The U.S. Veterans Administration actually has a policy under which they pay large bonuses to employees that meet certain application processing goals. This explains why approximately 70% of the claims submitted to the Veterans Administration are refused or sent back to be redone. In fact, using the Freedom of Information Act, one local NBC station was able to learn that $250,000 was paid in bonuses to VA employees who work inside the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke, Virginia in just one year alone.

9. Large numbers of military veterans that legitimately should be getting benefits are having their claims denied by the federal government. Just check out the following example from a Veterans Today article

In one case, we found a veteran with 40 percent of his brain removed found to be healthy and employable. He was also missing his right arm. The physician who examined him over looked the arm and failed to note the cognitive degeneration the traumatic brain injury had caused.

10. Last year, more than 85,000 military veterans were treated for sexual abuse that they suffered while serving in the military. 40 percent of them were men.

11. According to a recent Defense Department survey, approximately 14,000 men in the U.S. military were sexually assaulted by other men during 2012.

12. According to the Washington Post, there is an epidemic of sexual assaults being committed by military recruiters. The Pentagon is pledging to do something about the problem…

“The secretary has made it clear that we will spare no effort to rid our military of sexual abuse,” said George Little, the Pentagon press secretary. “The fact that there have been problems of sexual abuse during the recruiting process is simply intolerable.”

13. The number of active members of the U.S. military that are killing themselves now exceeds the number that are dying on the battlefield.

14. Since the beginning of the Iraq War, twice as many members of the Texas National Guard have killed themselves as have been killed in combat.

15. According to one recent study, 22 military veterans kill themselves in the United States every single day.

16. At this point, combat veterans account for about 20 percent of all suicides in the United States.

17. The unemployment rate for military veterans is significantly higher than for the population as a whole. This is especially true for younger veterans.

18. On any given night, approximately 200,000 military veterans are homeless in the United States.

19. All over America, monuments that honor military veterans are crumbling and falling apart. For much more on this, please see this article.

20. Under the Obama administration, many military veterans have had to pay to have their medals shipped to them. For example, one soldier actually had to pay a 21 dollar shipping fee to get his Purple Heart. The following is from the Huffington Post

War comes with an incalculable human cost. And apparently a shipping fee of about $21.

Retired Sgt. Major Rob Dickerson says that’s the price he was forced to pay when his Purple Heart — the medal issued to soldiers wounded in action — arrived at his door, C.O.D.

Instead of being awarded the military honor in a formal ceremony, the vet with 29 years in the service was handed his award, and a shipping invoice, by a FedEx deliveryman outside his Sioux Falls, S.D., home.

21. In some areas of the country the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been caught banning the words “God” and “Jesus” during funeral services for veterans.

22. Today, the federal government provides “end of life” literature to veterans that helps them to determine when their lives are “no longer worth living“…

“Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be “not worth living.”

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to “shake the blues.” There is a section which provocatively asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.”When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

23. One study discovered that approximately one-third of all military veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq were officially determined to be mentally ill by government officials.

24. All over America, “mental illness” is being used as a reason to take guns away from military veterans.

25. The federal government is increasingly labeling military veterans as “potential domestic terrorists” if they express viewpoints that are critical of the government. The following is from a recent article by John Whitehead

Making matters worse, thanks to Operation Vigilant Eagle, a program launched by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are also being characterized as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.” As a result, these servicemen and women–many of whom are decorated–are finding themselves under surveillance, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, or arrested, all for daring to voice their concerns about the alarming state of our union and the erosion of our freedoms.

An important point to consider, however, is that the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is locking up individuals trained in military warfare who are voicing feelings of discontent. Under the guise of mental-health treatment and with the complicity of government psychiatrists and law-enforcement officials, these veterans are increasingly being portrayed as ticking time bombs in need of intervention.

Are you upset yet?

You should be.

The way that the federal government is treating military veterans is absolutely shameful.

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The following posted 8/5/13

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2013 Homeless veteran Stand Down
Wednesday September 18th 9am through
Thursday September 19th 3pm
Overnight stay provided
Tim’s Toyota Center
3201 N Main St, Prescott Valley AZ, 86314
Services Provided:
VA Enrollment
VA Eligibility
VA Benefits
VA Medical
VA Mental Health
Housing resources
Social Security and Disability
DES Assistance
Legal Assistance (Thursday only/Preregistration required)
Military Records
Family Assistance
Public Health
Dental Services
HIV/AIDS Screening
Treatment and Counseling
Veteran Services Organizations
Female Services
Support Groups
Pet Assistance
Showers
Haircuts
Clothing
Hygiene Supplies
Food

Bring a copy of your DD-214 to go through registration faster!

To Volunteer or Host a Booth:
Register on-line (required): www.arizonastanddown.org
Or contact: alyssa.muir@va.gov
Info on sponsorship, donations, and stand downs  www.arizonastanddown.org

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Veterans: Recruiters Want To Hire You But They Need Your Help

Companies want to hire military veterans. It’s the right thing to do and it’s good for business. Intel INTC +0.09% hired the equivalent of more than one veteran every day in 2012 and is committed to being the high tech workplace of choice for America’s heroes. “From an employer perspective, veterans, by training, are a good fit for our culture at Intel.  They are innovative, resourceful and reliable.  They work well in varied work environments and they bring a focus and discipline that we at Intel value highly,” says Ardine Williams, Intel’s vice president of Human Resources.

Continue reading:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2013/07/24/veterans-recruiters-want-to-hire-you-but-they-need-your-help/?goback=.gde_38311_member_261051558

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Extra disability pay promised for vets who submit more complete claims

Aug. 2, 2013 -

The Veterans Affairs Department has launched a unique incentive program for disabled veterans that will potentially provide up to one year of extra disability compensation if a benefits claim is submitted with almost all of the information required for processing.

The incentive program, created by Congress, will apply to what VA calls “fully developed” claims submitted from Aug. 6, 2013, through Aug. 5, 2015.

Only original claims qualify for retroactive payments. Supplemental claims for those already receiving disability pay would not qualify, although fully developed supplemental claims are encouraged by VA.

Retroactive pay would be provided if VA determines that all essential information is present — basically everything short of a medical examination and official documents that VA will help a veteran get — and decides the veteran has a compensable service-connected disability.

For a claim to be considered fully developed, a veteran must certify he has provided all the information he has available in regards to his service, disability, and the link between the two. This would include records of military service and any related private medical records. The veteran must agree to and keep an appointment for a VA medical examination.

The promise of retroactive pay is a change from traditional policy, which sets the effective date for compensation as the date when a claim is filed. Until now, the only incentive for filing a fully developed claim was that VA officials said the claim could be processed in about half of the time of a standard claim. That would mean it would take about 90 days, on average, for the claim to be decided.

Veterans can get help filing a fully developed claim from many veterans service organizations and local veterans service officers. They can also file the claim themselves using a checklist available once they log in at the eBenefits site.

Veterans may need outside help because they may need to submit documents, which requires scanning and uploading material, VA officials said earlier this year in a briefing for reporters.

In a statement, Allison Hickey, VA’s undersecretary for benefits, said the change “means more money in eligible veterans’ pockets” and will help reduce the pile of pending claims.

As of July 27, VA had 785,899 pending benefits claims, with 64 percent older than the 125-day processing deadline. However, only 272,003 of the pending claims were first-time applications. The bulk are supplemental claims to increase disability ratings.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130802/BENEFITS04/308020022

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Free Higher Ed Prep Program for Veterans

Written by  Mike Lange

Eligible veterans attend a free college prep class offered through the Veterans Upward Bound TRiO Program at Yavapai College.

Veterans who want help in furthering their education are invited to take advantage of the Veterans Upward Bound (VUB)-TRiO program for qualified veterans in northern Arizona. The program has offices on both the Prescott and Verde Valley campuses of Yavapai College.

The VUB-TRiO program at Yavapai College, funded by the U.S Department of Education, provides free services, including college entrance assistance, academic instruction and educational programs.

The program is free to all qualifying veterans. VUB provides free academic skills training and tutoring in computer literacy, grammar and composition, mathematics, science and language. Also included for free are books, workshops, career counseling, classroom materials and online skill building.

College prep courses and workshops that can be accessed at the individual’s time and place are available to veterans living throughout the five-county northern Arizona area. Whether accessing program materials from their personal computers, computers made available at partner organizations or institutions, or in traditional classrooms, veterans will have options to obtain the support needed successfully transition into a college, university or vocational program.

For more information, contact the VUB office on the Yavapai College Prescott campus (928-717-7686 or toll-free 1-800-922-6787, ext. 7686), 1100 East Sheldon Street, Building 1 Room 209, or the Verde Valley campus (928-634-6596), 601 Black Hills Drive, Clarkdale. The website iswww.yc.edu/VUB.

Read more: http://www.prescottenews.com/index.php/education/yavapai-college/item/22037-free-higher-ed-prep-program-for-veterans#ixzz2apljO7tA

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Learn Your Benefits: VA’s 2013 Benefits Book Now Available

August 1, 2013 by Gary Hicks

Navigating the road to benefits, health care and other services offered by VA and the federal government can be difficult, frustrating and often confusing. Add that to the fact that each Veteran is different can increase the difficulty of trying to figure out what a person qualifies for or is eligible to receive.

Fortunately, VA has a product that covers it all in one easy-to-read reference – the 2013 Federal Benefits for Veterans Dependents and Survivors handbook. The 206-page book is inclusive to all Veterans and their family members despite their type of service or the era in which they served.  From the Mexican Border War period beginning May 9, 1916 through today, the book offers information on education assistance, disability compensation, pension, home loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation, life insurance, burial assistance as well as complete listing of VA facilities, addresses, phone numbers and important websites.

Continue reading: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9971/learn-your-benefits-vas-2013-benefits-book-now-available/

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Employment Situation of Veterans in America

The Employment Situation of Veterans in America is issued by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) on the first Friday of each month, and represents the month-to-month change in the employment situation of America’s veterans. This month’s Employment Situation of Veterans in America finds that the unemployment rate of veterans has worsened slightly, increasing from 6.3% in June 2013 to 6.4% in July 2013. The nation’s youngest veterans, ages 20-24, are experiencing one of the highest unemployment rates at 17.9%, which is 5.3% higher than that of their non-veteran peers of the same age.

The IVMF also reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections related to the duration of the period of unemployment experienced by post-9/11 veterans. Approximately 79% of post-9/11 veterans ages 20-24 have been unemployed for more than five weeks. Understanding unemployment duration will confer additional insight into the employment situation of veterans and in turn enable more focused efforts positioned to address the differing needs of longer-term unemployed veterans, as compared to the shorter-term unemployment challenges facing transitioning service members.

The report also includes an overview of noteworthy news, policy and public/private sector initiatives positioned to impact the employment situation of veterans. The data reported comes from the BLS Current Population Survey, and represents the period ending July 2013.

The Employment Situation of Veterans in America can also be downloaded directly from the IVMF website. Other IVMF research is available at http://vets.syr.edu/research/, including our research briefs on employment, education, families, and wellness.

To IVMF news updates, research briefs, employment situation and other policy and research reports are sent to subscribers regularly. To receive the employment situation report, or our other updates, subscribe at http://vets.syr.edu/sign-up/.

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Patterns of Multimorbidity in Elderly Veterans

 August 2, 2013

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) publishes research briefs on a weekly basis, highlighting the most cited and most recent articles pertaining to veterans in the areas of wellness, family, employment and education. The focus is on actionable research which may impact policy and practice when in the hands of those working in these areas, and on identifying needs for further research. To access previously released research briefs, visit the archives at http://vets.syr.edu/research/briefs/

The latest IVMF Research Brief is now posted on our website:

Title: Patterns of Multimorbidity in Elderly Veterans

Authors: Michael A. Steinman, M.D.; Sei J. Lee, M.D., M.A.S.; W. John Boscardin, Ph.D.; Yinghui Miao, M.P.H.; Kathy Z. Fung, M.S.; Kelly L. Moore, Ph.D.; Janice B. Schwartz, M.D.

As a reminder, the IVMF invites authors/researchers to submit veteran-related articles for review and inclusion in the research brief archive. Submissions are accepted via an online form. IVMF researchers
prepare the research brief based on the submitted information, and provide an opportunity for review by the authors prior to inclusion in the archive. Complete directions and requirements for submission are included on the form.

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VA Grants up to One Year Retroactive Benefits for Veterans Filing Fully Developed Claims to Help Reduce the Backlog

August 1, 2013

New Benefit Takes Effect August 6 for First-Time Filers

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that Veterans filing an original Fully Developed Claim (FDC) for service-connected disability compensation may be entitled to up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits.  The retroactive benefits, which are in effect Aug. 6, 2013, through Aug. 5, 2015, are a result of a comprehensive legislative package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year.

Continue reading: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2464

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30 percent of Iraq, Afghanistan veterans have mulled suicide: survey

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Nearly one third of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have contemplated suicide, according to survey results released Wednesday, underscoring the dark depths of a mental-health crisis that has gripped the U.S. military and the American veteran community in recent years.

In addition, 45 percent of the 4,000-plus survey respondents said they know of an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, reports the group behind the poll, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) — the largest advocacy organization for men and women who served in the wars, representing about younger 170,000 veterans. Some 2.2 million Americans have been deployed to those countries.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/31/19795613-30-percent-of-iraq-afghanistan-veterans-have-mulled-suicide-survey

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Newest veterans say suicide is their biggest challenge

Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY  July 30, 2013

The nation’s newest combat veterans — those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan — say the biggest challenge facing their generation is suicide, according to a survey by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

About 3,000 active-duty troops have killed themselves since 2001. The annual tally of these deaths climbs each year. And those numbers often don’t include servicemembers who are part of the National Guard or Reserve.

Moreover, the Department of Veterans Affairs has uncovered evidence that this self-destructive trend is following many young veterans after they leave the service, adding to an estimated tally of some 22 suicides per day among veterans of all ages.

Continue reading: http://www.usatoday.com/story/nation/2013/07/30/iraq-afghanistan-veterans-say-suicide-biggest-issue-they-face/2599085

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Veterans Wanted by America’s Leading Employers

07/26/2013

The search for employment after serving in the military can often be quite challenging, but not because employers are not looking to hire them. Many veterans’ struggle with translating what they have done in the military to what they would qualify for in the civilian world. Veterans are not comfortable with self-promotion, and as we all know, self-promotion is exactly what is needed to find the right job.

Luckily, there are many great programs in place to help veterans understand just how valuable their skills and experience is to any employer. The U.S Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes http://www.uschamber.com/hiringourheroes program has developed a personal branding resume engine that assists the veteran in translating their military experience and skill set to matching jobs with industry leading employers.

Continue reading:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-obrien/veterans-wanted-by-americ_b_3658785.html

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Veterans Kept as Guinea Pigs to Get Some Relief

By NICK MCCANN

OAKLAND (CN) – The government must come clean about the hazards of drug experiments to which it subjected Vietnam veterans, a federal judge ruled.

Vietnam Veterans of America filed a class action against the Army and CIA in 2009, claiming that at least 7,800 soldiers had been used as guinea pigs in Project Paperclip.

The soldiers say they were administered at least 250, and perhaps as many as 400, types of drugs, including Sarin, one of the most deadly drugs known, as well as amphetamines, barbiturates, mustard gas, phosgene gas and LSD.

Continue reading:  http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/07/26/59743.htm

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Reintegrating Veterans Through Service Here at Home

Posted: 06/26/2013

Over the last decade of war, 2 million veterans have transitioned from military service back to civilian life in the United States. In the next 10 years, an additional one million will follow suit.

As veterans make this transition after more than a decade of war, they face some unique and daunting challenges: from accessing government benefits to going back to school or finding a job in the civilian economy; from coping with physical injuries to dealing with invisible but very real injuries like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Continue reading:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michale-flournoy/reintegrating-veterans-th_b_3503144.html

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Study shows veterans must navigate hundreds of forms, more than a dozen agencies for services

Published July 02, 2013 FoxNews.com

A new study released ahead of the Fourth of July holiday sheds more light on the tangle of paperwork facing America’s veterans — showing they’re up against as many as 613 forms across 18 agencies as they seek services.

The study by the American Action Forum also found the paperwork — in part the result of roughly 31 million Veterans Affairs claims alone each year — takes federal employees roughly 43.3 million hours to process.

“Navigating 18 agencies and more than 600 forms has produced absurd results and unnecessary delays,” the self-described “center-right” leaning nonprofit said.

To be sure, the massive backlog at the Veterans Affairs has been well-documented and has resulted in demands for change from the White House, Capitol Hill and the public.

In March, the agency had 600,000, roughly 70 percent, of its claims pending longer than 125 days.

The problem in large part has been a roughly 2,000 percent increase in Veterans Affairs claims over the past four years while the agency races to streamline efforts by moving to a paperless online system.

The agency has made some headway toward its goal of eliminating backlog claims, defined as 125 days or older, by 2015. Officials said a few weeks ago that they cut the number of claims by 15 percent in recent weeks.

President Obama issued an executive order in 2011 urging federal agencies to reduce burdensome regulations. But Congress last month called for the president to be more aggressive, with Democrats and Republicans from both chambers sending him a letter asking that he “take direct action.”

Sam Batkins, American Action’s director of regulatory policy, outlined a hypothetical situation in which a veteran seeking health and education benefits could encounter as many as 49 different forms and more than four hours of paperwork, costing them about $125.

“VA, the Government Accounting Office and other agencies have already diagnosed the problem of overlap and duplication, but Veterans Affairs continues to struggle,” American Action wrote. “If Congress cannot fashion a legislative remedy, veterans will have to rely on the same system that has failed them repeatedly in the past.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/07/02/study-finds-veterans-applying-for-benefits-face-as-many-as-613-forms-across-18/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/07/02/study-finds-veterans-applying-for-benefits-face-as-many-as-613-forms-across-18/#ixzz2Y0WtzRny\

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The following posted 7/21/13

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New VA Grants Target Homeless, At-risk Veterans, Families

From a Department of Veterans Affairs News Release

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2013 – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the award of nearly $300 million in grants that will help approximately 120,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.

The grants have been awarded to 319 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“With these grants, we are strengthening our partnership with community non-profits across the country to provide veterans and their families with hope, a home, and a future,” Shinseki said. “The work of Supportive Services for Veteran Families program grantees has already helped us prevent and end homelessness among tens of thousands of homeless veterans and their families, but as long as a single veteran lives on our streets, we have work to do.”

Continue reading: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120438

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Call-Center Follies: More Evidence of Veterans Affairs Dysfunction

July 18, 2013by Pete Hegseth •

Originally published on National Reviews “The Corner“

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a seemingly endless series of unflattering reports about poor performance and mismanagement at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our nation’s military veterans are poorly served by the department charged with looking out for their interests.

That conclusion is only reinforced by a recent report from the VA Office of the Inspector General (IG) detailing how one VA program squandered millions of dollars on under-used call centers. It’s the latest exhibit in the case that the VA, the second-largest federal department, is long overdue for fundamental reform and management oversight.

- See more at: http://concernedveteransforamerica.org/2013/07/18/call-center-follies-more-evidence-of-veterans-affairs-dysfunction/#sthash.2EdBa9IA.dpuf
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Veterans find out-of-state military service can cost big when starting college

By Kate Irby | McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Some military service members and veterans are being denied their most well-known government benefit: college tuition coverage.

Ted Spencer, a Navy veteran who grew up in Charlotte, N.C., continued to pay the state income tax during his service. But he was denied the in-state tuition rate at North Carolina State University because military service had taken him to California.

Continue reading: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/07/16/196831/veterans-find-out-of-state-military.html#.UeiRQqzn_IU

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VA Has Converted Over 30 Percent of Disability Claims into Digital Files

July 18, 2013

165 Million Pages Have Been Scanned and Uploaded to Help Transform Paper-Based Claims Process to Digital Environment

WASHINGTON—The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reached another milestone in its disability claims transformation process – over 30 percent of the current disability claims inventory is now digital and accessible to claim raters in VA’s electronic claims processing system, which has now been fielded ahead of schedule at all 56 Regional Offices across the country. This effort is a key part of transforming outdated paper processing into an electronic system that is delivering disability claims decisions for Veterans more quickly. In addition, all incoming paper claims are transformed into digital records for electronic processing using VA’s new claims processing software and electronic repository.

Continue reading:  http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2458

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New Legislation Introduced Aimed at Getting Veterans Back to Work

by Ron Kness on July 15, 2013 knessr@gmail.com

On July 2nd, U.S. Senators Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) teamed up to introduce bipartisan legislation called the Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act  that would improve and increase the availability of apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs for veterans using the GI Bill.  This legislation is a companion to the House of Representatives bill introduced last month by Congressmen Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), which easily passed on a vote of 416-0. The issue is the 19% unemployment rate for young veterans ages 20 to 24.

Continue reading:  http://www.vabenefitblog.com/new-legislation-introduced-aimed-at-getting-veterans-back-to-work/

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Labor Department Website Features Women Vets’ Issues

Posted: 15 Jul 2013 07:03 AM PDT

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 – Labor Department officials have launched a new website devoted to issues and challenges affecting women veterans. The site is a collaborative effort between the Labor Department, the Veterans’ Employment Training Service and the Women’s Bureau. The new website highlights potential challenges that may affect the economic security of women veterans, including:

Disability. Women veterans are more likely than their male peers to have a significant service related disability. Thirty-five percent of women veterans have a disability rating of 50 percent or higher as compared with 26 percent of male veterans.

Marital. Women veterans are nearly twice as likely to be divorced as male veterans — 18 percent vs. 10 percent.

Single Parenthood. Eleven percent of women veterans are raising children alone, compared to 4 percent of male veterans. While veterans overall have higher median earnings than nonveterans, women veterans still tend to earn nearly $6,000 less annually than their male veteran counterparts. Labor Department Website Features Women Vets’ Issues

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Bill would outlaw job, housing discrimination for troops, vets

Jul. 12, 2013    By Rick Maze Staff writer

A bill protecting current and former service members from discrimination in housing and employment was introduced Thursday in the House and Senate.

The Veterans and Service members Employment Rights and Housing Act of 2013 would build on legal and financial protections already in law. Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130712/NEWS05/307120021

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VA’s Work-Study Program

July 8, 2013 by Samantha O’Neil

VA’s work study program http://www.gibill.va.gov/resources/education_resources/programs/work_study_program.html gives student-Veterans the opportunity for hands-on work experience and a monthly part-time income while they are going back to school as part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill or other VA education benefit program.

Continue reading: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9779/earn-while-you-learn-vas-work-study-program/

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VA Strengthens Community-Based Support of Homeless Veterans

‎‎July ‎11, ‎2013  Alex Horton

Since 2009, aggressive support and prevention initiatives for homeless Veterans have led to a decline of Vets without shelter by 17.2 percent. We’re encouraged by the progress, but we are also reminded that we’re not at the goal of zero yet.

Continue reading: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9809/va-strengthens-community-based-support-of-homeless-veterans

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VA Grants Will Expand Transportation in Highly Rural Areas

July 10, 2013

Veterans to Have Easier Access to Health Care

WASHINGTON – Veterans will have improved access to health care under a Department of Veterans Affairs initiative that supports new transportation services for those living in highly rural areas.

VA began accepting applications this month for grants to help state Veterans Service Agencies and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) operate or contract for transportation services to transport Veterans to VA medical centers and other facilities that provide VA care. A new regulation establishes the program that will administer these grants.  Transportation will be provided at no cost to Veterans.

Continue reading: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2457

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VA expands efforts to keep vets off the streets

Jul. 11, 2013 By Gregg Zoroya USA Today

The Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday announced it is tripling to $300 million the investment provided to community groups such as Goodwill Industries, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army to expand efforts for ending homelessness among veterans and their families.

President Obama vowed in 2009 to end veteran homelessness. Since then, the number of veterans without shelter increased slightly in 2010 to 76,329 and then decreased 18 percent to 62,618 in 2012, according to figures from the VA.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130711/BENEFITS06/307110029

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So Our Veterans Know They’re Not Alone

Valerie Jarrett   July 11, 2013

Mental health professionals, members of Veterans Service Organizations, Military Service Organizations, military family organizations, and representatives from the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs came together to discuss how we can better serve our veterans and military in regards to mental health.

Continue reading: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/07/11/so-our-veterans-know-theyre-not-alone

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New VA Grants Target Homeless, At-risk Veterans, Families

From a Department of Veterans Affairs News Release

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2013 – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the award of nearly $300 million in grants that will help approximately 120,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.

Continue reading:  http://www.defense.gov//news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120438

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Pentagon eyes cuts in danger pay

Jul. 10, 2013 – By Lolita C. Baldor The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is eyeing plans to eliminate danger pay for service members in as many as 18 countries and five waterways around the world, saving about $120 million each year while taking a bite out of troops’ salaries, The Associated Press has learned.

Senior defense and military leaders are expected to meet later this week to review the matter and are poised to approve a new plan. Pentagon press secretary George Little declined to discuss details but said no final decisions have been made.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130710/BENEFITS/307100023

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VA, White House officials to hold first summit on vets’, families’ mental health

Jul. 10, 2013

Veterans Affairs officials, military advocacy groups and veterans service organizations will meet tomorrow at the White House for a Veterans and Military Family Mental Health Conference — the opening salvo in a series of summits to be held at VA medical centers nationwide through the fall.

Continue reading: ttp://www.armytimes.com/article/20130710/BENEFITS06/307100032

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CPAP Therapy Can Help Treat Nightmares in Veterans with PTSD and Sleep Apnea

Kathleen Lees k.lees@scienceworldreport.com    Jul 08, 2013

According to the National Center for PTSD of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD symptoms such as nightmares or flashbacks may begin soon after a traumatic even, but may not appear in full force for months or years later.

A new study shows that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) see a reduction in nightmares and sleep disturbances.

Continue reading: http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/8008/20130708/cpap-therapy-help-treat-nightmares-veterans-ptsd-sleep-apnea.htm

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House veterans committee creates site to prod VA

Military Intelligence

Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY July 9, 2013

The House Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday set up an online means of continually carping about the Department of Veterans Affairs — in this case, the way the department has failed to answer several committee request for information. http://www.usatoday.com/story/nation/2013/07/09/house-va-committee-creates-site-for-complaining-about-va/2502159

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Veterans still fighting for survival in tough job market

By Angela Johnson @CNNMoney July 8, 2013: NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The transition from soldier to civilian is rough. It is even more difficult in a tough job market.

The unemployment rate for veterans who served since the 9/11 attacks peaked at a troubling 15.2% in January 2011. Since then, as the economy has improved and outreach efforts have taken hold, it has fallen by more than half to 7.2%.

Continue reading: http://money.cnn.com/2013/07/08/pf/veterans-jobs/

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IVMF RELEASES SUMMARY OF THE 2013 NATIONAL SUMMIT ON WOMEN VETERAN HOMELESSNESS

LYNDY MCLAUGHLIN / JULY 9, 2013 / 0 COMMENTS

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) recently sponsored The National Summit on Women Veteran Homelessness. Held in Chicago on May 2-3, 2013. The event brought together notable experts in research, policy and practice as well as women veterans who have lived the experience of being homeless, to address the growing issue of women veteran homelessness in the United States.

Continue reading:  http://vets.syr.edu/ivmf-releases-summary-of-the-2013-national-summit-on-women-veteran-homelessness/

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House committee, VA clash over requests for data

By Kevin Freking, The Associated Press

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is going public with its frustration over the Veterans Affairs Department’s failure to comply with nearly 100 requests for information.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which oversees programs affecting veterans, said Tuesday that it will use its website to highlight the inquiries it says the VA has failed to answer. The panel says its “Trials in Transparency” page will keep a running record of outstanding requests for information.

The committee said it has 95 pending requests. Examples include a July 2012 request for data on the department’s hiring of mental health workers and a Sept. 2012 request for information about conference spending. The panel also cited a January 2013 request for all documents and emails since 2007 discussing the presence of legionella bacteria within the VA’s Pittsburgh health facilities, where an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease is blamed in the death of five veterans.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/09/19376728-house-committee-va-clash-over-requests-for-data

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Earn While You Learn: VA’s Work-Study Program

July 8, 2013 by Samantha O’Neil

VA’s work study program gives student-Veterans the opportunity for hands-on work experience and a monthly part-time income while they are going back to school as part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill or other VA education benefit program.

Continue reading:  http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9779/earn-while-you-learn-vas-work-study-program/

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Veterans Art Foundation

Real Art Ways (CT) will be screening Free the Mind http://vimeo.com/58637655   beginning Aug 23

Synopsis:

More American soldiers commit suicide after they return from war, than are being killed in the war. Most of the war veterans suffer from PTSD.

Steve is one of the proud American veterans who just returned from Afghanistan. He was an interrogator and very good at his job.

Now, back home, he suffers from sleepless nights and bad conscience because of all the terrible things he did during the war. He has a lot of anger and fear for the future and is struggling to be a good father for his two-year-old twins.

Brain scientist Professor Richard Davidson sets up his mind to conduct an unusual experiment: He will teach American war veterans and children meditation and yoga. Can veterans through meditation and yoga ease their pain and nervous system, find happiness and be more peaceful and get back to a life more like the one they had before the war?

By studying Buddhist monks Richard Davidson has found that it is possible to rewire your brain through meditation. Some of the effects are that you become more altruistic, compassionate and happy. But Richard Davidson also wants to study how early in life you can start, using the same methods of meditation and yoga in an experiment with children with ADHD.

Davidson sets up his experiment and chooses the veterans for the experiment. We are following Steve, the ex-interrogator, and Rich who was a very successful leader for battalions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He feels responsible for not being able to save his friends that were killed during the war. Rich becomes more and more closed up and can’t tell his wife about his memories.

Through the film, we experience what meditation does to human beings and we investigate, if we, by using other methods than taking medicine to ease our pain, can get less stressful, and happy.

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FREE THE MIND

By MILITARY PRESS on June 13, 2013

A new film about meditation and PTSD

Professor Richard J. Davidson, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, took the Dalai Lama’s advice to apply the same rigorous methods he used to study depression and anxiety to the study of compassion and kindness.  Dr. Davidson, who was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2006, did just that, and the results of his studies at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds are portrayed in the fascinating new documentary, “Free The Mind.”

The film, which premiered at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam, poses two fundamental questions:  What is consciousness and how does it manifest in the brain and body?  And is it actually possible to change the brain physically through mental practices alone?

By studying Buddhist monks and other long term meditators, Dr. Davidson found that it is actually possible to rewire the brain through meditation and other mental skills training techniques, and he has dedicated himself to applying this discovery to improve the lives of people throughout the world.

The facts are stark. More American soldiers have committed suicide after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan than were killed in the combat itself. A recent report from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs put this figure at 22 soldiers and veterans committing suicide every day. Many suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  Likewise, the number of American children diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and treated with pharmaceuticals such as Ritalin has skyrocketed in recent years.

Dr. Davidson’s recent work involves young children in school settings and American war veterans as part of a scientific exploration of whether mindfulness-based techniques, such as meditation and yoga,  can ease their pain, relax their nervous systems, improve their attention and help them become happier and more peaceful.

In her own very personal quest to understand the inner workings of the mind and brain, Danish film director Phie Ambo spent a year at CIHM in Madison, WI with Dr. Davidson as he conducted some unusual experiments. The surprising results can be found in Free the Mind.

For more information, visit www.freethemindthemovie.com

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U.S. Marine vet: Employing veterans is not charity

Michele Richinick, @mrich1201  07/02/2013

The gap that exists between veterans and employers during the job hunt is a continuing issue, but offering positions to former service members shouldn’t be considered charity work, Sgt. Dakota Meyer told MSNBC on Tuesday.

Continue reading:   http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/07/02/ask-a-medal-of-honor-recipient-about-returning-to-civilian-life/

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Helping Veterans Pursue Entrepreneurial Dreams

Dane Stangler,

As Americans, we often find much to debate—and disagree upon—related to our nation’s policies and affairs. One topic on which the vast majority of us can agree, however, is the appreciation and respect that those who serve or have served in our nation’s military so richly deserve. These brave, dedicated men and women answer the call to duty, putting national safety ahead of their own welfare and our needs before their personal priorities and timelines.

Continue reading: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kauffman/2013/07/01/helping-veterans-pursue-entrepreneurial-dreams/

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Veterans take care of business moving from battlefields to small firms

July 1, 2013

By Virginia Bridges — vbridges@newsobserver.com

NEW BERN — Dan Spangler’s business started to take shape after the injured Marine started hanging around a mutt named Spanky and learned he had a soft spot for dogs.

But as you might expect from a veteran, Spangler took a disciplined but steadfast approach to building his business.

Continue reading:   http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/01/3003588/veterans-take-care-of-business.html

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Veterans Affairs cites gains in clearing backlog of disability claims

By  Ian Kullgren

The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday July 3, 2013 5:26 AM

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has cleared nearly all of the 2,900 disability claims in Ohio that were pending for more than two years, according to new numbers released by the Cleveland VA office.

The announcement came nearly two weeks after the VA’s self-imposed June 19 deadline to process all claims backlogged for that long. On June 20, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said the department had cleared more than 65,000 such claims across the country.

Continue reading:  http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/07/02/Veterans-affairs-clearing-backlog-claims.html

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Veterans call for better emotional support

By Jack Marx

Updated Thu Jul 4, 2013

The head of a new young vets outreach group says both the Defence Department and the RSL need to try harder to help the young vets.

Continue reading:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-04/veterans-call-for-better-emotional-support/4799036

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Troops still wary of admitting mental health problems

Jul. 2, 2013 -  By Gregg Zoroya USA Today

America’s combat troops are no more willing today to seek help for mental health problems than they were a decade ago, a failure stoking record suicides that have haunted the military in recent years.

In a confidential survey of troops in Afghanistan last year, nearly half of those in the Army who reported psychological issues said they would be seen as weak if they sought help. Sixty percent of Marines with mental health problems responded the same way, according to the latest in a series of Army war-zone field studies.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130702/NEWS/307020051

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Study shows veterans must navigate hundreds of forms, more than a dozen agencies for services

Published July 02, 2013  FoxNews.com

A new study released ahead of the Fourth of July holiday sheds more light on the tangle of paperwork facing America’s veterans — showing they’re up against as many as 613 forms across 18 agencies as they seek services.

The study  by the American Action Forum also found the paperwork — in part the result of roughly 31 million Veterans Affairs claims alone each year — takes federal employees roughly 43.3 million hours to process.

“Navigating 18 agencies and more than 600 forms has produced absurd results and unnecessary delays,” the self-described “center-right” leaning nonprofit said.

To be sure, the massive backlog at the Veterans Affairs has been well-documented and has resulted in demands for change from the White House, Capitol Hill and the public.

Continue reading:   http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/07/02/study-finds-veterans-applying-for-benefits-face-as-many-as-613-forms-across-18/

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The veterans’ opportunity to work Act and the certified federal job search training program

02 Jul 2013

The Veterans’ Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act is a bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive legislation that seeks to lower the unemployment rate among veterans. In light of the Act’s provisions and associated goals, the Certified Federal Job Search Trainer (CFJST) Program is more critical than ever: through teaching Ten Steps to a Federal Job® at your Veterans’ Employment Center, you will be able to provide key knowledge and insights about landing quality federal jobs, which are highly sought after by veterans seeking to continue their record of service to our country.

The VOW Act specifically addresses four key areas: expanding education & training, improving the Transition Assistance Program, facilitating seamless transition, and translating military skills and training. The CFJST Program supports the VOW act in each of these areas, and – in certain circumstances – you may be able to request this training and acquire funding to become a Certified Federal Job Search Trainer. Below are examples of how the CFJST Program supports the VOW Act and prepares you to help veterans prepare for a successful federal job search.

Expanding Education & Training:

— The CFJST Program provides three (3) full days of training with an emphasis on the tools and knowledge necessary for helping veterans apply for federal jobs. Trainings are led by Federal Resume “Guru” Kathryn Troutman, who is widely recognized for her expertise on the federal hiring process;

— The CFJST Program provides in-depth instruction on drafting successful federal resumes, targeting federal job searches, and understanding the federal hiring process.

Improving the Transition Assistance Program:

— If you are involved with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), the CFJST Program can provide you with additional tools to help veterans transition into civilian life. The CFJST Program addresses career coaching, emphasizes federal job-hunting skills, and provides up-to-date information on the federal government’s hiring initiatives for veterans in an increasingly competitive hiring environment.

Facilitating Seamless Transition:

— The CFJST Program teaches career transition professionals how to advise veterans about federal jobs and how to match their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), skills, and competencies to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) classification standards.

— Through instructing participants on federal resume writing, veterans’ preference programs, and other federal hiring processes such as military spouse programs, non-competitive hiring authorities for veterans, and the Veterans Equal Opportunity Act, the CFJST Program prepares you to teach veterans how to craft a competitive federal resumes while maximizing military backgrounds to get “Best Qualified” for federal job openings.

Translating Military Skills & Training:

— The CFJST Program helps you understand – and prepares you to educate – veterans on how to translate military skillsets and backgrounds into understandable “civilianized” language so that they will be able to competitively demonstrate their qualifications when applying for federal jobs.

— The CFJST Program’s focus on targeted job searches and federal resume writing specifically addresses individuals with military backgrounds and how to translate those experiences in a way relevant to federal jobs.

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Simplest Description of PTSD Ever Told In 2 And Half Minutes

As an old soldier, I know too many people afflicted with PTSD.  Did you know it’s not only a disorder that affects the military?  Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event can be stricken with debilitating feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear.

The voice used in this animation is not an actor. This is a real man’s reflection of memories that still haunt him today and a very real glimpse into what it’s like to have PTSD.

http://www.upworthy.com/simplest-description-of-ptsd-ever-told-in-two-and-half-minutes-2?c=ufb1

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The following posted 6/28/13

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Beyond Compensation, What the VA Backlog Means to Veterans

Posted by IAVA Staff on June 20

The ambitious new plan by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to end its disability claims backlog by 2015 is leaving many veterans who are awaiting claims decisions in a state of what can best be described as “cautious optimism”. But in the meantime, as cases continue to languish, veterans continue to anxiously await decisions on their disability compensation claims.

http://iava.org/blog/beyond-compensation-what-va-backlog-means-veterans

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Veterans’ disability compensation claims go electronic

Updated: 6/25 6:08 pm | Published: 6/25 Reported by: Kimberly Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Rather than having to wait for years for disability compensation claims decisions, veterans now have access to an automated system that speeds up the process.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the launch of an electronic claims processing system, called the Veterans Benefit Management System (VBMS). They hope the system will help them eliminate the disability backlog by the end of 2015.

“Nationwide the VA completed a record breaking 1 million claims last year and the year before that and the year before that,” said Eric K. Shinseki, U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs. “Some of these were unfinished business from previous wars.”

Continue reading: http://www.abc4.com/content/news/top_stories/story/Veterans-disability-compensation-claims-go/hq5bZb8f6EWrA8Ph-TlKLg.cspx

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Veterans discuss PTSD signs

Veterans discuss PTSD and suicide after war

Jun. 26, 2013   |  Written by Laura Peters

STAUNTON — Ben Shaw had blown all his money on toys and alcohol. He was living on his parents’ couch at 28 years old.

Once a highly esteemed Marine, he came back from the Iraq War in 2007 after being overseas for four years.

He says he doesn’t remember much of his life after he returned home. He took almost all his money to purchase a motorcycle and hit the road. The rest of his cash, he drank it away.

Continue reading:  http://www.newsleader.com/article/20130626/NEWS01/306260020/The-warning-signs?nclick_check=1

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Veterans’ Uphill Road Back, Struggle With Suicide

By STEVEN R. HURST Associated Press WASHINGTON June 25, 2013 (AP)

Five years ago, Joe Miller, then an Army Ranger captain with three Iraq tours under his belt, sat inside his home near Fort Bragg holding a cocked Beretta 40mm, and prepared to kill himself.

He didn’t pull the trigger. So Miller’s name wasn’t added to the list of active-duty U.S. military men and women who have committed suicide. That tally reached 350 last year, a record pace of nearly one a day. That’s more than the 295 American troops who were killed in Afghanistan in the same year.

“I didn’t see any hope for me at the time. Everything kind of fell apart,” Miller said. “Helplessness, worthlessness. I had been having really serious panic attacks. I had been hospitalized for a while.” He said he pulled back at the last minute when he recalled how he had battled the enemy in Iraq, and decided he would fight his own depression and post-traumatic stress.

The U.S. military and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acknowledge the grave difficulties facing active-duty and former members of the armed services who have been caught up in the more-than decade-long American involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The system struggles to prevent suicides among troops and veterans because potential victims often don’t seek counseling given the stigma still associated by many with mental illnesses or the deeply personal nature — a failed romantic relationship, for example — of a problem that often precedes suicide. Experts also cite illicit drug use, alcohol and financial woes.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/veterans-uphill-road-back-struggle-suicide-19479057#.Uc2mtKzn_IU

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Vietnam War veterans with PTSD have higher risk of heart disease

Published June 27, 2013  FoxNews.com

Vietnam War veterans suffering from PTSD may also be at risk for an even more debilitating health condition – heart disease.

In a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), male twin Vietnam veterans with PTSD were twice as likely to develop heart disease within a 13-year period, compared to veterans who did not have PTSD, Medical Daily reported.

“This study provides further evidence that PTSD may affect physical health,” said Dr. Gary H. Gibbons, director of the NIH’s National  Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/27/vietnam-war-veterans-with-ptsd-have-higher-risk-heart-disease/

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More than 50,000 troops with auto loans will get refunds

Jun. 27, 2013 – By Karen Jowers Staff writer

More than 50,000 service members with loans under the Military Installment Loans and Educational Services auto loans program will receive refunds totaling about $6.5 million as part of an enforcement action by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130627/BENEFITS/306270046

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Labor Department Awards $29 Million in Grants to Help Veterans

From a Department of Labor News Release

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – More than 14,000 veterans across the nation will benefit from job training, job placement, housing help and other services, thanks to 121 grants totaling almost $29 million announced today by officials of the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.

The grants were awarded through the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, the only federal program that focuses exclusively on employment of homeless veterans.

“Military service members and their families have been asked to make tremendous sacrifices for this nation. Although homelessness among veterans has fallen, too many of our heroes cannot find jobs or homes,” acting Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris said. “These grants will provide those who have served our nation with the means to find meaningful civilian employment and chart new directions for their lives.”

The grants will help homeless veterans reintegrate into society and the labor force while providing effective services aimed at addressing the complex challenges that homeless veterans often confront, officials said. The services provided by grantees will include job placement, on-the-job training, career counseling, life skills and money management mentoring, as well as help in finding housing.

Funds were awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community organizations. These organizations are familiar with the areas and populations to be served, officials explained, and have demonstrated that they can administer effective programs to help veterans. http://www.defense.gov//news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120374

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Preparing to Enter the Work Force After a Severe Injury

If you won’t be returning to military service, you’ve probably thought about how you’ll support yourself when you leave the hospital. You may have a lot of questions and concerns. What kind of work can you do, given your disability? Will the skills you learned in the military help you get a civilian job? What help is available for retraining and job placement? The information in this article can help answer these questions.

Continue reading:  http://www.militaryonesource.mil/casualty?content_id=268953

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Understanding the Military Medical Evaluation Process

The military’s medical evaluation process is complex, and understanding it is sometimes overwhelming for service members and their families. The process begins when the service member is recommended for a medical board, usually by his or her treating physician. A final determination can be made in as little as 45 days – or much longer – depending on the complexity of the case. The Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer is the service member’s main liaison during the process, providing valuable guidance and serving as a patient advocate.

Continue reading:  http://www.militaryonesource.mil/casualty?content_id=268956

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Are There 2 Types of Gulf War Illness?

By Robert Preidt

FRIDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) — U.S. veterans with Gulf War illness complain of different types of symptoms, and researchers now think they know why: There may be two distinct forms of the illness, depending on which areas of the brain have atrophied.

Continue reading:  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_137839.html

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Another outrage against veterans

6/20/2013  David Gibberman

The unconscionable delays by the Department of Veterans Affairs in processing benefit applications are well known (and continuing). Less publicized are the hurdles the department has erected to prevent millions of wartime veterans and their spouses from receiving their earned aid and attendance (A&A) benefits (sometimes referred to as “enhanced monthly benefits”).

Veterans and their spouses are entitled to A&A benefits (as much as $2,054 per month in 2013 for an eligible veteran who is married) if one or both of them need someone’s help with an activity of daily living (such as eating, bathing, dressing, going to the bathroom, or adjusting a prosthetic device).

A December 2011 Government Accounting Office report estimated that up to 925,000 veterans and 1.38 million surviving family members are not receiving VA pension benefits to which they’re entitled. The GAO cited a VA study estimating that 62 percent of pension recipients may be eligible for enhanced monthly benefits but only 22 percent are receiving them, mainly because they’re not aware that the benefits are available.

Instead of raising awareness of A&A benefits, the VA’s website discourages applicants from applying for them by saying that veterans can obtain such benefits only if they’re eligible for a basic pension. Which isn’t true. Veterans and surviving spouses ineligible for a basic pension because their income is too high may nevertheless be eligible for A&A benefits because the income limits for A&A benefits are significantly higher (e.g., $24,652 vs. $16,324 in 2013 for an eligible veteran who is married). There’s also a limit on the amount of money and other property that an applicant may own, but the VA lets everyone guess what it is.

Continue reading: http://dailycaller.com/2013/06/20/another-outrage-against-veterans/

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Shopping for Supplemental Military Health Insurance

by admin on June 18th, 2013

There are many places to obtain supplemental health insurance. Several fraternal associations and many commercial insurance companies offer such plans, but you should look carefully for the one that is best for you. Insurance plans vary greatly with which medical procedures are covered and the percentage the policy will pay.

When shopping for health insurance, first consider the benefits you may have as a retiree or veteran. Then purchase supplemental insurance. The trick is to find a supplemental insurance plan that covers all your anticipated needs without paying for benefits that duplicate what you already have.

There are five basic types of health insurance coverage:

  • 1.      Hospital expense insurance pays for hospital bills either in part or in full. Watch out for policies that do not pay for the first 8 to 10 days of a hospital stay (the average hospital stay is fewer than 8 days).
  • 2.      Surgical expense insurance covers surgeon fees. Beware: for major surgeries, all of the fees may not be covered. Read the policy carefully before you sign.
  • 3.      Medical expense insurance covers doctor’s visits in the hospital, in the doctor’s office or house calls.
  • 4.      Major medical insurance pays practically every form of hospital and outpatient care as long as a licensed physician provides the care. Most people choose major medical because it is so comprehensive. However, the payments for this type of coverage are high.
  • 5.      Disability insurance pays a percentage of your normal income if a disability prevents you from doing your job.

When looking at your health insurance coverage, take a moment to review your insurance on your automobile, personal property, real estate, and loan payments. Insurers sometimes offer discounts to customers who purchase several types of insurance from the same company.

http://militaryhandbooks.com/shopping-for-supplemental-military-health-insurance/

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Tests, Surveys Pending as Services Study Jobs for Women

By Karen Parrish

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2013 – With proxy tests and surveys, consultations and validations, the nation’s military services and U.S. Special Operations Command are preparing to map the path — and the obstacles — to opening jobs for women, officials said here yesterday.

“The department’s goal is to ensure that the mission is met with the best, most fully qualified, and most capable people, regardless of gender,” the Defense Department’s director of officer and enlisted personnel management said at a Pentagon news conference yesterday.

Continue reading:  http://www.defense.gov//news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120325

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Veterans Claims Advocates Provides Fast, Affordable VA Claims Services to Disabled Veterans

New company utilizes VA Claims Agents in place of attorneys to navigate VA bureaucracy and deliver faster, more economical service

By Veterans Claims Advocates  Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013

BOSTON, June 19, 2013 — /PRNewswire/ — For veterans with a service-connected injury, filing a disability claim with the Veteran’s Administration and winning a just award just got a lot easier. Veterans Claims Advocates today announced that it is now offering fast, affordable VA claims services to veterans with service-connected disabilities. Utilizing VA-licensed Claim Agents, the company provides a low-cost, streamlined alternative to attorney-based claims representation.

Continue reading:  http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/19/5508174/veterans-claims-advocates-provides.html

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Veterans left dangling

House bill would help ease benefits backlog, but more should be done

STAFF PHOTO / THOMAS BENDER    June 13, 2013

Too many veterans are forced, by paperwork backlogs, to wait a long time for their disability benefits. Solutions are needed, but it appears they, too, will take longer than anyone wished.

Washington has not ignored the delays — which stem from a number of causes — but it must keep applying pressure to simplify the system and whittle down the backlog. Progress so far is unsatisfactory.

Continue reading:  http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20130613/opinion/306139999

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The following posted 6/16/13

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VA hits backlog goal in 3 cities: Hint of a fix or mirage?

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on April 18, before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Military Constructions, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies hearing on the Veterans Affairs Department’s fiscal 2014 budget.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The U.S. Veterans Affairs department says it has hit a “tipping point,” cutting its monstrous backlog of disability claims by 74,000 since late April, yet agency critics contend that growing throngs of ex-troops waiting for injury compensation in America’s biggest cities show the VA is “over-promising and under-delivering.”

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/16/18955928-va-hits-backlog-goal-in-3-cities-hint-of-a-fix-or-mirage

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Veterans Beat: VA says it’s on way to improving mental health services

by Ron Seman   June 13, 2013

On June 3, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it has met the goal to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in President Obama’s Aug. 11, 2012, executive order to improve access to mental health services for veterans, service members, and military families.

“Meeting this hiring milestone significantly enhances our ability to improve access to care for those veterans seeking mental health services and demonstrates our continued commitment to the health and well-being of the men and women who have served the nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Meetting the goal is an important achievement, but we recognize that we must continue to increase access to the quality mental health care veterans have earned and deserve.”

Continue reading:  http://www.twinsburgbulletin.com/regional/2013/06/13/veterans-beat-va-says-it-s-on-way-to-improving-mental-health-services

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House Passes Measure Boosting Veterans’ Programs

By AP / Andrew Taylor June 04, 20131

(WASHINGTON) — The House on Tuesday passed the first of 12 spending bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, a popular measure providing more money for veterans’ programs like health care.

The boost for veterans came even as Republicans controlling the chamber marched ahead with a plan that would require most other domestic programs to absorb even deeper cuts next year than those in place now after the imposition of across-the-board spending cuts.

Those cuts, known as sequestration, would wring more than $100 billion from the $3.6 trillion federal budget, most of which comes from the approximately $1 trillion “discretionary” portion of the budget approved by Congress each year to fund the day-to-day operations of federal agencies.

Continue reading:   http://swampland.time.com/2013/06/04/house-passes-measure-boosting-veterans-programs/

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Job Search Advice for Veterans

June 13, 2013

Since there are still a significant number of veterans unemployed, many people – both in government and industry – are trying to develop ways to help vets find jobs once they return to civilian life. To this end, new online tools are available to assist veterans in finding employment. Here is some job search advice for veterans.

Continue reading:  http://gethiredfast.com/2013/06/job-search-advice-for-veterans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=job-search-advice-for-veterans

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The Rise (and Fall) of the VA Backlog

By Brandon Friedman June 03, 2013

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs likely won’t acknowledge it publicly until later this year, but those responsible for processing disability claims believe the infamous “backlog” peaked more than two months ago.

Last week, the total number of claims in the inventory fell to slightly more than 830,000—the lowest number since October 2011. Since late March, the backlog of claims has been on an eight-week slide as well. Last week, it too reached its lowest point since January 2012—nearly 17 months ago. The downward slope is now steeper than at any time during the Obama administration.

To be sure, no one is yet measuring the drapes in a backlog-free department—as it still stands at more than 500,000 claims. Nevertheless, the trend line is striking—and it mirrors what many VA employees are saying behind closed doors. Barring any surprises, the decline in backlogged claims will only accelerate as an automated system finally replaces paper processing over the next two years.

Read more: http://nation.time.com/2013/06/03/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-va-backlog/#ixzz2WIWLmISv

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Just What Should I Get for a Post 9/11 GI Bill Housing Allowance?

by Ron Kness on June 11, 2013

Whenever discussing Chapter 33 – the Post 9/11 GI Bill, one topic that is sure to come up is the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). The book stipend and tuition payments are pretty straightforward, but the MHA confuses people. In particular, I want to address three commonly asked questions.

Continue reading: http://www.vabenefitblog.com/just-what-should-i-get-for-a-post-911-gi-bill-housing-allowance

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The Veterans Back to School Act – Would It Help You?

by Ron Kness on June 11, 2013

On May 28th, Senator Richard Bluemnthal (D-Connecticut) introduced his Veterans Back to School Act. Right now, as you know, the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) has a shelf life; the benefits are only good for 10 years from the veteran’s last date of discharge. Sen Blumenthal’s Act would remove the delimitation date and instead give veterans up to 10 years to use their GI Bill from the date they begin using their benefits. Continue reading: http://www.vabenefitblog.com/the-veterans-back-to-school-act-would-it-help-you/

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Official Explains Tuition Assistance Quality Assurance Program

By Amaani Lyle  American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2013 – To increase stewardship and optimize service members’ educational experiences, Defense Department officials have developed a multifaceted quality assurance program to improve tuition assistance, the assistant secretary of defense for readiness and force management said on Capitol Hill today.

Continue reading:  http://www.defense.gov//news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120267

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Veterans, advocates brace for cutbacks

VA is exempt from reductions, but advocates warn veterans still will feel effect of tighter budgets

By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun  May 17, 2013

The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training’s Baltimore complex is full of neatly made beds and shining-clean floors, a military-like environment for homeless former service members working to get their lives back on track.

Its executive director, a retired Navy lieutenant, would love to expand the nonprofit so he can take in families — children as well as their veteran parent. But as David T. Clements works to pin down new funding for that effort, he’s worried about the money he’s already got. Continue reading:   http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-veterans-assistance-20130517,0,5692612.story

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The following posted 6/7/13

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Veterans Affairs sets sights on suicide prevention

Twenty-two veterans die by suicide every day in the U.S. Any suicide statistic is too great a number, but taking into consideration the total U.S. population (315 million) and the number of veterans (22 million), that percentage is disproportionately high.

By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press

Twenty-two veterans die by suicide every day in the U.S. Any suicide statistic is too great a number, but taking into consideration the total U.S. population (315 million) and the number of veterans (22 million), that percentage is disproportionately high.

Continue reading: http://www.echopress.com/event/article/id/104861/group/News/

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Veterans using VA benefits at higher rate

They’ve been to places most Americans will never see, under conditions no one wants to think about, in countries with names most people cannot spell.

By: By Betsy Simon, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun June 01, 2013

DICKINSON, N.D. — They’ve been to places most Americans will never see, under conditions no one wants to think about, in countries with names most people cannot spell.

Now more than half of the country’s nearly 22 million living veterans are receiving at least one benefit or service guaranteed to them because of their service to the nation — an increase of more than 1 million veterans over four years, said Meagan Lutz, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington, D.C.

Continue reading:  http://www.jamestownsun.com/event/article/id/187728/group/News/

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Veterans accuse Department of Veterans Affairs of being more interested in saving money than lives

Special investigation by defence correspondent Michael Brissenden  Jun 7, 2013

Some veterans have accused the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) of deliberate intransigence and of being more interested in saving money than in saving lives.

A leading psychiatrist has backed the claims, and says the DVA does appear to be reticent to make money available for treatment, and that in some cases the bureaucratic hurdles put up and the time it takes to get help is making the situation worse.

The number of young veterans presenting with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continues to rise at an alarming rate and many say they are finding it difficult to get the help they need.

Continue reading:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-06/veterans-speak-out-against-department-of-veterans-affairs/4738088

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Education benefits for veterans delayed, adding to problems at VA

Published May 29, 2013 Washington Free Beacon

Veterans face delays when applying for education benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), making it more difficult for them to receive an education after leaving the military, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed last week.

Continue reading:   http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/05/29/education-benefits-for-veterans-delayed-adding-to-problems-at-va/

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Services exist to help ‘new veterans’ who leave the ranks

By DAVID THOMAS – dthomas@shawmedia.com , June 1, 2013

Every veteran has a different story and needs, but Steve Kreitzer is here to help.

A veteran service officer with the DeKalb County Veterans Assistance Commission and an Army veteran, Kreitzer said he knows how important – and daunting – the transition from military to civilian life can be.

Continue reading:  http://www.daily-chronicle.com/2013/05/30/services-exist-to-help-new-veterans-who-leave-the-ranks/akrszwd/?page=2

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Law School Clinics Help Veterans Escape Benefits Backlog

By BROCK VERGAKIS 05/27/13

NORFOLK, Va. — Dustin Allison was riding in an armored vehicle at the head of a convoy in Iraq one morning in 2007 when an improvised explosive device went off, killing the driver and leaving Allison badly wounded.

Shrapnel struck the Utah National Guard platoon leader behind his left ear, fracturing his skull and taking off a small piece of his ear. The radio behind his head was destroyed.

“I was definitely lucky,” said Allison, a former Utah State Trooper from the Salt Lake City suburbs who had volunteered for duty in Iraq.

But unlike many wounded in war, Allison bore few outward signs of having been badly hurt. He has a scar, but once he returned to Utah he also found out he was incapable of running without getting sick. He also says he experienced vertigo as a result, but that can be difficult to prove to government bureaucrats looking to safeguard against fraud.

Continue reading: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/27/law-school-clinics-veterans-backlog_n_3343559.html

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Mental healthcare for veterans often fragmented

Veterans Affairs is attempting to make healthcare more available through local outlets, but staffing and funding shortages make it difficult.

By Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily  May 31 2013

For veterans with mental health conditions, prompt and continuous access to mental health care can be lifesaving. However, research shows that after deployment, veterans often go years without obtaining mental health care, and when they do, their care is often fragmented.

A recent study found that, among veterans with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, the average time between return from deployment and initiation of mental health care was two years.

Continue reading:  http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/mental-healthcare-for-veterans-often-fragmented

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Veterans will receive U.S. rental housing vouchers

June 03, 2013 By Paul Fattig  Mail Tribune

Seventy-five homeless veterans in southwestern Oregon soon will have a home they can call their own, thanks to rental vouchers provided by Uncle Sam.

Housing and Urban Development, along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, announced it will provide 75 HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing rental vouchers in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties as part of a national effort to reduce homelessness among veterans. The vouchers are worth more than $337,000 total.

Continue reading:  http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130603/NEWS/306030310

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In veterans’ long wait for benefits, paperwork often at fault

By Beena Raghavendran  McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Zach McIlwain has low testosterone levels, post-traumatic stress disorder, limited mobility in his left hand and debilitating migraines that sometimes last for days. The 27-year-old received his injuries during two combat tours in Iraq, and he applied for disability benefits while still overseas.

Continue reading: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/06/06/4277476/in-veterans-long-wait-for-benefits.html

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Giving Veterans Homes to Return to

Posted: 06/03/2013

According to a count made last year by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, a staggering 62,619 U.S. veterans are homeless. Too many men and women who bravely served our country are living on the streets and struggling with the uncertainty of their future. As a nation, we cannot — must not — forget our veterans. Nor can we ignore the challenges many of our service men and women are facing as they return from duty, seeking to make the transition to civilian life amidst a struggling economy.

Continue reading:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-reckford/giving-veterans-a-home-to-return-to_b_3353076.html

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House passes measure boosting veterans’ programs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Tuesday passed the first of 12 spending bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, a popular measure providing more money for veterans’ programs like health care.

The boost for veterans came even as Republicans controlling the chamber marched ahead with a plan that would require most other domestic programs to absorb even deeper cuts next year than those in place now after the imposition of across-the-board spending cuts.

Continue reading:  http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2013/06/04/house-passes-measure-boosting-veterans-programs/iBxbWSglNS5RfmgzZwe7bK/story.html

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Official describes rampant computer hacking at VA

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press  Tuesday, June 4, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — At least eight foreign-sponsored organizations, mostly connected to the Chinese military, have hacked into computer networks at the Veterans Affairs Department in recent years or were actively trying to do so, a former VA computer security chief told Congress on Tuesday.

Jerry Davis, who served as the VA’s chief information security officer until February 2013, testified at a House subcommittee hearing that the VA became aware of the computer hacking in March 2010 and that attacks continue “to this very day.”

Continue reading:  http://www.sfgate.com/news/politics/article/Official-describes-rampant-computer-hacking-at-VA-4576207.php

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VA seeks input on burn-pit registry

Jun. 5, 2013 | By Patricia Kime Staff writer

The Veterans Affairs Department is asking the public for input on its planned registry of service members potentially exposed to pollution from open-air burn pits and other sources in Iraq, Afghanistan and the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130605/BENEFITS04/306050024

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House passes measures boosting veterans’ programs

Jun. 4, 2013 – By Andrew Taylor The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday passed the first of 12 spending bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, a popular measure providing more money for veterans’ programs like health care.

The boost for veterans came even as Republicans controlling the chamber marched ahead with a plan that would require most other domestic programs to absorb even deeper cuts next year than those in place now after the imposition of across-the-board spending cuts.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130604/NEWS05/306040044

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For veterans, mental health care often fragmented

By Rachael Rettner   Published May 31, 2013   LiveScience

For veterans with mental health conditions, prompt and continuous access to mental health care can be lifesaving. However, research shows that after deployment, veterans often go years without obtaining mental health care, and when they do, their care is often fragmented. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/31/for-veterans-mental-health-care-often-fragmented/

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Mental Illness in Veterans Neglected Following War

Kathleen Lees k.lees@scienceworldreport.com

For those who enter the battlefields, many may be haunted by scenes of grief, death and pure horror long after the fighting has ended.

In fact, a new study shows that many veterans who suffer a mental health condition following war, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, spend an average between two years after deployment learning to cope with the added medical situation.

Continue reading:  http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/7210/20130530/mental-illness-veterans-neglected-following-war.htm

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PTSD: How HirePatriots Helps

HirePatriots is a popular program of the 501c3 non-profit Patriotic Hearts. It focuses on giving US veterans and their spouses one day, part-time and full-time jobs all across America. – Here are a few ways that we help veterans who experience combat trauma.

1) Our One Day jobs are posted by patriotic citizens. All of them honor and respect the veterans that they hire. This is very important, especially for combat veterans who have lost friends, seen horrible things and possibly been wounded themselves. They need to know that the rest of us honor those sacrifices too.

One of the effects of veterans’ PTSD is a feeling of complete disconnection from civilian society. But knowing that there are others that respect what they went through goes a long ways in quenching those flames.

Here is a recent comment from a citizen that hires veterans for One Day jobs: I have used your Hire Patriots website many times and will continue to do so. We have made some lasting friendships with some of the men and women who helped us move, landscape, and make general home repairs. — Janet Lackner

2) HirePatriots One Day jobs are taken by active duty E-1s to O-4s, and transitioned veterans from the employed, under-employed, and those who have not yet found employment. Some of these men and women take these jobs to keep busy and to avoid thinking about bad memories. Here is the story of 3 such US veterans: http://bit.ly/19PWtqd. Many take these jobs because of the therapeutic value of the work, as much as they do for the money.

3) Statistics have always shown that financial stress destroys marriages. And when that is added to all the other extraordinary stresses of veterans, it can be the breaking point that causes them to lose their wives and children. And this should not be. Of course, for a wounded warrior who is already suffering this is something that can only do further harm.

HirePatriots’ One Day jobs provide a means for veterans and their spouses to earn the extra money they need. A Marine told me a few weeks ago that he had been taking One Day jobs for just 30 days and had already made several thousand dollars.

P.S. Our non-profit hosts 3 day, all expenses paid marriage retreats for US veterans. All of our attendees over the last 8 years are still together.

4) Veterans who have lost limbs or sight or hearing or that have TBI often feel that their lives are over and a specific kind of PTSD. Rebuilding their confidence is critical to their recovery. Military hospitals that care for these men support our One Day jobs program and encourage their patients to take jobs from it when they are ready.

I can only imagine what a veteran injured in this way feels like after taking a One Day job, being greeted by and working for supportive patriots, getting paid, and then stopping by a store and buying flowers and toys for his kids that he/she earned that day by themselves.

5) The worst thing about PTSD are misconceptions and misunderstandings that are rampant among civilians and corporations. HirePatriots creates many opportunities for residents and veterans that hire from our site to share their stories on our website and on TV, radio and in the Press. We are constantly advocating for US veterans and educating the public about their value.

When people get to meet these veterans by hiring them on HirePatriots, they find out how great these men and women are. They all have learned the military hard work ethic and courtesy. They can’t help answering every request with “Yes, sir!” or “Yes, ma’am!” Virtually everyone that hires veterans from our site falls in love with them.

Here are some important facts about US veteran PTSD. US veterans make up less than 5% of the US citizens that are diagnosed with PTSD. There are far more civilians who suffer from it. And US veterans are trained for encountering very traumatic experiences. Hardly any civilians have this training. And US veterans have a huge support group of other veterans that understand exactly what they are experiencing. Again civilians do not. Plus veterans have V.A. programs and many non-profits to help them recover. – And so the unknowns of hiring a civilian are far more risky than hiring a veteran.

Post your One Day jobs here: http://www.hirepatriots.com/day-job-board

Post your part-time and full-time jobs here: http://www.hirepatriots.com/sjb/

http://www.hirepatriots.com/news-and-blogs/entry/ptsd-how-hirepatriots-helps

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VA mental health summits aim to improve care

Jun. 3, 2013 – By Patricia Kime

The Veterans Affairs Department will host mental health summits at all 151 VA medical centers from July to mid-September in an effort to improve coordination between VA and community behavioral health providers, President Obama announced today.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130603/NEWS/306030026

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Veterans as entrepreneurs

Many are opting to become franchisees, and are likely to hire ex-service members, a growing group.

By Shobhana Chandra, Bloomberg News  POSTED: MAY 25, 2013

Robert Rummells, a U.S. Army Ranger for 22 years, says it was a natural transition when he opened a Mosquito Joe pest-control franchise in Richmond, Va., earlier this month.

“I’m an outdoor type of guy, and I didn’t want to be chained to my computer in an office, talking on the phone,” said Rummells, 49, who tried jobs such as installing equipment at a community college and simulating firearms training after retiring from the military in 2009. “I learned I needed to work for myself.”

Continue reading:  http://articles.philly.com/2013-05-25/business/39523442_1_ex-service-members-non-veterans-franchisees

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10 Best Cities for Veterans

By NerdWallet.com | Posted May 27th 2013

For this Memorial Day, NerdWallet wanted to salute our armed forces by looking at the best metropolitan areas for veterans. We wanted to find the areas with excellent support systems for veterans easing back into civilian life.

Continue reading:  http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2013/05/27/best-cities-veterans/

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Banks Pledge to Increase Lending to Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

By Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit   Published May 28, 2013

The Small Business Administration just announced the start of the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative, aimed at increasing lending to veteran-owned businesses by 5% a year for the next five years.

Twenty big banks and 100 regional and community banks across the U.S. are on board as “SBA National Lending Partners” for the effort. The program seeks to help 2,000 veterans secure startup or expansion loans totaling $475 million over the next five years.

Read more: http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/finance-accounting/2013/05/28/banks-pledge-to-increase-lending-to-veteran-owned-small-businesses/#ixzz2Uoo6gFBr

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Disabled veterans struggle with broken claims system

Ned Resnikoff, @resnikoff  05/26/2013

Service members who were disabled while on active duty are supposed to receive monetary assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But an increasing number of veterans never receive their disability benefits, or receive them far too late. While the VA has struggled to process claims in a timely fashion for years, the backlog of unprocessed claims has ballooned.

As of May 20, the VA had 838,821 claims waiting to be processed. Two-thirds of those claims—559,186 of them—have been pending for over 125 days and have been classified as “backlogged.” An additional 249,604 claim appeals are pending, from veterans who believe the VA ruled incorrectly on their initial claims. The average wait time for a claim to be completed is 345 days, but appeals can take much longer.

Continue reading:   http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/26/disabled-veterans-struggle-with-broken-claims-system/

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How Veterans Can Combat Employment Discrimination

Posted: 05/29/2013

I recently discussed how veterans can improve their employability, including ramping up their online presence, connecting with mentors, and seeking out ways to grow their skills. But what happens when veterans are faced with discrimination?

The Labor Department and Office of Special Counsel accepted an unprecedented 1,430 new cases of alleged civil job discrimination against National Guard and Reserve veterans last year. In 2001, that number was 846, meaning that job discrimination cases are up 60 percent.

Continue reading:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sudy-bharadwaj/veterans-employment-discrimination_b_3347752.html

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Homeless Veterans to receive permanent homes through HUD/VA vouchers

MAY 29, 2013  BY: FRED CHAMBERLIN

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced today that HUD will provide $60 million to local housing agencies across the country to offer permanent supportive housing to homeless Veterans, many of whom are living with chronic disabling conditions.

Continue reading:  http://www.examiner.com/article/homeless-veterans-to-receive-permanent-homes-through-hud-va-vouchers

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The following posted 5/30/13

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Loan Relief for Vets and Family Members

Did you, or a veteran or family member you know, incur excessive educational loans for study at a for-profit institution? If so, you may be eligible to apply for up to $5,000 in loan relief from the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund – thanks to a partnership between IAVA, Scholarship America® and The Kisco Foundation.

If you believe you are eligible, please fill out the form below. If you meet the basic criteria to apply for a grant, you will be asked for more information to complete your application. Awards will be granted on a competitive basis.

Scholarship America Verification    http://iava.org/loan-relief

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Garden helps homeless veterans feel a sense of community

By Jed Boal, Deseret News May 16 2013

“They want to be a part of the community, and this is a step up for them.”

Veteran and apartment manager Bill Lee

SALT LAKE CITY — Homeless veterans living at the Valor Apartments have a new garden to help them heal, thanks to volunteers from Home Depot.

It’s a place where the 13 military veterans at apartment complex at 718 E. 700 South can get together and share. It’s part of a program to reduce homelessness among veterans.

Continue reading:  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865580182/Garden-helps-homeless-veterans-feel-a-sense-of-community.html?pg=all

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Veterans Disability Appeals See Fewer Decisions in FY2012, Reports Allsup

BY BryanClix

Nearly 50,000 veterans appeals were received by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) in fiscal year 2012, with even more—54,033—expected by fiscal year-end 2013. However, veterans may find themselves waiting longer for a decision as the agency reports reduced decisions and a reduced workforce, according to Allsup, which provides veterans disability appeal services. The BVA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read more: ttp://interact.stltoday.com/pr/business/PR052313113213057#ixzz2UA6cjpbf

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Ex-Military Men More Likely to Commit Suicide

Serving in the military doubles the chances that a man will commit suicide, according to a new study in the July issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researchers, led by Dr. Mark S. Kaplan of Portland State University , followed more than 320,000 men for 12 years and found that those who had been in the military between 1917 and 1994 were twice as likely to kill themselves when compared to non-military men.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/06/13/ex-military-men-more-likely-to-commit-suicide/#ixzz2UihEKCpS

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1.7 Million Vets Lack Health Insurance

WASHINGTON – Nearly 1.7 million military veterans have no health insurance or access to government hospitals and clinics for veterans, according to a report Tuesday from a doctors’ group that favors federally financed health care.

The number of uninsured veterans jumped by 235,000 since 2000, meaning they are losing health insurance at a faster rate than the general population, said Physicians for a National Health Program (search), which advocates a universal national health insurance program. About 45 million Americans have no health insurance, including 5 million who lost coverage during the past four years, according to the Census Bureau.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2004/10/19/17-million-vets-lack-health-insurance/#ixzz2UigWjw2s

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No Homes For Our Soldiers

Published January 25, 2008

Upfront, if this does not piss you off, finally get you off your butts, run outside naked while screaming mad, make you paint your face and do a protest dance in front of the White House, then my friends, you are dead from the neck up — and you need to forever stop saying you care for soldiers or, for that matter, your own freedoms.

THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF VETERANS HOMELESS IN THIS COUNTRY — THOUSANDS!

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/01/25/no-homes-for-our-soldiers/#ixzz2Uifl3wf6

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The simple case for hiring veterans

By Karen Ross  May 23, 2013  FoxNews.com

As my company spearheads software training for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I am asked, “What can veterans offer a company?”

There are many answers.

Veterans can handle themselves in a myriad of environments. They are professional, and accustomed to working in a team setting. Continue reading:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/05/23/simple-case-for-hiring-veterans/

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Shinseki on stopping homelessness: ‘The climb will get steeper’

May. 29, 2013 – By Rick Maze Staff writer

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki warned Wednesday that tackling the problem of homelessness among veterans, like so many other problems vets face, is likely to get more difficult before it is solved.

Continue reading: ttp://www.armytimes.com/article/20130529/BENEFITS04/305290029

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Job Search Advice for Veterans: Best Job Options

Finding a job after completing military service can be challenging. The government and a number of companies are working together to help vets find employment but vets may have a difficult time determining the best way to utilize the skills they learned in the military.

Continue reading: http://gethiredfast.com/2013/03/job-search-advice-for-veterans-best-job-options/

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Career and Job Search Resume Tips for Veterans

May 29, 2013

Once you leave the military, it may be challenging to enter the civilian workforce. Although many of the jobs that you worked on while on active duty translate to job positions outside of the military, civilian companies may not know this. Veterans may benefit from some resume advice to be successful in their career and job search.

Continue reading:   http://gethiredfast.com/2013/05/career-and-job-search-resume-tips-for-veterans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=career-and-job-search-resume-tips-for-veterans

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Number of the Week: More Veterans Survive, but With More Injuries

By Phil Izzo

28%: The share of veterans in the post 9/11 era with a service-related disability.

Of the soldiers deployed for the Vietnam and Korean wars, 1.7% and 2% died in theater, or in the region where the wartime operations were being conducted, according to data compiled by the Census Bureau. By contrast, just 0.3% of soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan died in theater. Part of that is due to the different nature of the conflicts, but much if it is thanks to advances in battlefield medicine.

Continue reading:   http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2013/05/25/number-of-the-week-more-veterans-survive-but-with-more-injuries/

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Wounded Veteran Initiative

Canine Companions for Independence has provided many assistance dogs to US war veterans across the country. With the increase in wounded veterans who could benefit from an assistance dog, we want to do more. For a veteran making a new start putting their life back together from an injury, an assistance dog can provide the help they need to regain independence.

http://www.cci.org/site/c.cdKGIRNqEmG/b.4011033/k.D44E/Veterans.htm

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10 Best Financial Benefits for Military Families

By Kimberly Lankford

Members of the military have a lot of special financial challenges that most people don’t encounter. However, they have access to many special benefits, tax breaks and legal protections that can make a huge difference in their families’ personal finances. Here are ten of the top financial benefits available to service members and how to make the most of them to improve your family’s financial future.

Continue reading:  http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/saving/T065-S000-10-best-financial-benefits-for-military-families/index.html#9E1WOSS5FeX4dqc7.99

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Multiple Head Injuries Raise Soldiers’ Suicide Risk, Study Finds

20 percent of those with two or more brain traumas had thoughts of killing themselves

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas  May 15, 2013  (HealthDay News) –

Military service members who sustain more than one mild traumatic brain injury may be at much greater risk of suicide, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Utah found that the risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors increased for a lifetime, not just short-term, among those with multiple head injuries.

Continue reading: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_136861.html

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Agent Orange tied to aggressive prostate cancer risk

Sunday, May 12, 2013 By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Men who were exposed to Agent Orange chemicals used during the Vietnam War are at higher risk for life-threatening prostate cancer than unexposed veterans, researchers have found.

What’s more, those who served where the herbicide was used were diagnosed with cancer about five years earlier than other men, on average, in the new study.

Continue reading: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_136785.html

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Native American veterans push for recognition

May. 26, 2013 | By Susan Montoya Bryan The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Navajo Code Talkers are legendary. Then there was Cpl. Ira Hamilton Hayes, the Pima Indian who became a symbol of courage and patriotism when he and his fellow Marines raised the flag over Iwo Jima in 1945.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130526/NEWS/305260004

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Helping new Arizona veterans find employment

By Brandon Brown The Republic | azcentral.comSat May 25, 2013

I n his 10 years in the Marine Corps and through three deployments, Sgt. Alejandro Salazar was told that when he left the service, it would be easy to find a job. Every company, Salazar was led to believe, would want to hire a Marine.

But Salazar, a 30-year-old Phoenix resident, found the exact opposite.

Continue reading:  http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/20130522helping-arizona-veterans-find-employment.html?nclick_check=1

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The following posted 5/15/13

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VA Fraud Warning

4.27.2013

Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs has recently been notified of potential fraudulent attempts to contact Veterans using www.vetsuccess.gov.
These individuals may be operating under company names such as Auto-Desk, Venus Remedies, or Aesculap Implant Systems.
Be aware that these are potential fake inquiries, and you should not communicate with or send any information to these individuals or anyone else on www.vetsuccess.gov.
If the individual or company has communicated with you through a suspicious email, do not click on any links in the email, and do not provide any personal information to the individual.
Delete Mail Immediately – Do Not Open !
If you suspect that you may be victim of these suspicious activities, please contact the investigative team at www.vetsuccess.gov – 202.461.9600.
And Never Share Information with any suspicious party:

* Bank Account Information
* Credit Card Information
* Date of Birth
* Driver’s License Number
* Passwords
* Social Security Number or other National Identification Number

Please be mindful of the information you share with individuals or a prospective employer until you are confident that the employer and employment opportunity are legitimate.
Message by Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Edited by David Apperson, Admin, Vets Helping Vets
VA Fraud Warning posted by David Apperson

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TRAIN VETS TO TREAT VETS

In 2008, The Special Commission to Study and Investigate the Hidden Wounds of War on Massachusetts Service Members reported a high incidence of anxiety, depression, family disruption and brain injury suffered by veterans of recent conflicts and identified best practices for delivering mental health services to this population and their families. The report mirrored national studies on mental health access for veterans that concluded that, despite best efforts, veterans experience significant barriers in accessing high-quality mental health care.

Continue reading: http://www.mspp.edu/mspp-giving/train-vets-to-treat-vets.php

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GAO: VA should warn vets that GI Bill benefits may be delayed

May. 22, 2013 By Rick Maze Staff writer

Student veterans applying to use GI Bill benefits would be better served by the Veterans Affairs Department if they were warned of how long it might take to receive those benefits, according to a new congressional report.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130522/EDU02/305220025

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VA clears 34,000 old claims under new initiative

Critics still worry speed brings mistakes

May. 22, 2013 By Rick Maze Staff writer

WASHINGTON — A Veterans Affairs Department effort to spend six months concentrating on its oldest benefits claims is having some success, but lawmakers are concerned that the improvements might be temporary.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130522/BENEFITS/305220028

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The following posted 5/22/13

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Pentagon to seek new vets record system

May. 22, 2013  By Lolita C. Baldor The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A U.S. official says the Pentagon has decided to buy a new computerized health records system that will allow the department to better share and merge its data with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to announce the decision Wednesday, amid increasing pressure from Congress to address the frustrating delays and paperwork shuffle as service members move from the military’s health care program to the VA system. http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130522/NEWS/305220015

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House panel boosts veterans spending

By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press May 15, 2013 2:38PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — With no broader budget deal in sight, a key House panel responsible for implementing sweeping cuts to agency budgets moved Wednesday to exempt veterans and largely protect spending on border safety and other homeland security programs in the coming year.

The strategy by the pragmatic House Appropriations Committee is to begin advancing a handful of its 12 yearly spending bills even as Republicans controlling the House and President Barack Obama are at an impasse over how much to lay out on the government’s day-to-day operations. Sweeping across-the-board spending cuts are taking hold for the ongoing 2013 budget year, pinching both the Pentagon and domestic Cabinet departments.

Continue reading:   http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/20130672-418/house-panel-boosts-veterans-spending.html

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Department Of Veterans Affairs Employees Face Mandatory Overtime To Clear Claims Backlog

By KEVIN FREKING 05/15/13

WASHINGTON — More than 10,000 workers who handle disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs will be required to work at least 20 hours of overtime each month in an effort reduce a sizable backlog, the department announced Wednesday.

The overtime requirement will last through September and comes as many federal workers face furloughs because of mandatory budget cuts. The VA was exempt from those spending reductions.

Continue reading:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/15/department-of-veterans-affairs-overtime_n_3280647.html

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SBA starting new lending program for veterans

JOYCE M. ROSENBERG The Associated Press  May 21 2013

New York • The Small Business Administration says it has lined up pledges from more than 120 banks to increase lending to veterans.

The agency said Tuesday it’s starting a program, the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative, aimed at increasing lending to veteran-owned businesses by 5 percent a year for the next five years. The 20 major banks known as SBA National Lending Partners are making the pledge along with about 100 regional banks across the country. The program is expected to help an additional 2,000 veterans get loans totaling $475 million over the life of the program, the SBA said. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/money/56345490-79/veterans-sba-lending-program.html.csp

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4 decades after Vietnam, veterans flood VA with disability claims

May 18, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Vietnam veteran John Otte did his best to forget the war. He got married, raised two sons and made a career working at credit unions.

But as Otte neared retirement, memories of combat flooded back. Starting in 2005, he filed a series of claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation, contending that many of his health problems stemmed from the war.

The VA agreed, and now the 65-year-old with two Purple Hearts receives $1,900 a month for post-traumatic stress disorder and diabetes — and for having shrapnel scars on his arms. His payments will rise to about $3,000 if the VA approves a petition to declare him completely disabled and unemployable.

Continue reading:  http://www.freep.com/article/20130518/NEWS/305180072/4-decades-after-Vietnam-veterans-flood-VA-disability-claims

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House panel boosts veterans spending

By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press May 15, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — With no broader budget deal in sight, a key House panel responsible for implementing sweeping cuts to agency budgets moved Wednesday to exempt veterans and largely protect spending on border safety and other homeland security programs in the coming year.

The strategy by the pragmatic House Appropriations Committee is to begin advancing a handful of its 12 yearly spending bills even as Republicans controlling the House and President Barack Obama are at an impasse over how much to lay out on the government’s day-to-day operations. Sweeping across-the-board spending cuts are taking hold for the ongoing 2013 budget year, pinching both the Pentagon and domestic Cabinet departments. http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/20130672-418/house-panel-boosts-veterans-spending.html

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Great Online Degree Options for Transitioning Service Members or Military Spouses

Kelli McKinney Wed, May 22, 2013

You’ve sacrificed for your country, traveled to places beyond your imagination and dedicated your life to your job. And now you’ve decided that it’s time to make a change. Perhaps education is part of your plan, but you know that you will need to work, care for your growing family and go to school in order to make it happen. It’s a scheduling challenge, to be sure, but it’s not impossible.

Continue reading:  http://blog.militaryauthority.com/blog-1/bid/293308/great-online-degree-options-for-transitioning-service-members-or-military-spouses?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=115882

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House passes bill giving disabled vets expedited airport screenings

Legislation comes after reports of overzealous TSA inspections of injured veterans

May. 21, 2013 – By Patricia Kime Staff Writer

The House has passed a bill that would require the Transportation Security Administration to expedite security screenings for severely injured or disabled veterans and any family members or caregivers traveling with them.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130521/NEWS/305210047

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House passes automatic COLA for veterans

May. 21, 2013 By Rick Maze Staff writer

Annual cost-of-living adjustments in veterans’ disability and survivor benefits would become automatic — just like Social Security — beginning in 2014 under a bill passed by the House on Tuesday.

Passage came after the House modified the bill to overcome objections from major veterans groups who, while unopposed to automatic increases, were fighting a cost-cutting provision to round monthly benefits payments down to the next lowest dollar.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130521/NEWS/305210040

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VA partners with DAV, American Legion on faster claims

May. 21, 2013

By Rick Maze Staff writer

The Veterans Affairs Department’s latest initiative to try to reduce the backlog of compensation claims is a partnership with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans to help veterans make sure their file has all the essential information.

VA first announced the so-called “fully developed claims” initiative in August. What’s new, VA officials said, is that the American Legion and DAV are on board with trained and certified service officers to help with claims.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130521/BENEFITS04/305210024

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Google launches new site to guide veterans into civilian work force

http://www.googleforveterans.com/about/

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Google is aiming its search-engine horsepower at homecoming veterans, launching Thursday what may be the largest online hub to help men and women exiting the military as American armed forces draw down.

Called VetNet, the site offers veterans three distinct “tracks” to plot and organize their next life moves – from “basic training” which aids job hunters to “career connections” which links users to corporate mentors and other working veterans to “entrepreneur” which offers a roadmap to starting a business.
To arm the new site with some heavy-hitting experts, Google partnered with three leading nonprofits in the veteran-employment space: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Hire Heroes USA.

“We asked: What else can we be doing with our technology to help these folks transition home?” said Carrie Laureno, founder of the Google Veterans Network, the company’s employee-volunteer community which seeks to make Google a military-friendly work environment.

“We wanted to really move the needle in the right direction. And working with our three partners, we asked: What can we do together to help you reach more people?” Laureno said. “How do we help these millions of people who are in this situation get the resources they need (to land civilian jobs) in a much easier, more straightforward way that’s ever been possible before?”

After clicking a button to connect with VetNet, users gain access to a weekly snapshot of “what’s happening” in the veteran-employment arena as well as to a ready group of business advisers and to an ongoing array of virtual “hangouts” that train people on basics from resume writing to making “elevator pitches” or that allow veterans to hear insights from leaders in retail, transportation, retail and entrepreneurship, Laureno said.

The venture drew a favorable review Thursday from a key congressional member.

“I am especially pleased to see companies like Google and their partners take the initiative to bring together these various resources to help veterans navigate the employment opportunities together,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“I am confident their combined efforts will be especially helpful to those who may not know where to start their job search. This is the least we can all do for our veterans who have served our nation so honorably,” Miller said in an email.

Miller’s words hint at the fresh irony of post-war life for thousands of ex-service members: Their initial challenge is not a lack of help; it is the over-abundance of nonprofits seeking to guide veterans from their once-super-structured schedules and tight packs of buddies to the wide-open, ultra-competitive job market.

According to an April 2012 study by the Center for a New American Security, more than 40,000 nonprofit groups now exist in this country with missions focused on filling the various needs of active-duty troops, veterans and their families.

That giant-yet-fragmented bundle of organizations — while striving to do well by veterans — must also battle for the same funding dollars. And that jostling hasn’t fostered a cohesive landscape for veterans to navigate as they begin their new career journeys, Laureno said. Given that mish-mash of helping hands, some veterans simply don’t know where to go first.

“I’ve heard occasionally people (in the veteran-helping field) use the word ‘competitors.’ They are competing for funds. They are competing for awareness. They are competing to be in the spotlight,” Laureno said. “It’s also a well-documented issue in this community that there are some people, just like anything else, who got involved because wanted to help but that emerged as sort of looking for press.

“The founding partners here are not of that ilk. These are partners who have stuck with their original mission, who are focused on getting the help out to the people who need it, and who recognize that technology can help them take that help to a completely different level than ever before possible,” she added.

Google and VetNet are hoping to attract new partners from that sea of 40,000 groups. But they’re still hammering out the best ways to assess prospective collaborators — and their larger intensions — before they are invited to join, Laureno said.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges all of us are facing in this issue, and that’s why there has been this proliferation of 40,000-plus (veterans organizations),” she said. “We are going to need to have some sort of vetting process. That is something the partners are working on right now: What will be the criteria they use to judge who comes on board and who doesn’t?

“Anyone who would like to get involved, who has effective services, and who is willing to make the commitment to providing them on this platform who will be supportive of the community, they’re all welcome,” she added. “But if somebody wants to advertise on a one-off basis about their particular program, this probably isn’t the
right place for them.”

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/29/15545883-google-launches-new-site-to-guide-veterans-into-civilian-work-force?lite

What is Google for Veterans and Families?

The Google Veterans Network is our employee volunteer community that strives to make Google a great place to work for those who have served, their families and their friends. We also aim to be a positive contributor to the veteran community at large. Google products and services have made our lives a little easier – whether we are still in the service, transitioning out, or on a new path in our civilian lives. We wanted to give back to the community and help other veterans and their families discover how useful these tools can be. So we created Google for Veterans and Families – a collection of free and useful tools from our veterans’ community to yours.

http://www.googleforveterans.com/about/

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Fewer homeless vets this year, but advocacy group sees ‘alarming’ rise in younger ex-service members

Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The latest report card on the Obama Administration’s push to end veteran homelessness by 2015 arrived Monday: the number of ex-service members sleeping in parks, under bridges or in public spaces declined by 7 percent this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) confirmed.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/10/15761391-fewer-homeless-vets-this-year-but-advocacy-group-sees-alarming-rise-in-younger-ex-service-members?lite

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Hearing loss the most prevalent injury among returning veterans

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

After a decade of war, America is well schooled on post-traumatic stress, lost limbs and traumatic brain injury, but the most common injury sustained by U.S. troops is literally a silent wound: hearing loss.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/13/14728839-hearing-loss-the-most-prevalent-injury-among-returning-veterans?lite

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Inmate-trained dogs bring comfort to veterans

R. Norman Moody Florida Today -  May 19, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -

“He’s done phenomenal since I brought him home,” he said.

Reynolds received Suzuki, a Labrador, shepherd and pit bull mix dog, through a partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Tomoka Correctional Institution Work Camp in Volusia County.

“He is going to be a good ambassador for the program,” said Reynolds, 66, a disabled Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prison Pups N Pals, which started about three years ago, is an effort involving the prison, West Volusia Kennel Club and Halifax Humane Society to train shelter dogs, making them more adoptable.

Continue reading: http://gazette.com/inmate-trained-dogs-bring-comfort-to-veterans/article/1500975

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Veterans Affairs lauds technology, blames predecessors for 2-year claim wait

Disability claims for veterans: What’s being done to solve the backlog?

By Jane C. Timm  Morning Joe 3/29/2013

“When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade,” said Tommy Sowers, assistant Veterans Affairs’ secretary, Wednesday.

Veterans Affairs’ Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers blamed the previous Veterans Affairs administration for the recently revealed 600+ day wait that many veterans face when claiming disability.

Continue reading: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/51347418/t/veterans-affairs-lauds-technology-blames-predecessors–year-claim-wait/

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Backlog of veterans claims recalls Vietnam-era benefit battles

By Meredith Clark  4/5/2013

The frustration of Vietnam veterans echoes today among new veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who deal with a current backlog that has left nearly one million veterans waiting for their benefit claims to be processed.

The frustration of Vietnam veterans echoes today among new veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who deal with a current backlog that has left nearly one million veterans waiting for their benefit claims to be processed.

Continue reading:  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/51387361/t/backlog-veterans-claims-recalls-vietnam-era-benefit-battles/

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Can Washington get vets off the streets? Tens of thousands homeless despite billions in spending

Mar 29, 2013 Jim Seida / NBC News

Despite funding that has reached $5.8 billion annually and a slew of innovative community partnerships, the Obama administration is lagging in its goal to end homelessness among veterans – or, as federal veterans’ leaders like to say, “drive to zero” – by the end of 2015.

If the current rate of progress is maintained, roughly 45,000 veterans would still be without homes when the deadline passes — a big improvement since the drive was launched but also evidence of how difficult it is to eradicate the problem.

Continue reading: http://inplainsight.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/29/17503141-can-washington-get-vets-off-the-streets-tens-of-thousands-homeless-despite-billions-in-spending?lite

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Veterans May Face Tough Post-Iraq Readjustment

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Concurrent with the announcement that U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq by Dec. 31, a new report highlights the difficulties soldiers often have returning to civilian life.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans, 27 percent say re-entering the civilian world was difficult for them. That proportion swells to 44 percent among veterans who served in the 10 years since 9/11.

Religion assisted veterans in civilian-life readjustment, the survey found, while experiencing a traumatic event or becoming injured made it harder for soldiers to make the transition.

Continue reading:  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45688745/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/veterans-may-face-tough-post-iraq-readjustment/

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First Lady announces certification plan for veteran jobs

Terri Moon Cronk   American Forces Press Service

4/29/2013 – WASHINGTON (AFPS) — First Lady Michelle Obama today unveiled the new Information Technology Training and Certification Partnership to put thousands of service members to work with industry-recognized IT certifications in hand before they leave the military.

Obama, who made the announcement at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing at the White House, said a public-private partnership will offer the certification program. Continue reading: http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123346359

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/military_credentialing_and_licensing_report_2-24-2013_final.pdf

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Veterans & Poverty: Hardship Persists For Troops Back On American Soil (VIDEO)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/veterans–poverty-hardshi_n_1849738.html

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Senate bill aims to help VA meet its bold goal of ending vet homelessness by 2015

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

An audacious vow by the Obama Administration to eliminate veteran homelessness in two years — an initiative that’s shown progress but is off pace to fully succeed — got a shot in the arm Thursday when leaders of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs proposed legislation to help plug lingering holes in the existing veteran safety net. Continue reading:

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/25/17916227-senate-bill-aims-to-help-va-meet-its-bold-goal-of-ending-vet-homelessness-by-2015?lite

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Rough landings: DOD, VA sluggish helping returning veterans, study says

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Nearly half of the 2.2 million U.S. troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have struggled to readjust to American life in part because the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have been sluggish in helping those coming home in droves, according to a sweeping report released today. Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/26/17458952-rough-landings-dod-va-sluggish-helping-returning-veterans-study-says?lite

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Panel tells VA to tackle Gulf War, Iraq illnesses

By Maggie Fox, Senior Writer, NBC News

There’s no good single treatment for the depression, pain, headaches, lack of sleep and other symptoms that nag many veterans of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, experts said on Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean that the Department of Veterans Affairs shouldn’t take the complaints seriously and offer what help is available, from antidepressants to acupuncture and support groups, the Institute of Medicine panel said. Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/veterans-affairs

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Chronic pain affects growing number of vets

May. 21, 2013 -

ST. PAUL, MINN. — Thousands of Minnesota soldiers are returning from war with chronic pain from injuries that leave many of them impaired and even disabled, and there’s been a steep increase in such injuries over the past decade.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130521/NEWS/305210022

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SBA starting new lending program for veterans

May. 21, 2013 – By Joyce M. Rosenberg AP Business Writer

NEW YORK — The Small Business Administration says it has lined up pledges from more than 120 banks to increase lending to veterans.

The agency said Tuesday it’s starting a program, the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative, aimed at increasing lending to veteran-owned businesses by 5 percent a year for the next five years. The 20 major banks known as SBA National Lending Partners are making the pledge along with about 100 regional banks across the country. The program is expected to help an additional 2,000 veterans get loans totaling $475 million over the life of the program, the SBA said.

The agency started the program after finding there was a gap in lending to veterans, SBA head Karen Mills told The Associated Press. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the SBA backed more than 3,200 loans to veterans worth more than $1.25 billion.

“We don’t have a specific theory about the cause,” Mills said. “When we went to the banks they were eager to be connected to veteran-owned businesses.”

Nine percent of small businesses, or 2.45 million, are owned by veterans, according to the SBA. Mills said the new program is designed to complement SBA programs aimed at training veterans so they’ll be able to start and run businesses and obtain loans. Mills noted that many veterans leave the service with management skills that can carry over to running a business.

Many of the veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have started companies, and many have decided to open franchises, said Rich Bradshaw, the head of SBA lending at TD Bank, one of the agency’s lending partners. He said most of the franchise loans that TD Bank expects to make under the new program will be under $150,000.

The ongoing reduction of troops in Afghanistan, which follows the withdrawal of troops in Iraq, is expected to increase demand for business loans from veterans, Bradshaw said.

The SBA’s website has a section aimed at veterans who are business owners or planning to start businesses. It’s www.sba.gov/veterans

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130521/NEWS/305210013

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Lawmakers form veterans caucus focused on education, jobs, more

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013  By Matthew Longdon  Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Seven state lawmakers have created a veterans caucus focused on improving education, job opportunities and mental health services for former military.

“We all served in recent conflicts and we know the issues that affect us,” said Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, who served in the Army and the National Guard.

Members of the caucus, which includes five Democrats and two Republicans, held a news conference Thursday to discuss their goals, which include involving more veterans serving in the Legislature.

“Arizona is very patriotic state and we want to send a message,” said Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, a former Marine.

Borrelli said he wants to make it easier for veterans to get jobs by allowing military training to count toward civilian licenses. He introduced HB 2076 to accomplish that.

He also wants military experience to count toward college credits.

“If you were an administrative clerk and you had to write a lot of letters, I think English 101 should be wiped off the chart,” Borrelli said. “You already have that skill.”

David F. Lucier, president of the Arizona Veterans & Military Leadership Alliance, said he hopes the caucus helps establish Arizona as the nation’s most supportive state for veterans. He said lawmakers can help veterans by addressing high rates of homelessness and suicide, among other problems.

“This is a huge step in bringing public policy for ensuring veteran success,” he said.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, the House assistant minority leader and a former Marine, said members of the caucus will focus on crafting bipartisan legislation. He noted that most of the members are veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Everyone supports veterans issues while the war is going on, but veteran issues don’t go away after the war ends,” he said. “They’re still there and they increase.”

Cardenas and Borrelli said they are collaborating on a bill to provide greater incentives for private businesses to hire disabled veterans.

“We actually know people who are unemployed and have been bouncing job to job,” Borrelli said.

Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Glendale, a former Marine, said he will introduce a bill to extend education benefits for returning veterans who now receive up to 36 months of assistance through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“A lot of veterans get off active duty and that’s a big adjustment,” Larkin said. “They juggle going to school, going to work and raising a family, and we don’t pass all our classes because life comes up. The bill would give them more time to complete their degree.”

http://cronkitenewsonline.com/2013/01/lawmakers-form-veterans-caucus-to-focus-on-education-jobs-mental-health-help/

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The following posted 5/18/13

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Is Your VA Hospital Spying on You?

by admin on May 13th, 2013

Is your VA hospital spying on you? Well, maybe. If you’re a patient or visiting family member. In a recent case involving an elderly brain-damaged Korean War veteran, ongoing friction between a Tampa VA hospital staff and the patient’s family led nurses to install an observation camera in a smoke detector in the patient’s room.

According to the Veterans Administration’s own internal Inspector General’s report, the staff’s intent was to try to determine who or what seemed to have been sabotaging the patient’s care. The staff had noted that the patient’s bed had been repositioned without their knowledge, the patient had been repositioned without their knowledge, and drug dispensation rates from intravenous machines seem to have been altered.

The family discovered the camera, however, and reacted with outrage that the VA had been spying on the patient (and them) without their having been informed.

Representative Jeff Miller (R-Florida), the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation – a bill he calls The Veterans Privacy Act – to prohibit VA hospitals from installing cameras without the knowledge or consent of patients and their families.

“This type of behavior is as bizarre as it is outrageous,” stated Miller in a public release. To think that some VA employees actually thought it a good idea to covertly record a patient with a video camera disguised as a smoke detector really just boggles the mind. What’s worse is that when we questioned VA regarding the legality of these actions, department officials contended they had done nothing wrong. The Veterans Privacy Act will keep covert, Big Brother tactics out of VA medical centers and protect the sacred trust that should exist between VA and veteran patients and their families,” Miller said.

However, the VA inspector general found that the hospital’s use of surveillance in this case was reasonable, as a routine measure to ensure patient safety.

The full text of the bill is available here. http://veterans.house.gov/sites/republicans.veterans.house.gov/files/Informed%20Consent%20Final.pdf

http://militaryhandbooks.com/is-your-va-hospital-spying-on-you/

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National Military Appreciation Month: Band of Brides

by Debi Teter on Fri, May 17, 2013

National Military Appreciation Month takes place each May, as designated by Congress. It’s a time we stop to reflect on the achievements of our armed services and all of the individuals who make up the ranks.

One group honored is made up of military spouses. Both men and women comprise the ranks of military spouses, and they are the foundation of military families dealing with the stress of everyday life as well as extended deployments of one parent.

Continue reading:  http://blog.militaryauthority.com/blog-1/bid/292356/national-military-appreciation-month-band-of-brides?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=70689

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Center for Investigative Reporting Launches API For Veterans Affairs Investigation Data

By Lauren Rabaino on May 10, 2013

After publishing an investigation of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ backlog of disability benefits claims, the Center for Investigative Reporting has now made all of its data open and usable for others via an API (application programming interface).

Continue reading:  http://www.mediabistro.com/10000words/center-for-investigative-reporting-launches-api-for-veterans-affairs-investigation-data_b19490

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H.R. 602, Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act

May 13, 2013

read complete document (pdf, 19 kb) http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/hr602.pdf

As ordered reported by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on May 8, 2013

H.R. 602 would modify an existing requirement that certain individuals determined to be mentally incompetent by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) be prohibited from purchasing or possessing legal firearms. CBO expects that implementing H.R. 602 would have no significant budgetary impact. Continue reading:  http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44178

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Communities work to prevent ‘lost generation of veterans’

Ashley Gonzalez, 40, retired from the Navy last year after a 21-year-career. He had a smooth transition back to civilian life thanks to a network of veterans organizations in San Diego.

By Rebecca Ruiz, NBC News contributor

After 21 years in the Navy, Ashley Gonzalez, 40, had to make a tough choice last year: uproot his family from San Diego for an assignment in Mississippi or retire and rejoin the civilian world.

Gonzalez, a chief petty officer, had previously deployed to counter-narcotic operations in South and Central America and participated in a routine war games exercise on the Korean peninsula. Civilian life, he knew, would be much different. But his daughter, 16, and son, 12, wanted to stay in San Diego, and so began Gonzalez’s transition back to a life he’d left long ago.

Gonzalez was confident at first; after all, he’d spent the past two decades earning a masters degree and learning skills like management, mentoring and public speaking. The shaky economy, however, tested his optimism.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/10/18151468-communities-work-to-prevent-lost-generation-of-veterans

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Agent Orange exposure linked to deadliest form of prostate cancer in Vietnam War vets

Exposure to Agent Orange may be behind many cases of an aggressive form of prostate cancer being seen in Vietnam War veterans, according to new research.

Millions of gallons of herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed by the U.S. military on trees and other vegetation during the Vietnam War era, and has been linked to various health effects since. The combination of herb-killers was named for the orange identifying stripe used on the 55-gallon drums that stored the chemicals.

Continue reading:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57584205/agent-orange-exposure-linked-to-deadliest-form-of-prostate-cancer-in-vietnam-war-vets/

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The Graffiti of War: Conflict Art and Bridging the Cultural Gap between Civilian and Warfighter

JAESON PARSONS ON MAY – 16 – 2013

The cultural chasm separating the civilian and the warfighter has never been wider. Most of the conflicts in 20th Century American history have relied on conscription, better known as the draft, to fill the ranks of our armed forces. The Global War on Terror of the 21st Century has been and continues to be fought by an all-volunteer force and because of this, the gap continues to grow as more and more professional soldiers shoulder the weight of a decade of conflict.

The typical soldier joins the military right out of high school, most have never lived outside of the town they grew up in and even fewer have visited another country. These men and women are just out of childhood when they join the military and many of them have fired a weapon in combat multiple times before their first drink in a bar at age 21. The military culture is all they know of adult life and once they are separated from this family of sorts, the civilian world is as alien to them as the sands of Iraq were when their boots first hit the ground. After multiple years in combat, witnessing man’s inhumanity to man, they are forever changed and trying to relate to their generational civilian counterparts is almost mission impossible. This is the divide, the cultural gap that separates those who have witnessed the horrors of combat firsthand and those who have simply watched the events unfold on CNN. We, as a nation, must construct a bridge over this divide to bring together this fractured generation and not let yet another war separate so many of our military heroes from their civilian brothers and sisters. Art, in its many forms, can be that bridge we so desperately need and art is what inspired our project, the Graffiti of War, which aims to bridge the divide and join our nation together like never before.

The idea we began with was a simple one: to collect and document the art from across the conflict zones in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan and to showcase these vastly different works of art to the American public. What started as just an idea between friends during our deployment to Ar Ramadi, Iraq in 2006 had evolved into a multinational project with goals surpassing the original aim of creating a simple coffee table book. After the initial months of slowly collecting images from our growing base of veterans and military members, we realized we must travel to Iraq before the proposed withdraw of Coalition Forces in 2012. With the assistance of some experienced and world renowned journalists such as Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger (of Restrepo fame) and Zoriah Miller, we were able to secure just under a month in Kuwait and Iraq by the Department of Defense. We were able to capture thousands of images in several different areas including over 100 photos of murals by local Iraqis in Basra, the expedition was a huge success. After returning to the U.S., our team discovered a new avenue in which to raise awareness, one city at a time: art exhibits. Through the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2012, we showcased dozens of the images we captured since the inception of the project to hundreds of people, both civilian and military alike. It was through these exhibits that we truly began bringing the cultures together. Veterans would view the images with their friends and family and begin talking about their experiences as it related to that particular piece of art, it was incredibly inspiring.

As we prepare for another year of exhibits in 2013, including a fall show at West Point, we continue to strive towards building an ever widening bridge. Art is therapy, whether by creating it or viewing the creation, it transcends barriers and inspires unity. Each show that we do is more satisfying than the last as we connect the civilian with the military veteran and promote a greater understanding of the dedication and sacrifice that these brave men and women have endured on behalf of each citizen of this great nation. Art allows our military and veterans to express the inexpressible, to speak the unspeakable and provides a way for civilians to comprehend the incomprehensible. Arts therapy can change the world we live in and changes the lives of those who defended that world.

We stand at the precipice of a bold new direction in the care for our invisibly wounded warriors and now is the time for each one of us to work collectively and unite the countless organizations out there supporting our warriors and veterans. United we stand but divided we will fall. We must have the courage to join together as one to combat the struggles set before us as we strive towards a new avenue of treatment for those who have bravely sacrificed their lives so others may live peaceably and without fear of harm. This generation of heroes became the 1% so the remaining 99% could carry on with their lives, we owe it for their sacrifice. As George Washington said, “A Nation will be judged by the way it treats its veterans.” How will we be judged?

http://blog.artsusa.org/2013/05/16/the-graffiti-of-war-conflict-art-and-bridging-the-cultural-gap-between-civilian-and-warfighter/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+afta%2Fblog+%28Americans+for+the+Arts+%7C+Blog%29

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Veterans Mental Health Continuing EducationToolkit

This toolkit was developed by the AHEC Training and Consultation Center (A-TrACC) for the Veterans Mental Health Project funded by HRSA. It provides tools and guidance to help AHEC staff plan and host continuing education events for health professionals on the needs of veterans,National Guard, Reservists, and their families who may be coping with post deployment mental and behavioral health issues and seeking health care in the civilian sector.

The toolkit is for

  • AHECs with little to no experience coordinating CE programs
  • AHECs with limited staff, time and resources
  • AHECs with experience coordinating CE, but limited experience with this subject area

How to Use this Toolkit

Required Registration/ Evaluation/Reporting Materials

Planning Materials & Resources

Training Materials

1 Hour Curriculum

4 Hour Curriculum

http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/grants/areahealtheducationcenters/ta/vmhcetoolkit.html

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Arts and the Military

Posted by Joanna Chin on may – 13 – 2013

Memorial Day is coming. Back in elementary school, I remember this (and Veterans Day) as the only time(s) we talked about war in a contemporary sense or what it meant to serve your country. Now the politics of war, service, military culture, and their effects on military personnel are ever present in all corners of the U.S. These issues pervade our conversations, float across newsfeeds, fill our TV screens, and sometimes touch even closer to home.

Continue reading:   http://blog.artsusa.org/2013/05/13/welcome-to-the-blog-salon-on-the-arts-and-the-military/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+afta%2Fblog+%28Americans+for+the+Arts+%7C+Blog%29

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Behavioral/Mental Health of Veterans, Service Members & Families

Schedule of Veteran’s Mental Health Continuing Education Offerings by State (PDF – 351 KB) http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/grants/areahealtheducationcenters/ta/Files%20for%20Veterans%20Mental%20Health%20CE/vmhparticipatingcenters.pdf

AHECs Trained to Provide Continuing Education for Health Professionals on the Behavioral/Mental Health of Veterans/Service Members & Families

Since October 2011, HRSA, NAO, A-TrACC and AHECs nationwide have been working to impact the delivery of healthcare services in the civilian sector for veterans, service members and their families coping with post deployment mental and behavioral health and substance abuse issues. The overarching goal of this initiative is to better serve returning soldiers and their families.

AHECs in 44 states with AHEC programs, D.C. and American Samoa are providing professional continuing education for civilian primary care, mental and behavioral health, and other health care providers, giving them the knowledge and skills needed to recognize and address the needs of this special population.

As of February 2013, this effort has resulted in just over 4,400 civilian primary care, mental/behavioral health, and other providers attending CE programs offered by AHECs on this topic. The goal is to reach 10,000 providers through CE by September 2013.

Veterans face substantial need for enhanced and specialized behavioral health care due to both above average prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and also due to issues related to reintegration into civilian and family life. The AHEC Veterans Mental Health Project (VMH) is a specific initiative funded by HRSA to meet the needs of civilian health care professionals in providing high quality, culturally competent care to the veteran population. HRSA staff and NAO leadership have long promoted using existing AHEC expertise and resources to address this need, firmly believing that the AHEC network is an expeditious and effective vehicle for getting information into the hands of providers.

The map above includes the 132 AHECs participating in this project. An interactive version of this map can be accessed at AHECs Providing Veterans Mental Health CE  .

VMH Continuing Education Toolkit

This toolkit provides tools and guidance to help AHEC staff plan and host a continuing education event for health professionals on the needs of veterans, National Guard, Reservists, and their families who may be coping with post deployment mental and behavioral health issues and are seeking health care in the civilian sector. Toolkit >

http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/grants/areahealtheducationcenters/ta/Trainings/veterans/index.html

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Combat Paper

Coming home from war is a difficult thing. There is often much to account for as a survivor. A new language must be developed in order to express the magnitude and variety of the collective effect. Hand papermaking is the language of Combat Paper. By working in communities directly affected by warfare and using the uniforms and artifacts from their experiences, a transformation occurs and our collective language is born.

Through papermaking workshops, veterans use their uniforms worn in service to create works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beaten into a pulp and formed into sheets of paper. Participants use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniforms as art and express their experiences with the military.

The Combat Paper Project is based in San Francisco, CA with affiliate paper mills in New Jersey, New York and Nevada. The project has traveled to Canada, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Kosovo providing workshops, exhibitions, performances and artists’ talks. Combat Paper is made possible through the collaborative effort of artists, veterans, volunteers, colleges and universities, art collectors, cultural foundations, art spaces, military hospitals and installations.

Through ongoing participation in the papermaking process, we are broadening the traditional narrative surrounding the military experience and warfare. The work also generates a much-needed conversation between veterans and civilians regarding our collective responsibilities and shared understanding in war.

The story of the fiber, the blood, sweat and tears, the months of hardship and brutal violence are held within those old uniforms. The uniforms often become inhabitants of closets or boxes in the attic. Reshaping that association of subordination, of warfare and service, into something collective and beautiful is our inspiration.

Drew Cameron  http://www.combatpaper.org/about.html

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VA claims processors on mandatory overtime through September

May. 16, 2013

In an expanding effort to eliminate the benefits claims backlog, the Veterans Affairs Department announced Wednesday it is putting its claims processing staff on mandatory overtime through the end of the fiscal year.

The aim, VA officials said, is to reduce the pile of 878,000 pending claims, including 592,900 that are older than the agency’s 125-day processing goal.

The order applies to all 56 regional benefits offices, and extends through the end of September.

In a statement, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the “increased overtime initiative will provide more veterans with decisions on their claims and will help us achieve our goal of eliminating the claims backlog.”

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130516/NEWS/305160008

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The Arts as a Medium for Veterans’ Re-entry and Healing

POSTED BY JOHN SCHRATWIESER ON MAY – 14 – 2013

Something very special happened at the 2013 Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis. It was a spontaneous standing ovation from the crowd of nearly 400 arts professionals from all over the state. The ovation was not for a Hollywood star, nor a seasoned lawmaker, nor a favorite professional athlete. No, on that day, the ovation was for four men and one woman. These were regular people, people who in fact studied art and voice and film in college, and the in the wake of September 11, 2001, a fierce sense of duty clicked in. They put their art on hold and served their country. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were all represented in this unassuming group of heroes. These five individuals are founding members of the Veteran Artist Program (VAP), a nonprofit organization based in Baltimore, whose mission is simply “to foster, encourage and promote Veteran artists.” VAP reconnects the artist in the warrior to the mainstream arts community through mentorship, networking, collaborations with professional artists and arts organizations, and through original productions.

Continue reading:   http://blog.artsusa.org/2013/05/14/the-arts-as-a-medium-for-veterans-re-entry-and-healing/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+afta%2Fblog+%28Americans+for+the+Arts+%7C+Blog%29

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DoD health care money could run out in August

May. 15, 2013 – By Rick Maze

The Defense Department could run out of health care money in August, with a risk of disruption in Tricare coverage, according to a new congressional report that looks at the governmentwide impact of sequestration.

The report, issued Wednesday by Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, comes one day after DoD officials announced that 82 percent of the defense civilian workforce will be furloughed as a result of the $40 billion cut in spending required under sequestration.

“All military services indicated they will significantly reduce equipment and facilities maintenance,” the report says. “This will curtail the reset of equipment returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, and may create equipment shortfalls if forces have to respond to emerging contingencies.”

And, it warns, recovering from cuts will not be quick. “Longer-term effects will further degrade readiness, the morale of personnel and have macroeconomic effects,” the Democrats’ report says.

Effects of cuts on health care funding are unclear, the report says, but defense and service officials project a $2.6 billion reduction in the defensewide health care budget, with funding “likely to be exhausted” by August 2013.

Health care officials told the committee that to continue providing health care to service members, their dependents and eligible retirees, “priority will be placed on maintaining operations at the military treatment facilities,” the report says. However, civilian health care workers are among those facing furloughs.

The “main burden” of defense health care cuts “is likely to fall on Tricare contracts,” the report warns.

“To date, DoD has not provided specific plans on when or how Tricare contract payments may be deferred or whether Tricare network health providers will continue to provide care if payments are suspended,” the report says.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130515/NEWS/305150020

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Lawmaker seeks to prevent retirees from being forced off Tricare Prime

May. 15, 2013

Two Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the Defense Department to offer the Tricare Prime managed health care option in places where the department plans to discontinue the program on Oct 1.

The “Keep Faith with Tricare Prime Act,” sponsored by Rep. John Kline of Minnesota and Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry would provide a one-time choice for affected military retirees and their families to stay on Prime or choose Tricare Standard.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130515/BENEFITS06/305150019

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The Montgomery GI Bill – One Name, Two Drastically Different GI Bills

by Ron Kness on May 15, 2013

With two GI Bills named the same, it is hard to discern which one somebody is talking about without getting more information. The two GI Bills, both commonly referred to as THE Montgomery GI Bill, are actually two separate GI Bills: the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). While each has the same basic name, they share very few other similarities with each other.

Continue reading:  http://www.vabenefitblog.com/the-montgomery-gi-bill-one-name-two-drastically-different-gi-bills/

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VETERANS RETURN HOME TO HIGHER UNEMPLOYMENT, FEW SOLUTIONS

Along with the good news of service members returning from war arrives the bad news: the unemployment rate for veterans—two groups in particular—spiked significantly in the fourth quarter of 2011, highlighting an issue that has simmered and now threatens to boil over.

In spite of state and federal programs aimed at helping veterans find work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that one out of three veterans ages 18 to 24 were without work the last quarter of 2011, double the civilian rate. The plight of women veterans is also stark. Among women who served post-9/11, their unemployment rate of 16.8% dwarfs the civilian rate of 7.8%.

Continue reading:  http://documents.mccormickfoundation.org/INSIGHTS/Winter2012.htm#PTSD

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THE GROWING PROBLEM OF PTSD: VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES LOOK FOR ANSWERS

Visible injuries like missing limbs and scars remind Americans of the physical sacrifices of war. But there is a hidden injury that is both debilitating and frightening and which affects a large percentage of vets returning from both Iraq and Afghanistan: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Left untreated, PTSD takes an enormous toll on vets, their families and society as a whole.

Continue reading: http://documents.mccormickfoundation.org/INSIGHTS/Winter2012.htm#PTSD

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FEMALE VETERANS FACE UNIQUE CHALLENGES AS THEY RETURN HOME

Not all veterans are treated equally. Women are a growing, but often unrecognized and underserved, segment of the military with unique needs that should be addressed.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the overall female veteran population has grown to an estimated 1.9 million, and 50,000 more servicewomen are expected to join that group over the next five years. Most of these new women accessing VA care are under the age of 40 and of childbearing age, according to a 2008 study done by the Under Secretary for Health Workgroup, “creating a need for a significant, focused shift in the provision of health care.”

In recent months, other reports have indicated that female veterans face different challenges from those of men when they return home, including increased homelessness and unemployment (nine percent higher than civilian counterparts), as well as PTSD and MST (Military Sexual Trauma). A Jan. 20 New York Times article revealed that the Army reported a 30 percent increase in violent sex crimes last year, most of those against young active-duty females.

Continue reading:  http://documents.mccormickfoundation.org/INSIGHTS/Winter2012.htm#PTSD

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Barriers to Veterans Mental Health

Contact: Communications@thenationalcouncil.org 202.684.7457, ext. 228

Veterans Mental Health Act Still Not Implemented

Washington DC, Nov. 10—While the Veterans Mental Health Act was signed into law more than a year ago, a new survey by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council) finds that veterans still face significant barriers to accessing mental health and substance use treatment. The Act requires the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to partner with community behavioral health centers to increase capacity and expand mental health services to include marriage and family counseling.

Continue reading:  http://www.thenationalcouncil.org/cs/barriers_to_veterans_mental_health

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VA Launches Hotline to Answer Questions on VA Health Care and Benefits for Women Veterans

1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a new hotline —       1-855-VA-WOMEN — to receive and respond to questions from Veterans, their families and caregivers about the many VA services and resources available to women Veterans. The service began accepting calls on March 27, 2013.

“Some women Veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”

The hotline is staffed by knowledgeable VA employees who can provide information about benefits including health care services for women.  Callers can be linked to information on claims, education or health care appointments as well as information about VA cemeteries and memorial benefits.  Staff can answer urgent questions and provide referrals to homeless and mental health services as well as provide Vet Center information.

Women make up nearly 15 percent of today’s active duty military and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces.  The population of women Veterans using VA benefits including health care is growing rapidly.  Since 2000, the number of women using VA health care more than doubled, from nearly 160,000 in 2000 to more than 354,000 in 2012.  Based on the upward trend of women in all branches of service, the number of women Veterans—and female VA users—will keep climbing.

VA is committed to making improvements for the growing population of women Veterans, including the way it communicates with them.  In 2010, VA established an outbound call center to contact women Veterans and encourage them to enroll in VA health care.

“In VA health care alone, women constitute only 6 percent of VA patients, but those Veterans have a high perception of the quality care they are receiving,” said Irene Trowell-Harris, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans.

“Many women who served don’t self-identify as Veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits. We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women Veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.”

Women Veterans are entitled to apply for the same benefits as their male counterparts, which include health care and pharmacy benefits as well as education benefits, disability compensation, home loans, employment assistance and more.

The hotline (1-855-VA-WOMEN) joins numerous other VA hotlines that provide critical information and assistance to Veterans, such as those for Veterans in crisis and in danger of becoming homeless. Veterans can also receive information and apply for benefits online at VA’s www.eBenefits.va.gov and manage their health care at MyHealtheVet.va.gov

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GSA Exceeds Veteran Hiring Goals in 2013

Posted by Jacquin Kirkman, National Veterans Employment Program Manager on May 14, 2013

At GSA, we understand the importance of hiring the men and women who serve our nation and are committed to ensuring that our heroes have the opportunity of employment when they return home. Veterans bring attributes employers desire – integrity, diligence, and professionalism. We are proud that we are exceeding our goals of hiring veterans and service disabled veterans in 2013. Our goal was to hire 27.9% veterans and 13% service disabled veterans; to date we have exceeded those goals substantially by hiring 37.5% veterans and 22.9% disabled veterans with two more quarters left in the Fiscal Year. http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2013/05/14/gsa-exceeds-veterans-hiring-goals-in-2013/

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GSA Connects Veterans to Opportunity

Posted by Tony Eiland, GSA Mentor-Protege Program Coordinator on May 6, 2013

Public Service Recognition Week, commemorated May 5-11, honors the work of the men and women who serve our nation. Veterans are an important part of this community, and GSA remains committed to increasing contracting opportunities for veteran and service disabled veterans. The agency recently hosted a Veteran’s Entrepreneurship meeting at GSA headquarters for more than 75 members of the veteran business community. Meeting attendees discussed ways to increase federal business opportunities for Veteran and Service Disabled Veteran Business Owners and how to navigate the veteran small business verification process. http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2013/05/06/gsa-connects-veterans-to-opportunity/

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GSA Helps Veterans Transition Back into the Workforce

By Denae L Clay, R8 HR Specialist and Bruce Penny, R10 HR Specialist

Commitment. Perseverance. Determination. These are just some of the qualities that make veterans valuable resources to GSA. They have chosen to continue their public service and the agency remains dedicated to acknowledging their extraordinary work. GSA’s Rocky Mountain and Northwest Arctic Regions are working with the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior and Department of Defense’s Operation Warfighter programs to help service members on medical hold reenter the workplace. These programs match veterans with critical positions, providing valuable work experience within the federal government. To date, GSA’s Northwest Arctic and Rocky Mountain Regions have placed seven veterans in three states across the country.

Continue reading:  http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2012/12/18/gsa-helps-veterans-transition-back-into-the-workforce/

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Creating Opportunities for Veterans

by Martha Johnson , GSA Administrator

At the U.S. General Services Administration, we honor the service and the sacrifice of our veterans on this Veterans Day and everyday. Our veterans are returning home with the skills and knowledge that make them valuable members of the American workforce. GSA is bringing the remarkable skills of veteran owned small businesses into government so that we can better serve the American people.

During fiscal year 2011 GSA awarded over $185 million to veteran owned small businesses, and over $91 million went to veteran owned small business owners with service related disabilities. These contracts went to firms that are bringing the services and expertise of the private sector into government operations.

Continue reading:  http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2011/11/10/creating-opportunities-for-veterans/

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Slow start for fully electronic vets claims

May. 14, 2013 – By Rick Maze

Fully electronic veterans’ benefits claims, a necessary ingredient for the Obama administration to fulfill its pledge to eliminate the claims backlog by the end of 2015, is showing only modest results in initial stages. But Veterans Affairs Department officials are optimistic about the future.

“I feel confident in the system,” said Alan Bozeman, program manager for the Veterans Benefits Management System, at a Tuesday demonstration of electronic claims processing.

With only 6,000 fully electronic benefits claims filed so far, the new system is only about 10 percent faster than the old paper claims system, VA officials said. This is hardly the next-generation development needed to move the mountain of 878,000 claims — including 592,900 that are older than the 125-day processing goal — that are pending before VA this week.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130514/BENEFITS06/305140016

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Veterans Health Administration launches mobile healthcare initiatives

May 12, 2013 | By Greg Slabodkin

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides medical services for more than eight million veterans each year through the Veterans Health Administration, the largest integrated healthcare system in the country with over 1,700 sites of care. However, much of VHA’s infrastructure was designed and built decades ago under an older concept of healthcare delivery that focused on hospital-centered, inpatient care.

To better address the medical needs of today’s veterans, the VHA has launched a number of mobile healthcare initiatives. Neil Evans, M.D., and Kathleen Frisbee, MPH, Ph.D.c, who co-direct the VHA’s Connected Health Office, spoke with FierceMobileHealthcare about the agency’s mHealth pilot programs.

Read more: Veterans Health Administration launches mobile healthcare initiatives – FierceMobileHealthcare   http://www.fiercemobilehealthcare.com/story/veterans-health-administration-launches-mobile-healthcare-initiatives/2013-05-12#ixzz2TIfzsTHR

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Sanders sees hiring vets to process claims as part of backlog solution

May. 13, 2013 -

Hiring veterans to process claims could be part of the solution to eliminating the backlog of disability claims, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman believes.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who became the veterans’ committee chairman in January, sees hiring veterans for claims processing and adjudication positions as one step among many that are needed to improve the timeliness and accuracy of claims.

Sanders noted that the Veterans Affairs Department lost about 6 percent of its claims staff in fiscal 2012. This created openings that could be filled by veterans to “create a generation of adjudicators throughout VA who can identify with the experiences of the population they serve,” he said in a statement.

Sanders introduced a bill May 9 that calls for creation of a working group within VA that would look at how to hire veterans and also look at how to evaluate employees who work on claims.

This is hardly the first bill introduced this year to tackle the pile of almost 900,000 pending claims, but Sanders’ role as chairman of the Senate committee responsible for veterans’ programs moves the measure, S 928, to the center of attention in the Senate.

Sanders said he continues to hear complaints that VA’s method of evaluating its claims staff “focuses almost exclusively on speed, often to the detriment of quality.” The working group he envisions would try to come up with a balanced evaluation.

His bill, the Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2013, also would try to speed claims by expanding acceptance of examinations by private physicians and by seeking to reduce the average 1,040-day wait for an appeal to be decided. For example, Sanders would like to see expanded use of video hearings to reduce complications in scheduling travel.

“It is unconscionable that a veteran or family member had to wait, on average, nearly three years for a decision on an appeal,” Sanders said.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130513/NEWS/305130022

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VetJobs Veteran Unemployment Situation Report (VESR) for March 2013

04/05/2013  General Summary

The BLS CPS report says there were 21,492,000 veterans alive in March, down from 21,520,000 in February, a loss of 28,000 veterans in March. There were 11,011,000 veterans in the workforce in March, down 103,000 from the 11,114,000 in February.

The CPS overall veteran unemployment rate for all veterans in March rose 0.2% to 7.1% from 6.9% in February. There were 783,000 unemployed veterans in March, up 11,000 from the 772,000 unemployed veterans in February. The unemployment trend for veterans is definitely going down!

The fact that veterans as a class have an overall unemployment rate that is continuously lower than the national unemployment rate reinforces veterans continue to have better success finding employment than non-veterans.

Continue reading:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ted-daywalt/vetjobs-veteran-unemploym_b_3022355.html

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ConsumerWatch: Military verification brings more discounts

May. 10, 2013 – By Karen Jowers Staff writer

New technology is helping active-duty troops, family members and veterans take advantage of more discounts.

The idea is to verify that customers are actually who they say they are so companies have some assurance that discounts aren’t going to fraudsters posing as members of the military community.

Here are some examples of these efforts:

■Troop ID is essentially an “online ID card” for troops, veterans and spouses that allows members to get deals and discounts online. Eligible customers can tie their email to their military credentials by visiting TroopID.com. Once they are verified, customers can use the Troop ID widget on retailers’ websites to get discount vouchers for a variety of national brands. In essence, it creates a digital identity credential.

More than 1,000 partners and companies offer discounts through Troop ID, ranging from Regal Entertainment Group’s movie theaters to Overstock.com and Tough Mudder.

Under Armour was one of the first merchant partners of Troop ID. Because of this technology, the company was able to extend its 10 percent military discount, originally offered only in brick-and-mortar stores, to online stores.

■The company SheerID works in a different way. It doesn’t create a digital identity credential like Troop ID, but provides technology for “point-of-sale” verification any retailer can use at the cash register or online checkout. Most of the effort is on the part of the retailer marketing their discount or offer, then verifying that the customer is eligible to get the discount. The technology allows merchants to customize discounts and savings for a variety of groups, such as teachers or the military, and verify their eligibility.

Retailers can ask for the customer’s first and last name and date of birth, and the system will search to find out whether the customer qualifies for a military discount. SheerID uses proprietary technology that acts as a bridge between merchants and secure databases — such as the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System — while keeping the information safe and secure, according to Jake Weatherly, chief executive officer of SheerID.

More than 30 companies have signed on with SheerID to offer military and veteran discounts. Among them is Costco, which offers $50 in savings to new members who are active duty, veterans or family members. Other national brands involved in the program include PGA Tour, Fathead and Nosler. An additional 100 companies have contacted SheerID expressing interest in offering a protected military discount, Weatherly said.

Military personnel have saved more than $2 million since January by using SheerID-protected offers, Weatherly said.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130510/BENEFITS/305100012

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Railroads hire many veterans returning from war

May. 10, 2013 – By Josh Funk The Associated Press

OMAHA, NEB. — Mark Major once led a team of soldiers in combat in Iraq. Now he leads a team of railroad employees. The difference, he says, is obvious: “I’m not getting shot at anymore.”

But it’s the similarities between serving in the military and working for the railroad that draw Major and many other former military members to this type of work.

“For a veteran — a person who thrives off excitement, a mission and a chain of command — you tend to seek out companies like that,” said Major, who has worked for Union Pacific for about two years.

As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the nation’s rail lines. More than 25 percent of all U.S. railroad workers have served in the military.

Veterans have a long history of railroad work. Civil War veterans, for example, helped complete the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. But railroad opportunities are especially welcome now because the unemployment rate for recent veterans remains higher than for the rest of the nation.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130510/NEWS/305100002

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Supporting and Engaging Veterans and Military Families

DISASTER SERVICES | ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY | EDUCATION | ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP | HEALTHY FUTURES | VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES

Service members make tremendous sacrifices and learn invaluable skills while protecting and serving our nation — they build a stronger America. Many veterans face challenges in translating those skills into meaningful community engagement, and too often, our industry leaders fail to make strong connections to one of America’s greatest assets.

The Corporation for National Service (CNCS) can help with the reintegration of the more than 1 million veterans who will be returning home during the next five years. National and community service transforms those who serve and exposes people to society’s

challenges and empowers them to act. Participants gain valuable professional, educational, and life benefits, and the experience can have a lasting impact. Our veterans are uniquely qualified to lead in these efforts through our Veteran and Military Family Corps national and community service models.

Continue reading:  http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/factsheet_military.pdf

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VA change afoot as Senate calls for Obama to help veterans …
Video on NBCNews.com: Rachel Maddow notes that following on the heels of a massive petition
video.msnbc.msn.com/the-rachel-maddow-show/51710135

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Benefits of the Yellow Ribbon Program

The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay you:

•  all resident tuition & fees for a public school

•  the higher of the actual tuition & fees or the national maximum per academic year for a private school

•        an exception to this exists for students enrolled in private schools in AZ, MI, NH, NY, PA, SC or TX. In these cases we will pay the higher of the actual tuition & fees or the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition & fees

Your actual tuition & fees costs may exceed these amounts if you are attending a private school or are attending a public school as a nonresident student.

Institutions of Higher Learning (Degree Granting Institutions) may elect to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement.

Institutions that voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with VA choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. VA will match that amount and issue payment directly to the institution.

Continue reading: http://gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/yellow_ribbon_program.html

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Methodology: Best Online Programs for Veterans Rankings

Learn how U.S. News ranks distance education options for military veterans.

By ERIC BROOKS May 7, 2013

Like other students, veterans and active-duty service members gain most from distance education that is affordable, accessible and well-regarded. The Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings measure these factors in consideration of benefits available specifically to people with military experience.

To ensure academic quality, all schools included in this ranking first had to be numerically ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 Best Online Education Programs rankings.

This means each program is housed in a regionally accredited institution, and performed well enough on a multitude of factors – including faculty credentials, support provided to students, high graduation rates and low debt loads – to be included in the broader rankings.

Continue reading:  http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2013/05/07/methodology-best-online-programs-for-veterans-rankings

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Veterans Administration Secretary Faults Delays In Processing Claims

Eric Shinseki In Newington Thursday

May 02, 2013|By DANIELA ALTIMARI,  The Hartford Courant

NEWINGTON — Kevin Burke walked into the veterans hospital about 18 months ago with advanced diabetes and kidney and liver disease. A subsequent mental health screening revealed that the 51-year-old Navy veteran is also an alcoholic and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

But through a series of bureaucratic glitches and delays, his PTSD disability benefits claim has still not been processed. Burke is part of a swelling backlog of veterans throughout the nation who have been forced to endure waits of months, or even years, to receive their benefits.

On Thursday, the top official in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, came to Connecticut to highlight a new electronic system designed to sharply reduce that lengthy lag time.

Continue reading:   http://articles.courant.com/2013-05-02/news/hc-shinseki-veterans-20130502_1_shinseki-veterans-affairs-veterans-hospital

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Veterans tired of waiting for benefits

Published  02 May 2013  Mark Davis

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– The head of the US Veteran’s Affairs, a retired Army General, says he is attacking those long delays for processing claims with the VA.

He came to Connecticut Thursday, to make a pledge that things will get better.

There are over 200,000 veterans living in Connecticut and each year about 50,000 of them come here to the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Newington. Thousands more go to the facility in West Haven, as well as six clinics around the state.

And it’s pretty easy to find some that are waiting for decisions from the VA about their benefits.

“I’ve been waiting for my V.A.S. for about a year now. It’s housing for homeless veterans,” said Wilbur Keys.

“I’ve been waiting three years for disability, I’m trying for 100%. I got Hepatitis C from the shots they give you in the Army,” said Paul Barron.

And with more and more conditions from the various wars now being covered by VA benefits, the back up was getting even worse.

Politicians hear about it all the time, and the veteran’s service organizations know all too well about the hold ups.

“It’s over three months, they get nervous. If it’s over six months, they start getting angry,” said K. Robert Lewis.

“Among the most common complaints I get is the seemingly endless delays,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Thursday, the U.S. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, retired Army General Eric Shinseki came to Connecticut touting the department’s new paperless processing system that is immediately working to process the oldest claims first, and he made this promise to Connecticut’s veterans.

“Begun executing a robust plan to go after this backlog to which we’ve committed in 2015; no claim of over 125 days, and a 98% accuracy level,” said Shinseki.

The online benefits website for claims is now immediately channeling veteran’s claims to the new Veteran’s Benefit Management System.

For more information on the benefits, you can go to ebenefits.va.gov .

http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/politics/veterans-tired-of-waiting-for-benefits

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Veterans unemployment rate falls dramatically in April

May. 3, 2013

The jobless rate for Post-9/11 veterans fell to 7.5 percent in April, a dramatic reduction that might be statistically invalid.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday the unemployment rate for veterans of all generations dropped to 6.2 percent in April, also a significant improvement.

Overall, the employment situation report shows the economy grew 165,000 jobs in April. That was not enough to make a major change in the national unemployment rate, which was 7.5 percent in April, just 1/10of a percentage point less than in March.

For veterans, the overall jobless rate for March was 7.1 percent. For Post-9/11 veterans, the jobless rate in March was 9.2 percent, with big gender differences. It was 8.7 percent for men and 11.8 percent for women.

The April report shows an unexplainable improvement for Post-9/11 women. For men of the Iraq and Afghanistan generation, the April jobless rate was 7.6 percent while for women the jobless rate was 7.2 percent. These differences are likely the result of Post-9/11 veterans making up a small part of the Labor Department’s sample and of women veterans of the Post-9/11-era being even a smaller group of those surveyed.

Modest reductions in unemployment are a nation-wide trend, according to the Labor Department. Of 372 metropolitan areas, the unemployment rates have dropped in 306 in the last year, increased in 44 and are unchanged in 22, according to a May 1 Labor Department report.

There are still 44 metropolitan areas were the unemployment rate is 10 percent or higher, but one year ago there were 66 areas with jobless rates that high.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130503/JOBS/305030003/Veterans-unemployment-rate-falls-dramatically-April

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Creating Opportunities for Veterans

Posted by Martha Johnson , GSA Administrator

At the U.S. General Services Administration, we honor the service and the sacrifice of our veterans on this Veterans Day and everyday. Our veterans are returning home with the skills and knowledge that make them valuable members of the American workforce. GSA is bringing the remarkable skills of veteran owned small businesses into government so that we can better serve the American

During fiscal year 2011 GSA awarded over $185 million to veteran owned small businesses, and over $91 million went to veteran owned small business owners with service related disabilities. These contracts went to firms that are bringing the services and expertise of the private sector into government operations.

Continue reading:  http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2011/11/10/creating-opportunities-for-veterans/

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Panel Votes To Limit Veteran Submissions To Gun Registry

By KEVIN FREKING 05/08/13

WASHINGTON — A House panel has approved legislation that would greatly curtail when veterans deemed mentally incompetent are reported to the FBI’s background check system.

The move to winnow what records get placed into the database comes even as both sides of the gun-control debate have called for strengthening the background-check system.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs automatically submits the names of those veterans who are deemed unable to handle their own financial affairs and have a fiduciary appointed to administer their benefits.

But the House Committee on Veterans Affairs approved legislation requiring a judge’s order before a veteran’s name is submitted to the database. Lawmakers said veterans who are not a threat to harm themselves or others should not be denied a constitutional right to buy and possess guns.

Also on HuffPost:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/veterans-gun-registry_n_3237987.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

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Methodology: Best Online Programs for Veterans Rankings

Learn how U.S. News ranks distance education options for military veterans.

By ERIC BROOKS May 7, 2013

Like other students, veterans and active-duty service members gain most from distance education that is affordable, accessible and well-regarded. The Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings measure these factors in consideration of benefits available specifically to people with military experience.

To ensure academic quality, all schools included in this ranking first had to be numerically ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 Best Online Education Programs rankings.

This means each program is housed in a regionally accredited institution, and performed well enough on a multitude of factors – including faculty credentials, support provided to students, high graduation rates and low debt loads – to be included in the broader rankings.

Continue reading:  http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2013/05/07/methodology-best-online-programs-for-veterans-rankings

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Speed up delivery of benefits to veterans

The Kansas City Star

The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star on Wednesday, May 8:

Disabled veterans across America are facing shameful delays in accessing earned benefits.

President Barack Obama pledged more than four years ago that he would reduce the waiting period for disabled veterans to get their hard-earned benefits. Instead, average wait times have increased from five months to nine months, and the backlog of claims pending for a year or more has soared 2,000 percent.

That’s unacceptable. Veterans need the benefits to pay bills and get the medical help they deserve for serving the nation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Eric Shinseki, looks particularly inefficient at this crucial time as Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans request their benefits.

Continue reading:  http://www.kansascity.com/2013/05/09/4226634/speed-up-delivery-of-benefits.html

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Over 600,000 veterans caught in messy bureaucracy awaiting pending claims

The average wait in New York for resolving first time claims is 642 days, say the senators, which would be worst in the nation were it not for Reno, Nev., where the average is 681 days.

BY JAMES WARREN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS  MAY 7, 2013,

WASHINGTON — After two tours of duty with the Marines in Iraq, Anthony Pike returned home with hearing loss, a ringing in his ears and what he says is profound stress.

And now there’s the galling, added stress he’s guaranteed in filing for disability payments with the New York office of the Veterans Administration. Having endured many firefights in Iraq, the former sergeant will have to exhibit the patience of Job.

The Veterans Administration is a mess, with more than 600,000 veterans caught in the bureaucracy awaiting first-time claims adjudications. In a rare act of bipartisanship frustration, 67 senators wrote to President Obama and implored him to “take direct action and involvement in ending” the sky-high backlog.

Continue reading:    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/vets-grow-frustrated-massive-claims-backlog-article-1.1335970

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Siemens launches job training program for veterans

By Associated Press

A job training initiative is being offered in the Detroit area to help military veterans with engineering and manufacturing backgrounds transition to the civilian workforce.

Siemens Corp. says the program was launched by Siemens’ product lifecycle management software business in 22 cities across the country.

The program provides free training in digital lifecycle management and computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing and computer-aided engineering software technology.

Training will be at Siemens product lifecycle management facility in Livonia. The company will invest up to $17,000 for each eligible veteran in the program.

Classes are held over several days in May, June and July.

Siemens says veterans completing the program will be qualified for jobs where product lifecycle management technology is used.

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130508/NEWS01/130509900/siemens-launches-job-training-program-for-veterans

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Unemployment report shows rates looking up for veterans

By Jena McGregor, Published: May 3, 2013

The April jobs report released Friday contained plenty of cheery news. The unemployment rate dipped slightly, from 7.6 percent in March to 7.5 percent in April. The market added 165,000 jobs, beating expectations, and the number of jobs added in March were revised upward. Moreover, writes Neil Irwin at Wonkblog, the drop in the unemployment rate was driven by more people finding jobs rather than more job hunters leaving the labor force.

But the report also contained some good news for veterans. For all veterans, the jobless rate in April was 6.2 percent, significantly lower than the general population’s and less than the 7.1 percent of veterans who were unemployed in April of 2012. For veterans who served after 9/11, the rate also dropped dramatically, from 9.2 percent in March of 2013 to 7.5 percent in April.

Continue reading:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2013/05/03/unemployment-report-shows-rates-looking-up-for-veterans/

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Bill adds federal hiring preference for fathers of disabled vets

May. 7, 2013

Fathers would be treated the same as mothers when it comes to receiving federal hiring preferences if they have a child who is a totally disabled veteran, under a bill introduced May 6.

Sponsored by Reps. Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., the bill adds fathers to a 10-point hiring preference already available to mothers.

The bill, HR 1832, was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for consideration. This is the panel responsible for federal employee policies.

The current preference, adding points to examination scores or ratings, applies to mothers of totally and permanently disabled veterans who served in an overseas contingency operation. The veteran must have received an honorable or general discharge and have a service-connected injury or illness.

It also applies to a surviving mother of service member who dies under honorable conditions during war or an operation for which a campaign medal is authorized.

The mother has to be living with the veteran to qualify.

The Bishop-Jones bill would keep the same criteria but allow a father to also receive hiring preference.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130507/BENEFITS04/305070012

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New VA hospitals: Months overdue, millions over budget

May. 8, 2013

Building new veterans hospitals is an “abysmal” process filled with delays and cost overruns, says the chairman of a House panel investigating how the Veterans Affairs Department spends money.

“Not only is VA building facilities over budget and late, but it is also failing to pay the contractors for their work in a timely manner,” Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative and auditing arm of Congress, studied VA hospital construction projects in Denver, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, finding the average construction delay was 35 months and the average cost overrun was $366 million.

The biggest overrun is in Denver, where a hospital now expected to be finished in April 2015 is now estimated to cost $800 million, a 144 percent jump over initial estimates, said Lorelei St. James, GAO’s physical infrastructure director. The longest delay was in Las Vegas, where a hospital now expected to be done in June is taking more than 10 years to complete, 74 months behind schedule. Its price, now estimated at $585 million, is 80 percent over the initiative estimate.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130508/BENEFITS04/305200001

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Government auditors say VA needs to cut delays, costs when constructing veterans hospitals

By Associated Press, May 07, 2013

WASHINGTON — Government auditors told a House panel Tuesday that efforts to build four veterans medical centers are taking on average about three years longer to complete than estimated and costing an additional $366 million per project.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., said the Veterans Affairs Department’s oversight of major constructions projects doesn’t meet industrial standards and described it as dysfunctional. Coffman, who chairs a House subcommittee, said the construction problems ultimately lead to delayed health care for veterans.

The medical centers that have been delayed are in Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; Denver; and New Orleans.

Several factors contributed to the delays. For example, the hospital in Las Vegas was initially planned as an expanded clinic that would also be used by troops at Nellis Air Force Base. However, the VA later determined that local veterans needed their own medical center because of the growing population of veterans in Nevada.

One overriding problem was the VA’s inability to deal with design changes in a timely manner, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing and investigative arm. Most major projects require some design changes as construction occurs, but such changes should be negotiated and approved in a matter of weeks to avoid delays, the GAO said. The agency found that it was common for the VA to take six months or longer to negotiate the changes.

Continue reading: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/government-auditors-say-va-needs-to-cut-delays-costs-when-constructing-veterans/2013/05/07/1e2a883c-b757-11e2-b568-6917f6ac6d9d_story.html

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These veterans served. Now they wait for their benefits

Tens of thousands of Pa. vets trapped in backlog

By BILL HELTZEL  PublicSource  May 02, 2013

Dan Blevins, 29, of Carnegie is one of more than 10,000 veterans in Pennsylvania who has been waiting more than a year for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to rule on disability claims.

In Afghanistan, Blevins jumped from a Humvee onto an icy dirt road and broke his right foot. Even after surgery, he has days when it is too painful to walk.

Since serving in Iraq, he gets migraines that feel as if “somebody is taking a hammer to my head.”

Because of too many bombs, guns and grenades, he has tinnitus that he believes has cut his hearing by half.

Blevins’ case is caught up in the Pittsburgh regional office, which has one of the worst claims records in the nation.

It is ranked 51st out of 58 regional offices, with 79 percent of its cases backlogged for more than four months, including 3,800 veterans waiting more than a year for a ruling.

Veterans served by the Philadelphia office fare better.

It is ranked 21st in the country, with 64 percent of its cases backlogged, including 6,300 veterans waiting more than a year.

The problem has been in the spotlight for several years.

In 2010, President Obama pledged to veterans that he would “cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, and deliver your benefits sooner.”

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki promised to reduce errors and clear the backlog — defined as claims pending for more than 125 days — by 2015.

Instead, the logjam has widened and the error rate barely budged.

“This is truly a crisis,” said Paul Sullivan, a former VA claims adjustor who directs veterans outreach for the Bergmann & Moore law firm in Bethesda, Md.

No one seems to know when it will end.

Continue reading: http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130502/NEWS90/305020308/-1/NEWSMAP

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Veterans Administration Secretary Faults Delays In Processing Claims

By DANIELA ALTIMARI, dnaltimari@courant.comThe Hartford Courant

NEWINGTON—

Kevin Burke walked into the veterans hospital about 18 months ago with advanced diabetes and kidney and liver disease. A subsequent mental health screening revealed that the 51-year-old Navy veteran is also an alcoholic and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

But through a series of bureaucratic glitches and delays, his PTSD disability benefits claim has still not been processed. Burke is part of a swelling backlog of veterans throughout the nation who have been forced to endure waits of months, or even years, to receive their benefits.

“Today veterans, including those here in Connecticut, wait too long to receive the benefits they have earned,” Shinseki said at a news conference at the veterans hospital. “That has never been acceptable and that’s why we implemented a robust plan in which we commit to fix this decades-old problem by eliminating the backlog by 2015.”

The new Veterans Benefit Management System is part of the agency’s transition to an all-automated claims process. The system was rolled out in the Hartford region about six months ago and will be in place at all 56 regional offices by the end of the year.

The goal: to ensure that no veteran has to wait more than 125 days for a claim to be processed. Nationally, more than 600,000 veterans are mired in the agency’s disability claims backlog. In Connecticut, the average wait is about 213 days for a claim to be processed. That’s better than the national average of nearly 300 days, but it’s still far too long, said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Continue reading: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-shinseki-veterans-20130502,0,1164813.story

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Veterans Have Unusual Choice Thanks To Health Exchanges

by Michelle Andrews  May 07, 2013

When the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing recently, members expressed concern that veterans might not qualify for subsidies for the new health insurance marketplaces if they were enrolled in VA health coverage.

A Treasury Department official explained that veterans will actually have more options next year than most folks, not fewer.

Here’s the deal: Veterans who get their health care through the VA system don’t have to buy any extra coverage to satisfy the health law’s requirement that they have insurance starting Jan. 1.

Still, if they want to, they can sign up for coverage on the state-based marketplaces, also called exchanges, to supplement their VA coverage.

Continue reading: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/05/07/181887119/veterans-have-unusual-choice-thanks-to-health-exchanges

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VetJobs Veteran Employment Situation Report

05/06/2013

At VetJobs we continue to see the overall employment situation as marginally improving and the economy continues to remain basically stagnant, particularly as regards employment. Said another way, the American economy is expanding but at a stagnant decreasing rate.

In spite of the high unemployment of 10,534,000 in the United States, VetJobs is hearing of critical labor shortages in the labor market, most notably in IT (web design/internet security/RDMS/certain programmers), health care and especially trade craft jobs.

The primary reason for the trade’s craft shortages are only 2.0 percent of American high schools have shop classes. The result is critical shortages in many areas around the country for plumbers, carpenters, scaffolders, electricians, maintenance technicians, bench technicians and welders. The results of the critical labor shortages are wages are rising rapidly. Today, a certified welder in the oil fields can earn up to $55.00 an hour, frequently with unlimited over time!

Continue reading: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ted-daywalt/vetjobs-veteran-employmen_b_3210888.html

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For veterans, health-care law offers new options — and struggles

By Michelle Andrews,  May 06, 2013 The Washington Post

Military veterans will have more health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, but some vets, like many Americans, may still struggle to find affordable, accessible care that meets their needs.

Roughly 40 percent of the 22.3 million military veterans receive health-care services from the Veterans Health Administration, which operates a nationwide network of medical centers, hospitals and clinics. Many veterans are eligible for both VA health care and Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare, the health plan for active and retired military and their families. About half of veterans have private insurance; approximately one in 10 veterans younger than 65 are uninsured.

Veterans who were honorably discharged after being on active duty for at least two years may qualify for VA health services. Since funding for the VA health program is limited, however, priority is given to veterans who have service-related disabilities or low incomes.

Although there are no premiums for VA health care, some veterans may owe co-payments for services. Veterans who return from active military duty are typically eligible for free VA health care for five years.

Under the Affordable Care Act, most people will have to have health insurance starting in January or pay a penalty. Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care won’t have to buy additional coverage, although they can supplement their coverage if they want to.

Continue reading: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/for-veterans-health-care-law-offers-new-options–and-struggles/2013/05/03/c8fc6e8c-b29e-11e2-bbf2-a6f9e9d79e19_story.html

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Veterans Weigh Pros, Cons of Online Education

Online programs can provide flexibility for veterans but may also have drawbacks.

By DEVON HAYNIE  May 7, 2013

Online degrees are good options for veterans who aren’t ready for on-campus programs.

For Joe Bayron, 42, the choice to pursue an online degree was an obvious one.

As a part-time flight instructor for the Air Force Reserve, he regularly bounces between his home in Florida and his military base in North Carolina. With that schedule, he felt an on-campus program wasn’t an option.

“It’s just a convenience issue,” says Bayron, who is in the graduate nursing program at Indiana’s Ball State University. “I can study at my own pace.”

Bayron is one of the thousands of service members and veterans taking advantage of the GI Bill this year. Those cashing in their federal dollars have a choice to make: pursue an online degree, or attend a brick-and-mortar school.

Online programs can offer a variety of benefits to veterans, including flexibility and a gentler transition back to civilian life. But they can also pose challenges in the form of a heavy workload and a lack of face-to-face interaction.

Continue reading:  http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2013/05/07/veterans-weigh-pros-cons-of-online-education

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Arizona law to ease job search for veterans

By Matthew Longdon Cronkite News Service  May 1, 2013

Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, thought about leaving the Marine Corps in the ’80s to drive trucks until he learned his military license wouldn’t apply toward a commercial driver’s license.

“Why do I have to spend $4,000 to go to truck-driving school for something I already have?” he said. “I just went right back and stayed (in the Marines) until I retired.”

Borrelli, who served 22 years, is the author of legislation recently signed into law that will count military experience toward a commercial driver’s license or a nursing license.

“Who do you want to take care of you in the hospital, someone with years of experience or someone right out of school?” he said. “Veterans already have their training. They’ve done emergency operations under fire. They’re used to the high-stress environment.”

As they transition from military to civilian life, Borrelli said, veterans can face a lot of “redundant training” to get a state license for tasks they were trained to do in the military. When the law goes into effect next year, veterans will need to take only the written tests as long as their military training matches the state’s standards.

Nursing and commercial driving can be the hardest fields for veterans to get into because of the licensing, Borrelli said. Other military jobs, such as operating a bulldozer or doing electrical work, don’t require state certification, so the veterans’ experience easily applies.

Corey Harris, community-relation and government liaison for the Madison Street Veterans Association and an Army veteran, said the licensing issue comes up often.

“For veterans coming home now, some that are having difficulty getting jobs, it gives them a leg up,” Harris said. “Whenever there’s a civilian licensure involved, it’s difficult.”

The law will give active-duty service members and veterans 90 days after they’re discharged to apply for nursing or driving licenses. They will have to show proof of their experience such as their military-issued driver’s licenses or medical certificates.

“If they’re smart, they’ll do it while they’re still in,” Borrelli said.

David F. Lucier, president of the Arizona Veterans and Military Alliance, said the new law will reduce the barriers to employment for veterans.

“They’ve been out of the job market for four, six, eight years while serving,” he said. “Re-entering the job market is a huge barrier.”

There were at least 12 other bills dealing with veterans’ issues, ranging from a proposed Fallen Hero special license plate to extending the post-9/11 G.I. Bill on a state level. But Borrelli’s bill is the only one so far to make it to the governor.

Some never received committee hearings, while others are stuck in committees. Those include HB 2484 by Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, which would give businesses a $2,000 tax break for hiring a veteran and a $4,000 break for hiring a disabled veteran. “The intent is to pass it this session,” said Cardenas, an Army and National Guard veteran. “I’m doing everything I can to push it through.”

http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20130501arizona-law-ease-job-search-veterans-cns.html

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Younger veterans want to work, but face roadblocks

Rachel Mummey / for msnbc.com

Amanda and Tyson Akers display Tyson’s shadow box filled with his Marine medals and accolades at their home in State Center, Iowa on Friday, March 23, 2012. After serving in the Marine Corp for over a decade, including four tours abroad, Tyson Akers was turned down for a security job with the Iowa National Guard in the midst of a 13-month job search. The veteran juggles going to school full time at Iowa State University while raising two young sons with his wife, Amanda, in addition to seeking full-time employment.

Tyson Akers joined the Marines straight out of high school and spent more than eight years in the infantry, including four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When he left the military in February 2011 because he wanted more time at home with his young children, he knew any civilian job would be different than what he’d done in the Marines.

“Your job was to go out and be on the front line and pray to God nothing happened to you,” he said. “It’s hard to translate that over to the civilian world.”

But Akers, 29, didn’t count on a job search that has lasted more than a year, leaving him demoralized and even questioning his decision to leave the Marines.

Continue reading: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/younger-veterans-want-work-face-roadblocks-552088

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Veterans’ Advocacy Organization Urges Congressional Support of the Ruth Moore Act of 2013

National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates pleads with Congress to ease military sexual trauma survivors’ anguish

Washington, DC, April 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — In written testimony, The National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) strongly encouraged The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs 
U.S. House of Representatives 
Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs to vote in favor of the Ruth Moore Act of 2013. The Ruth Moore Act is also known as H.R. 671.

Committee Chairman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Dina Titus (D-NV) invited NOVA to submit testimony for the April 16, 2013 hearing on the Ruth Moore Act.

The Ruth Moore Act, introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), would amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the disability compensation evaluation procedure of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for veterans with mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma (MST). According to a press release distributed by the office of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, the Ruth Moore Act would make it easier for veterans who are victims of sexual assault in the military to get the benefits due to them.

Continue reading:  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/51631738/ns/business-press_releases/t/veterans-advocacy-organization-urges-congressional-support-ruth-moore-act/

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The following posted 5/4/13

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Senate bill aims to help VA meet its bold goal of ending vet homelessness by 2015

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

An audacious vow by the Obama Administration to eliminate veteran homelessness in two years — an initiative that’s shown progress but is off pace to fully succeed — got a shot in the arm Thursday when leaders of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs proposed legislation to help plug lingering holes in the existing veteran safety net.

A central theme of the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2013 is to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift its transitional-housing system for street-bound ex-service members into a process that’s more focused on giving veterans easier access to permanent, stable housing.

While transitional housing units can give quick shelter to veterans — and, indeed, lower the population of homeless veterans — many of those same men and women often cannot find affordable, long-term housing such as leased apartments. Some ultimately wind up sleeping again under bridges or in cars, say veterans advocates. Continue reading:   http://usnews.nbcnews.com/military

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Google launches new site to guide veterans into civilian work force

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Google is aiming its search-engine horsepower at homecoming veterans, launching Thursday what may be the largest online hub to help men and women exiting the military as American armed forces draw down.

Called VetNet, the site offers veterans three distinct “tracks” to plot and organize their next life moves – from “basic training” which aids job hunters to “career connections” which links users to corporate mentors and other working veterans to “entrepreneur” which offers a roadmap to starting a business.

To arm the new site with some heavy-hitting experts, Google partnered with three leading nonprofits in the veteran-employment space: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Hire Heroes USA.

“We asked: What else can we be doing with our technology to help these folks transition home?” said Carrie Laureno, founder of the Google Veterans Network, the company’s employee-volunteer community which seeks to make Google a military-friendly work environment.

“We wanted to really move the needle in the right direction. And working with our three partners, we asked: What can we do together to help you reach more people?” Laureno said. “How do we help these millions of people who are in this situation get the resources they need (to land civilian jobs) in a much easier, more straightforward way that’s ever been possible before?”

After clicking a button to connect with VetNet, users gain access to a weekly snapshot of “what’s happening” in the veteran-employment arena as well as to a ready group of business advisers and to an ongoing array of virtual “hangouts” that train people on basics from resume writing to making “elevator pitches” or that allow veterans to hear insights from leaders in retail, transportation, retail and entrepreneurship, Laureno said.

The venture drew a favorable review Thursday from a key congressional member.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/29/15545883-google-launches-new-site-to-guide-veterans-into-civilian-work-force?lite

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Hearing loss the most prevalent injury among returning veterans

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

After a decade of war, America is well schooled on post-traumatic stress, lost limbs and traumatic brain injury, but the most common injury sustained by U.S. troops is literally a silent wound: hearing loss.

Mark Brogan, a retired Army captain, can speak quite personally about almost all of those examples of combat carnage – he suffered a brain injury, a spinal injury and a nearly severed right arm when a suicide bomber on foot detonated his weapon near Brogan six year ago in Iraq.

Mark Brogan sustained a spinal injury, a brain injury, a nearly severed arm – and severe hearing loss – when a suicide bomber blew himself up not far from Brogan in Iraq six years ago.

What does Brogan, 32, consider the worst of the physical trauma? “Hearing loss and the brain injury,” he said from his home in Knoxville, Tenn. He has “profound unusable hearing” in his right ear and severe hearing loss in his left, he said, along with constant ringing, or tinnitus, in his ears.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/13/14728839-hearing-loss-the-most-prevalent-injury-among-returning-veterans?lite

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‘Truce is over’: Fired-up congressional panel vows strict VA oversight

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Members of Congress angrily vowed Wednesday to crank its investigative floodlights far brighter on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, accusing agency leaders of dodging direct questions on travel and conference spending, failing to disclose a gathering in Las Vegas, and exhibiting “total incompetence” as veterans wait in record-long lines for medical help.

During a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said that one day after he and VA Deputy Secretary Scott Gould had held a “civil conversation” on the same issues, Gould’s vague responses to the panel’s precise and lengthy interrogation “raised the hackles on the back of my neck.”

“The truce is over. It lasted less than 24 hours. Expect much more oversight from this committee,” Miller said. “Expect more questions from this committee because they’re coming — in great volumes.”

The fiery, two-hour hearing was primarily held to examine how the VA plans to prevent future, exorbitant spending lapses like the estimated $9 million the agency doled out for two Orlando gatherings in 2011. During those conferences for VA human resources personnel, the VA invested, for example, $84,000 for VA-branded promotional items, including pens, highlighters and hand sanitizers, according to Office of the Inspector General. But at the close of the hearing, Gould complained the committee’s line of questioning had devolved into “a slap at the employees who work at VA every day.”

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/28/15519110-truce-is-over-fired-up-congressional-panel-vows-strict-va-oversight?lite

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PTSD may be overdiagnosed, but PTSD deniers are ‘wrong,’ psychologists say

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Why do some people reject the existence of PTSD?

The topic is touchy. Even asking the question is slammed as irresponsible.

“Why on Earth would you try to put out something that states combat PTSD isn’t a true affliction? Or even try to debunk it? Or to put questions into the minds of society? In the first 155 days of 2012, we lost 154 men,” Amy Cotta, an author and the mother of a Marine wrote in an email to NBC News. Her message arrived minutes after she learned NBC News was seeking to interview a PTSD denier.

Despite exhaustive scientific studies that have explored the symptoms, causes, diagnoses, and prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, hardcore skeptics remain.

They exist within the military, where some leaders openly call PTSD a mental weakness, according to mental health advocates. David Weidman, who did two tours in Afghanistan and was diagnosed with PTSD, said all of his senior non-commissioned officers advised him not to seek treatment, instead suggesting he “just put your head down and keep going” in order to maintain any chance at a promotion.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/26/15395330-ptsd-may-be-overdiagnosed-but-ptsd-deniers-are-wrong-psychologists-say?lite

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Older vets to post-9/11 vets: ‘We had it harder.’ Did they?

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The war stories from his grandfather, though sparse in detail, blended one moment of explosive drama with a vague reference of death — all wrapped around a description of how old-school military men used to handle both experiences.

David Weidman, who spent two tours in Afghanistan with the Air Force, recalls his late grandfather, a veteran of World War II and Korea, telling him that he survived having his body and his Jeep blown through a wall. He did not reveal to Weidman where that attack happened. He also gave his grandson some advice: “You don’t want to be in a foxhole talking to a guy one minute and then you turn around and he’s dead. You just don’t want to experience that.”

“He said he just dealt with it all. It’s that same mentality: ‘I did what I had to do. I got myself better then I went back to work.’ Other than that, he never spoke about the wars at all. That tells me he never did deal with it,” added Weidman, 32.

Cultural fault lines clearly run between generations of veterans who saw action in different conflicts or who wore the uniform in different eras, including peacetime. The refrain echoed by some older veterans to some younger ex-service members: “We had it so much harder than today’s military.”

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/24/15392392-older-vets-to-post-911-vets-we-had-it-harder-did-they?lite

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Battle-hardened double amputee to prospective congressional foes: ‘Bring it’

Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., U.S. representative-elect for Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, is pictured with other female members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 14. Duckworth, a helicopter pilot in the Iraq war who was shot down and lost both her legs in the attack, is the first disabled woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

When Tammy Duckworth steps into Congress this January for her first term, she’ll be carried by two prosthetic legs – and the potent notion that if she can survive a grenade blast while piloting a chopper, she surely can endure any political flak on Capitol Hill.

“The worst day for me in Washington on the floor of the House is never going to be as bad as me getting blown up. So bring it,” said Duckworth, a Democrat who represents Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, the suburbs north of Chicago.

One of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq, Duckworth’s Black Hawk was hit by enemy fire in November 2004 as the aircraft skimmed tree tops at about 135 miles per hour. The explosion vaporized her right leg, smashed her left leg into the instrument panel, sheering it off, and tore away most of her right arm. Before losing consciousness, she used her remaining arm to try to land the sputtering chopper. On Nov. 6, she won election to the U.S. House.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/25/15323763-battle-hardened-double-amputee-to-prospective-congressional-foes-bring-it?lite

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Florida guide uses hunting as rustic therapy for combat veterans

By Bill Briggs

John Bennett, shot by a sniper while serving with the Army in Iraq, is one of many wounded veterans to go hunting with the Sportsmen’s Foundation for Military Families. He bagged a nine-foot alligator in Florida.

In the swamps and river bottoms near his Florida ranch, outfitter Danny SantAngelo has spent 20 years guiding veterans — some without arms, legs or sight — back to soothingly familiar country: in the field, stalking live prey, armed with weapons.

Often, such group hunting excursions were contract jobs that SantAngelo accepted from what he calls “these big, million-dollar-a-year projects for wounded soldiers.”

“They take these soldiers and veterans, gather them up from different areas, and take them to a facility like mine where we’d house them, host them and hunt them for a few days,” SantAngelo said. “A bunch of soldiers getting together in a camp again, sitting in the woods with guns, and maybe a lot of them even drink too much, so to say. And at the end, they’d high-five each other, hoot and holler and pull out of here.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/02/15575983-florida-guide-uses-hunting-as-rustic-therapy-for-combat-veterans?lite

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One inch: Death in combat hinges on the tiniest margins

Jesse Holder, a 173rd Airborne trooper, was wounded in 2007 while serving in Afghanistan by shrapnel from an RPG round.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Four soldiers, four battles — and, between them — four total inches separate the slim expanse between death and life.

One died because his armor plating wasn’t one inch higher. Three survived by that same tiny fraction, left to mull the unanswerable: “Why am I still here?”

In the final days of 2012, the somber tally of American service members wounded in action in Afghanistan surpassed 18,000 while the number of U.S. military men and women killed there eclipsed 2,040, according to the Department of Defense.

As Jesse Holder can attest, many of those 20,000-plus causalities are here — or are gone — based on a cold geometric fact of war: So often, everything comes down to a single inch.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/01/16218505-one-inch-death-in-combat-hinges-on-the-tiniest-margins?lite

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Verizon Salutes Its Employees on Active Military Duty With Some of America’s Best Corporate Leave Benefits

The company activated its Emergency Military Leave policy following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the policy remains effective. The policy applies both to employees called up for federal or state active military duty and those who voluntarily enlist.

Verizon’s benefits greatly exceed the provisions of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which requires employers to give reservists time off for military service and to reinstate them with certain rights and status upon their return.

For up to 36 months of active duty, Verizon provides the difference between an employee’s base pay and the military base pay. In addition, the company continues medical, dental, vision and group life insurance for employees and eligible dependents on the same terms as for active employees. Service and pension credit also continue for the entire Emergency Military Leave. Given the continued service of so many Verizon employees, this program was extended to provide an additional 36 months of program eligibility in September 2007.

Reinstatement rights upon return from Emergency Military Leave are determined by the length of time the employee was away. For 90 days or less, an employee generally will be reinstated to the same job, and those on leave for more than 90 days generally will be reinstated to a similar job if the same job is not available.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1,000 Verizon employees have been called to active duty in the military and National Guard. Some have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Others have played crucial roles here at home during the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More than 90 employees are still on Emergency Military Leave.

Media contact: Alberto Canal, 908-559-6367

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Unemployment among post-9/11 veterans still running heavy

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The unemployment rate among younger veterans continues to outpace the share of out-of-work civilians with nearly one in 10 ex-service members from the Iraq and Afghanistan eras hunting for jobs, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Younger male veterans are dragging a collective unemployment rate of 9 percent, compared to 7.6 percent in February 2012. Younger female veterans, who have faced far stiffer challenges grabbing civilian paychecks, posted an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent last month versus 7.4 percent at this time last year, the BLS said.

In raw numbers, 203,000 post-9/11 veterans were unemployed in February. One year ago that number totaled 154,000. Their overall unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in February. The U.S. unemployment rate last month was 7.7 percent, the Labor Department reports.

“The problem of veteran unemployment should be seen as a national disgrace,” said Cleve Geer, national commander of AMVETS, a nonprofit veterans’ organization.

Many of those men and women possess — literally — battle-hardened skills, if not the ability to work under fire, yet some employers seem unable or unwilling to transfer those strengths into civilian jobs, veterans groups say.

“It’s hard for me to believe that a guy can drive a truck in combat but he can’t drive one on the highways. I mean, what the hell is that all about?” said John E. Hamilton, commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “You’ve got a (medical) corpsman out there in field with Marines doing everything short of open-heart surgery but he can’t be an EMT when he gets home. Are you kidding me?”

Yet the veteran-jobless rate soon may spike as sequestration forces federal agencies to hack budgets.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/08/17237011-unemployment-among-post-911-veterans-still-running-heavy?lite

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Soldier Hard’s hip-hop lyrics reveal PTSD’s rough edges

Iraq war veteran Jeff Barillaro is using his hip hop music to help fellow soldiers returning from war to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. NBCNews.com’s Alex Witt reports.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Sleep-starved from a repeating nightmare and weary from wondering when all that therapy would reignite his fading hope, former Army tank gunner Jeff Barillaro took aim at his stubborn target with an attack as brilliant as it was simple.

He decided to break up with PTSD.

And he would do it in his increasingly famous style — studio-recorded hip-hop, under his stage name, Soldier Hard.

•           “I thought: If I could write a letter to PTSD, what would I say to PTSD? Then I thought: Oh, wow, this is going to be powerful,” said Barillaro, an Iraq War veteran, out of the service since 2010, who has steadily gained fame among active-duty troops, young veterans and their families for his bare, often-bleak music about the daily demons of living with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/10/16900427-soldier-hards-hip-hop-lyrics-reveal-ptsds-rough-edges?lite

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Hundreds of thousands of veterans spurn free benefits

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Nearly half of eligible ex-service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are snubbing free, federal health care they earned in uniform because many harbor “huge mistrust” of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, contends a leading veterans advocacy group.

About 1.5 million men and women who served in those wars have since separated from the U.S. military. Among those eligible to access VA medical help, only 55 percent of veterans have done so through the third quarter of 2012, VA figures show.

“It’s because the VA has a branding problem, an image problem,” said Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American (IAVA), which has more than 200,000 members.

For many younger veterans, Tarantino said, the issue that has most sullied the VA’s reputation is the average time it takes to complete the disability-compensation claims submitted by wounded veterans. The average wait for that money has grown to 272.3 days, or about nine months, a 10-day increase from early December, according a federal website.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last year vowed to shrink the so-called “VA backlog” to 125 days by 2015 as the agency finishes transitioning to a digital processing system. Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/23/16629681-hundreds-of-thousands-of-veterans-spurn-free-benefits?lite

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Some wounded vets shine on ‘Alive Day,’ others wear black

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

One year to the day after Lt. Brad Snyder lost his vision to a bomb explosion in Afghanistan, he swam ferociously across a pool. Then he stood atop a podium at the London Paralympics, wore gold around his neck and beamed to the national anthem, savoring the moment but seeing none of it.

Exactly eight years after Tammy Duckworth lost her legs to a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq, she met the Army medic who revived her inside a mangled helicopter. Amid that reunion, she had an extra reason to smile: Six days before, Duckworth had won a seat in the U.S. Congress.

During the otherwise dark anniversaries of their devastating combat injuries, both veterans chose to cherish the warm light of survival on what has come to be known, throughout the military, as “Alive Day.”

Their numbers are growing more slowly though still rising: Seventy American service members were wounded in Afghanistan during December, according to new Department of Defense figures. That made 2012 the third-bloodiest year of that war in terms of the tally of U.S. troops hurt in action — 2,951. Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/05/16352368-some-wounded-vets-shine-on-alive-day-others-wear-black?lite

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Disability-compensation claims for veterans lag as ‘VA backlog’ worsens

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The average wait time for wounded veterans to see their disability-compensation claims completed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has now grown to 262 days — or nearly nine months — according to a federal website and three watchdog groups.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki earlier this year vowed to shrink the so-called “VA backlog” to 125 days by 2015 as the agency finishes transitioning to a digital processing system.

Despite that promise, the claims-completion gap has expanded steadily during the past year. The VA’s benefits-aspiration web page shows the average claims-processing time was 223 days in October 2011, 246 days in April 2012, 257 days in July and 260 days in August. In fact, the backlog has doubled in size since 2008, congressional members report.

The agency called its widening claims backlog “unacceptable” but said it is taking steps to try to fix that problem.

“VA has completed a record-breaking 1 million claims per year the last three fiscal years. Yet too many Veterans have to wait too long to get the benefits they have earned and deserve,” the VA said in a statement emailed to NBC News on Tuesday. “That’s unacceptable, and VA is building a strong foundation for a paperless, digital disability claims system — a lasting solution that will transform how we operate and eliminate the claims backlog. This paperless technology is being deployed to 18 regional offices in 2012, and it will reach all 56 VA Regional Offices by the end of 2013 to help deliver faster, better decisions for Veterans.”

The move to paperless processing “will ensure we achieve” Shinseki’s 2015 goal, the VA said, adding: “Fixing this decades-old problem isn’t easy, but we have an aggressive plan that is on track to succeed.” In 2011, VA paid nearly $5 billion in compensation to wounded veterans, it reported. Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/04/15652938-disability-compensation-claims-for-veterans-lag-as-va-backlog-worsens?lite

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As VA backlog grows, Congress, veterans grow weary of excuses

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

With most veterans waiting nine months for the Department of Veterans Affairs to process disability claims, a congressional panel Wednesday chastised the VA and the Department of Defense for each breaking four years of vows to merge all troops’ medical records into a single electronic system to help crack that backlog.

A senior defense official admitted to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that while “looking down the barrel” of Friday’s sequestration-mandated budget cuts, DOD recently opted not to simply link with the VA’s existing electronic health-record system but to instead seek a more cost-effective computerized tool to catalog and track its service members’ medical files.

That explanation, however, sparked committee members to slam both agencies for protecting their individual turfs rather than fixing the lengthening wait for troops’ claims to be seen and for disability checks to be cut. Further complicating that human math: Another 34,000 service members will return from Afghanistan during the next 12 months.

“Dammit, it’s time to get over the excuses and get this fixed!” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. “We have brave men and women that are coming home in huge numbers right now. We don’t want to see these backlogs of benefits continue to escalate. What we need is you guys (VA and DOD) to work together. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/27/17118866-as-va-backlog-grows-congress-veterans-grow-weary-of-excuses?lite

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Tuition aid flows again to Army, Air Force troops but Marines slow to follow new law

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The Army and Air Force have reopened their Tuition Assistance pipelines to service members — following a Congressional mandate — yet similar funding remains stalled within the Marine Corps, a leading veterans’ advocate complained Wednesday.

The federal sequestration had previously blockaded all money that’s normally funneled to troops to help them pay for college classes in order to further their educations and their military careers. In most branches, that tab reaches $4,500 per year for each service member who takes the classes.

On March 21, Congress voted to order the Defense Department to locate the necessary funding to relaunch Tuition Assistance across the branches. That directive has now become law. Navy leaders had already opted to keep that program alive for sailors despite sequestration, “and we’re quite proud of that, too,” said Lt. Shawn Eklund, a Navy spokesman.

At midnight Tuesday, the Army turned on the web portal used by soldiers to formally ask for Tuition Assistance money.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/10/17691016-tuition-aid-flows-again-to-army-air-force-troops-but-marines-slow-to-follow-new-law?lite

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Can Washington get vets off the streets? Tens of thousands homeless despite billions in spending

Mar 29, 2013

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Despite funding that has reached $5.8 billion annually and a slew of innovative community partnerships, the Obama administration is lagging in its goal to end homelessness among veterans – or, as federal veterans’ leaders like to say, “drive to zero” – by the end of 2015.

If the current rate of progress is maintained, roughly 45,000 veterans would still be without homes when the deadline passes — a big improvement since the drive was launched but also evidence of how difficult it is to eradicate the problem.

“I don’t truly think you can end homelessness,” said John Scott, who heads the Phoenix office of U.S. Vets, a national, nonprofit service provider to homeless and at-risk veterans that receives some federal funding. “Things happen that can precipitate homelessness for anyone, and it can happen quite rapidly. However, we can effect change in veterans who have been chronically homeless.”

Scott, a former Marine Corps sergeant, was a keynote speaker at the November 2009 summit where Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki proclaimed that he and President Obama were “personally committed to ending homelessness among veterans within the next five years.” (The VA now cites the end of 2015 as its target.)

That crusade thus far has housed 12,990 veterans, an average of 361 per month. At the last count, which took place in January 2012 and was released in December, some 62,000 veterans still were homeless, meaning the campaign would need to average about 1,300 per month to meet its mark.

“While there may have been those who did not think ending veteran homelessness was possible (when Shinseki made his 2009 vow), it brought much needed attention to the matter,” Scott said. “And it has, in turn, created many new funding opportunities for veterans experiencing homelessness.”

Scott hammers at the problem in a state VA officials hold out as a shining prototype, where in 2012 veterans accounted for just 13 percent of the adult homeless population — down from 20 percent in 2011. He oversees a tangible symbol of that drive, a former Howard Johnson hotel refurbished into apartments meant to shelter more than 130 homeless veterans. It’s called Grand Veterans Village.

Continue reading:  http://inplainsight.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/29/17503141-can-washington-get-vets-off-the-streets-tens-of-thousands-homeless-despite-billions-in-spending?chromedomain=usnews&lite

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Home from war, troops face ‘white knuckled’ first month

Jessica Mcgowan / for NBC News

Former Marine Paul Menefee, an Iraq war veteran, makes music in his Union City, Ga bedroom, on Feb. 15. Since transitioning to civilian life, Menefee works as a music producer in Atlanta. At home, Menefee spends most of his time in this blacked out bedroom making music and relaxing. Drawing blinds and blacking out windows is a habit Menefee started after his military service to help him feel more secure.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

In the first month home from war, one Marine routinely searched his darkened bedroom for the rifle he’d left in Iraq, while another Marine shunned his favorite nightspot for fear that someone in the club might carry a gun.

In the four weeks after their homecomings, one infantryman drove “white knuckled” at 55 mph while another soldier purposely began living even faster — losing her virginity, going blonde and drinking hard with battle buddies.

Some 34,000 service members will ship home from Afghanistan during the next year, President Barack Obama told the nation last week.

Amid the gleeful glow of arrivals, many of those troops may quickly confront sensory overloads, social awkwardness and, perhaps, deep cravings for personal freedoms, according to interviews with four younger veterans who weathered such moments.

“The first 30 days are interesting,” said Alex Horton, who spent 15 months in Iraq as an Army infantryman, including during the 2007 troop surge in Baghdad and Diyala Province.

Today, he works for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I’ll call it the unraveling. That first week back you’re still high on everything, kissing your wife or girlfriend, sometimes seeing your kids for the first time. But then the tension starts to build.

“You experience culture and weather shock, and notice your senses are heightened,” said Horton, adding that another common theme — albeit something he did not go through — involves disrupting the daily routines established by a spouse and kids during a service member’s absence, and consequently, dealing with strained relationships.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/18/16976156-home-from-war-troops-face-white-knuckled-first-month?lite

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Preventative maintenance key for soldier welfare

‎‎May ‎04, ‎2013

Leaders are always saying that soldiers are the Army’s most important resource, so why not perform the same routine maintenance on a soldier that you would on a vehicle?

By Meghann Myers  Staff writer

Leaders are always saying that soldiers are the Army’s most important resource, so why not perform the same routine maintenance on a soldier that you would on a vehicle?

That’s the idea behind a program in development at Fort Carson, Colo., courtesy of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division Chaplain (Capt.) Sam Rico.

“A lot of the counseling we do in the Army — which we need to do — is performance and task-oriented, so we’re trying to engage, as the Army is now talking about, in sort of a cultural shift of leader engagement, to check on their soldiers,” Rico told Army Times.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130504/NEWS/305130002

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Financial strain pushes many veterans to the breaking point

‎ ‎May ‎04, ‎2013  By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been flying home to a fresh fox hole: A debt crater that’s sucking in entire military families and could be helping to fuel the veteran suicide crisis.

“I was a watch commander where I had 25 to 30 people working beneath me, in charge of millions of dollars worth of ammunitions, weapons, vehicles, computers,” said Adam Legg, a Navy veteran. “And then when I come home, not only can I not find a job, I can’t take care of my family.”

A bad job market, a long backlog for federal disability benefits, and occasionally unwise spending habits have been conspiring to strain the financial and mental health of many veterans, experts say.

“We keep hearing of suicides rising. How much pressure do you think one person can take?” asks Christopher Fitzpatrick, deputy director of VeteransPlus, a nonprofit that has fielded more than 170,000 calls from ex-service members with imminent financial concerns.

Continue reading: http://inplainsight.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/04/17987594-financial-strain-pushes-many-veterans-to-the-breaking-point

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Supporting Veterans in the Workplace

Media Contact

Eve Tahmincioglu   Families and Work Institute
eve@familiesandwork.org

2013 Work Life Legacy Military Award Winners and Honorable Mentions Announced

Families and Work Institute Honor Employers Supporting Service Men and Women and Their Families, and Share Best Practices

Families and Work Institute (FWI) understands the challenges veterans face when they return home, everything from high unemployment to difficulties adjusting to civilian jobs. And Families and Work Institute understands the value that military talent can bring to the workforce. That’s why FWI’s board of directors created the Work Life Legacy Military Awards last year. By sharing best practices and success stories, FWI is expanding the options for the 2 million former military expected to transition into the civilian workforce by 2016.

FWI is announcing that the following organizations have been recognized with a 2013 Work Life Legacy Military Award or Honorable Mention for their varied and outstanding efforts to support veterans and their families.

The four Work Life Legacy Military Award winners—Cornell, JPMorgan Chase, Merck, and Verizon Communications—and eight honorable mentions—Bon Secours, Citi, Deloitte, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Sodexo and The Walt Disney Company—have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to supporting military members and their families transition to civilian life.

Some examples of leading practices from each organization are:

Winners

Cornell University’s efforts include

  • A robust and unique Veterans’ Colleague Network Group (VCNG) that has been influential in the recruitment and support of veteran employees. Members of the VCNG participate in veteran recruitment fairs and promote positions at local bases (i.e. Fort Drum). The VCNG initiated the establishment of a Veterans Affairs office on campus and a dedicated website for veterans.
  • Extensive support services for families including email lists that bring together veterans and military families with similar interests and concerns such as parenting children with special needs, caregiving for adults, and LGBT family issues.
  • Maintaining a family helper list with contact information and profiles of potential helpers to help veterans and their families with family care, education and household maintenance tasks and a guide to finding, hiring, and keeping informal care providers.
  • Extensive access for spouses and partners to Cornell programs including the Faculty Staff Assistance Program, Work Life Office programs and various facilities on campus.

JPMorgan Chase’s efforts include

  • The co-founding of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families with Syracuse University in 2011. The institute conducts and publishes actionable research and shares best practices, facilitates and strengthens relationships between individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for the military and veteran community and houses educational programs for transitioning veterans and families, including an entrepreneurship boot camp for disabled veterans.
  • A hands-on recruiting process including a call from a JPMorgan recruiter to each military applicant who applies for a job at the company within five business days.
  • Unprecedented effort to engage veteran owned suppliers. Veteran status is reviewed as part of Chase’s supplier selection criteria and all contracts contain language with goals for veteran owned suppliers as subcontractors. To identify qualified veteran owned businesses that can meet the needs of its customers, Chase is a 3-star member of National Veteran-Owned Business Association, has a seat on its Corporate Advisory Council, and participates in veteran-owned business tradeshows.

Merck’s efforts include

  • A robust phase-in/transitional assistance program giving veterans employment opportunities that are compatible with the process for readjusting to civilian life.
  • The Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a work-study program, that successfully helps integrate veterans into the corporate workforce. As a service member’s tour of duty concludes, the WOS program readies these individuals through an intensive 13-week continuing education program. During the training period, veterans attend classes at a local university and work part-time at a sponsoring corporation.
  • Continual access to educators who can give vets the skills they need to succeed. Two nights a week, veterans meet with experienced faculty to learn critical corporate skills in a specific area (e.g., information technology, business operations, etc.) as well as written/verbal communication, project management and other valuable civilian employment skills. While in the program, veterans are also able to network with seasoned corporate professionals and gain resume-building experience at a top corporation. At the end of the training period, the veterans receive an academic certificate in a specific area of study from a local university and have the opportunity to start working full-time at a sponsoring corporation.

Verizon Communications’ efforts include

  • Partnerships with organizations such as MSEP (Military Spouse Employer Partnership) to promote jobs via their career site aka (H2H.com) and attending Military Spouse career events to make it easier for military spouses to find employment after a relocation event.
  • Generous leave time for veterans. Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Verizon activated its Emergency Military Leave policy (EML) that provides employees on active duty, with benefits for an additional year beyond the provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The EML program has been extended as needed to ensure that employees serving longer tours have continued Verizon benefits.
  • Up to 52 weeks of time over the time required by the Family Medical Leave Act to address concerns raised by a family member’s military service.

Honorable Mentions

Bon Secours’ efforts include

  • Intensive child rearing help for veterans by providing free parenting classes, workshops on bullying and youth suicide prevention, and English as a second language classes through their Family Focus program to the military community stationed at local Air Force and Navy bases.
  • A robust program for supporting employees who continue to serve in the National Guard and Reserves by maintaining employee wellness programs that make it easier to comply with military fitness requirements, supplemental pay when employees’ military pay is less than their civilian pay during a deployment, and maintaining access to child care facilities for the children of employees during deployments.
  • Considerable focused training for managers on how to effectively and successfully transition military personnel into roles within their organization through its Workplace Warriors program which includes handouts and reference materials for the managers to use as needed.

Citi’s efforts include

  • Launching Citi SalutesTM, a one stop resource to consolidate all programs, products and partnerships that support the veteran community and a national multimedia campaign to raise awareness of career opportunities at Citi with ads appearing in USA Today, the Military Times, and local newspapers.
  • Extensive training for both its veteran and civilian employees to help them succeed.
  • Implementing the Junior Military Officer Leadership Program to select and hire recent military officers and non-commissioned (enlisted) officers and provide them with rotational assignments that place them in supervisory roles after program completion.
  • Focused vet training to help them make a smooth transition to civilian life with over 500 Citi employees in 14 locations around the country have been trained to assist transitioning servicemen and women with resume writing, interviewing and job-readiness skills. Each volunteer is trained in mentoring skills and educated on the unique issues facing our transitioning military.

Deloitte’s efforts include

  • A strong mentoring program in the form of their On-Boarding Buddy program where perspective veteran hires are contacted before their first interview by a recent (2 years or less) Deloitte veteran employee who acts as a transition advisor during the hiring process and for their first year on the job.
  • Deep involvement in promoting disabled service members by engaging in various activities directed towards supporting wounded warriors including participation in job fairs that are focused specifically on hiring disabled veterans and providing bi-monthly resume workshops for the Wounded Warrior Regiment.
  • Initiatives with veteran’s service organizations such as Student Veterans of America and the military’s Transition Assistance Program to develop and staff intern programs for wounded warriors seeking to experience the corporate world before joining the workforce.
  • Targeting programs to assist those who aren’t leaving the military by maintaining the Deployed Employee Network, an internal group that provides support for employees who continue to serve in the National Guard or Reserves and their families should they be deployed in service overseas.

General Motors’ efforts include

  • Focused effort to reach out to veterans through its Eyes Right group, an internal, cross-functional group of employees (including representatives from communications, diversity, public policy, talent acquisition, the veterans employee resource group, Chevrolet retail and promotions, and Military Discounts). The group meets once per month and covers all initiatives planned or being considered that touch the military community.
  • A cross-functional approach providing GM with the opportunity to pool resources across the organization and provide synergy between GM’s business interests and the military community. For example, Chevrolet’s sponsorship of the Army/Navy game was expanded to include communications press conferences with GM’s CEO and hosting opportunities for organizations like the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans.
  • Robust efforts to promote their veteran hiring efforts. The Eyes Right group has also allowed GM to cross-promote dealership openings on their website, highlight veteran hires in the media, and promote initiatives begun by the veterans employee resource group. The Eyes Right group’s current project is establishing an initiative to provide free service technician training to veterans both shortly before and after their transition from the military to help fill the many thousands of service technician jobs open at dealerships across the country.

Johnson & Johnson’s efforts include

  • A focus on bringing veterans up through the ranks by providing varied training opportunities for managers to help prepare them to be effective leaders and supporters of employees in general and veterans in specific. The Veteran’s Leadership Council routinely provides presentations to internal work groups and hosts information tables to educate and inform employees on veteran topics.
  • Promoting the hiring of vets internally. All employees have access to videos through the Employee Assistance Program on the value of hiring veterans, working with veterans with disabilities and helping veterans effectively integrate into the work place.
  • Intensive learning for staff on legal issues and veterans. Johnson & Johnson’s two-day training program Manager and the Law includes information on employee rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements for military personnel and their families, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Lockheed Martin’s efforts include

  • A variety of partnerships with other employers to hire and support members from the military community. Lockheed Martin is a founding partner of the Get Skills to Work coalition launched to train 100,000 U.S. veterans for jobs in advanced manufacturing by 2015.
  • Focused efforts to help disabled veterans by partnering with Hiring Our Heroes, sponsored by the U.S Chamber of Commerce, to encourage the small business community to hire 500,000 veterans and military spouses over three years.
  • Raising the profile of the need to hire veterans and their families. As a member of the chamber’s Veterans Employment Advisory Council Lockheed Martin works to increase the hiring of veterans and their spouses, establish best practices for veterans’ employment, provide mentors to help with military transitioning, and deliver military hiring assistance to small and medium-sized businesses.

Sodexo’s efforts include

  • Multi-faceted training and employee assistance programs that reflect the many aspects of successful engagement and support efforts for the military community. Recruiters and hiring managers have access to a variety of training options to help them understand the military workforce including: Basic Training 101 – The Value of Veteran Candidates; Sourcing & Attraction, Key Comparisons 201 – Comparing Military Positions with Sodexo Opportunities, Screening Military Candidates 301 – Translating Military Jargon, Educating the Candidate 401 – Providing Resources for Civilian Job Search & Transition.
  • Robust assistance for military families through its Lifeworks (Sodexo’s employee assistance program), which provides resources for military spouses, military teens during a relocation event, supporting employees returning from military duty, building the resilience of a military family, finding jobs as a military spouse, ways to support coworkers and friends, and how its employees can support their coworkers during their deployment.

The Walt Disney Company’s efforts include

  • Promoting the reality that hiring veterans help businesses through the production of two public awareness videos. The cast of these videos is made up entirely of veteran employees who describe how the qualities learned via their military experience make for smooth transition and successful contribution to The Walt Disney Company’s business. This multimillion dollar value campaign has run these spots on ESPN, ABC, and their other media outlets since March 2012.
  • Focused veteran recruiting efforts by developing job postings with veteran friendly language, including nomenclature for military schools, job skills and ranks, making it straightforward for a veteran to match their skills to the job requirements.
  • Reaching out to veterans serving our nation through the Disney VoluntEARS program, where by employees have the chance to participate in service projects with veterans’ organizations in communities around the country. For example, Disney VoluntEARS sent thousands of Disney Operation Uplift postcards to service members around the world to share their notes of support and thanks and it participates in a variety of military and veteran projects around the country, including assembling thousands of care packages each year through Operation Gratitude.

The Application Form for the 2013 Work Life Legacy Military Awards can be reviewed on the Families and Work Institute website and is a valuable guide for companies seeking to employ members of the military community. The Guiding Principles FWI used in assessing the 2013 applications can be found on page 2 of the Application.

On Friday, January 11th from 11:30 to 12:30 (ET), FWI hosted a conference call on best practice in hiring and supporting former military with Institute’s Board members:

  • Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
  • Deborah Mullen, military family advocate; and
  • Ken Barrett, Captain, U.S. Navy (ret.) and GM’s Chief Diversity Officer along with
  • representatives from some of the 2012 Work Life Legacy Military Award winning companies.

January 11 Audio Replay (Best Practices in Hiring Transitioning Military)

Other resources on FWI’s website are:

For information about the 2012 inaugural Work Life Legacy Military Award and the winners, please visit our website.

The Awards will be presented on Monday, June 3rd at the 2013 Work Life Legacy Award dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The Work Life Legacy Award was established in 2004 to honor individuals who have created and advanced the work life movement.

For more information contact Eve Tahmincioglu, 302-521-1215, or eve@familiesandwork.org.

About Families and Work Institute
The Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that studies the changing workforce, family and community. As a preeminent think tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom and provides insight and knowledge. As an action tank, FWI conducts numerous studies that put its research into action and then evaluates the results. Its purpose is to create research to live by. For more information, visit http://www.familiesandwork.org, like us on Facebook.com/FWI and follow us on www.Twitter.com/FWINews.

http://familiesandwork.org/site/events/wlla/site/honorees/2013EmployerAwardees.html

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Hiring Our Heroes job fair part of week-long, national hiring push

MSNBC’s Richard Lui reports from the Hiring Our Heroes jobs fair in New York City, where veterans are seeking opportunities with companies as civilians.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The math is mean. Post-9/11 veterans lug a steep unemployment rate that’s a point-plus taller than the civilian rate. Add to that the 34,000 troops who soon will return from Afghanistan. Bottom line: The existing bulge of ex-military job seekers threatens to further swell in a world where stripes carry no sway.

How to crack that cold equation? Just a little face time, says unemployed veteran Ruty Rutenberg, who believes that simply standing eye-to-eye with a hiring manager allows former service members to naturally radiate the ocean of intangibles that can only be absorbed in combat.

Continue reading: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/27/17476643-hiring-our-heroes-job-fair-part-of-week-long-national-hiring-push?lite

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Pentagon looks to cut up to 50,000 civilians over 5 years

By David Alexander and Phil Stewart, Reuters

The Pentagon offered up a $526.6 billion budget on Wednesday that calls for closing bases, slashing the civilian work force and scrapping weapons programs, holding out hope the Congress might still opt for an alternative to even more draconian cuts already on their way.

President Barack Obama’s proposed Pentagon budget for the 2014 fiscal year asks Congress to take a series of politically difficult steps, including starting a new round of U.S. base closure proceedings, increasing healthcare fees for military retirees and slowing military pay increases.

Defense officials said the department also planned to reduce its civilian workforce by 40,000 to 50,000 over five years and take new steps to reduce the cost of healthcare, including overhauling military treatment facilities.

“The costs of infrastructure, overhead, acquisitions and personnel compensation must be addressed in order to put the Department of Defense’s budget on a sustainable path – particularly given the pressures on our top-line budget,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a budget briefing.

The budget is part of Obama’s spending plan sent to Congress. It stands little chance of being enacted into law and is meant to serve largely as a negotiating tool with Republicans, who have outlined budget proposals of their own.

The budget proposal included $88.5 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations, the same amount as requested last year. Comptroller Robert Hale said the figure was a placeholder and would ultimately be somewhat lower, but still high because of the cost of removing equipment from Afghanistan.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/10/17691713-pentagon-looks-to-cut-up-to-50000-civilians-over-5-years?lite

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Companies honored for hiring and supporting veterans

By Herb Weisbaum, NBC News contributor

We know the problem: the jobless rate for military members who have served our country since 9/11 is significantly higher than the general population.
Each year, the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit and non-partisan research organization, honors companies that have gone the extra mile to help vets as they return to the civilian workplace.

The winners of the Work Life Legacy Military Awards for 2013: Cornell University, JPMorgan Chase, Merck and Verizon Communications.

“Each of these companies has generated a holistic approach by recruiting, hiring and training vets and giving them a path inside their organizations to sustain employment and create a bright future,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, USN (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a member of the institute’s board.

For example, JPMorgan Chase has a dedicated military recruiting team and an internal military training program that has created more than 5,300 jobs for veterans in just two years.

“We think it’s important not only because it’s good for our business, but we truly believe that we owe this generation of service members the opportunity for success, and jobs is one of them,” said Maureen Casey, managing director for military and veterans affairs at JPMorgan Chase.

Chase and 10 other companies launched the 100,000 Jobs Mission two years ago. The goal is to hire 100,000 vets by 2020. To date, there have been almost 65,000 new hires.

The bank was also cited for co-founding the Institute for Veterans and Military Families with Syracuse University to do research on actionable projects and programs. For example, the institute created the Veterans Career Transition Program, a free online service that lets returning vets learn marketable skills that improve their chances of landing a job in the private sector.

The other winners:

Cornell University’s on-campus Veterans Affairs office offers private professional counseling for both employees and the local community. The university provides extensive support services for military families, including a family “helper list” of those who can assist with family care, education and household maintenance.

Merck has an employee affinity group to help vets network and find mentors and a transitional assistance program to give veterans employment opportunities.

Verizon Communications assists military spouses with finding jobs. Its Emergency Military Leave policy gives employees on active duty benefits for an additional year beyond the provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

There were eight honorable mentions: Bon Secours, Citi, Deloitte, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Sodexo and The Walt Disney Company.

Veterans are not looking for any special consideration, “just the opportunity to fulfill their dreams – and that takes employment,” Admiral Mullen told NBC News. He urges companies to recruit vets, not just wait for them to knock on the door.

“Business cases studies show that over the long term, veterans are really good bets for the bottom line,” he said. “They have the discipline, the technical skills and the leadership skills. They’re loyal, they’re good team players and they lead well. All of those skills translate to an employee who is really going to make a difference in almost any organization.”

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/25/17913522-companies-honored-for-hiring-and-supporting-veterans?lite

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Veterans unemployment rate falls dramatically in April

May. 3, 2013 – By Rick Maze Staff writer

The jobless rate for Post-9/11 veterans fell to 7.5 percent in April, a dramatic reduction that might be statistically invalid.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday the unemployment rate for veterans of all generations dropped to 6.2 percent in April, also a significant improvement.

Overall, the employment situation report shows the economy grew 165,000 jobs in April. That was not enough to make a major change in the national unemployment rate, which was 7.5 percent in April, just 1/10of a percentage point less than in March.

For veterans, the overall jobless rate for March was 7.1 percent. For Post-9/11 veterans, the jobless rate in March was 9.2 percent, with big gender differences. It was 8.7 percent for men and 11.8 percent for women.

The April report shows an unexplainable improvement for Post-9/11 women. For men of the Iraq and Afghanistan generation, the April jobless rate was 7.6 percent while for women the jobless rate was 7.2 percent. These differences are likely the result of Post-9/11 veterans making up a small part of the Labor Department’s sample and of women veterans of the Post-9/11-era being even a smaller group of those surveyed.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130503/JOBS/305030003

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VA doesn’t follow up with many veterans after mental health care

May. 1, 2013 -By Patricia Kime

About a third of veterans considered to be at high risk for suicide don’t receive the recommended follow-up care after they’ve been discharged from Veterans Affairs Department inpatient mental health care, according to a new report from the VA inspector general.

The VA study shows that of 215 cases reviewed between April and September 2012, 65 did not receive the recommended after-care of four visits within 30 days of being discharged.

Thirty-three percent did not have any record of being contacted by a suicide prevention coordinator or case manager, as also is recommended in VA treatment policies.

“Although MH providers scheduled follow-up appointments prior to patient discharge, timely post-discharge MH evaluations were not consistently provided,” VA Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections Dr. John Daigh wrote.

According to the report, patients who weren’t deemed at high risk for suicide fared slightly better: VA requires that patients discharged from acute mental health hospitalizations receive an evaluation within seven days of discharge, and the inspector general found that 78 percent of 475 patients had received some type of evaluation within the expected time frame. But 79 of those patients had received only phone calls, and 30 of them did not get an appointment with a provider or even a telehealth counseling session in two weeks after discharge.

Nearly three-fourths of patients did not receive any follow-up evaluation within 48 hours.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130501/NEWS/305010009

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Mortgages top list of troops’ consumer complaints

May. 1, 2013 -By Karen Jowers Staff writer

Half of the complaints last year to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from service members and veterans were related to mortgage problems, according to an analysis from the bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs.

The trend of complaints for troops, veterans and their families closely matches that of overall complaints to the bureau. Yet service members often face different challenges from their civilian counterparts because of frequent moves, deployments and other issues.

“I’d like to have more complaints in there before we start drawing conclusions,” said Holly Petraeus, the CFPB’s assistant director for the Office of Servicemember Affairs. “With more complaints, maybe their profile won’t be the same.”

In 2012, the bureau received 3,455 complaints from service members, veterans and their families, representing about 4 percent of the 91,000 complaints submitted to the bureau. Since the bureau first started accepting complaints in July 2011, about 5,000 were submitted by troops, veterans and families, or about 5 percent of the 104,000 consumer complaints.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130501/BENEFITS02/305010007

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Veterans in Congress call on Obama to shake up the VA

By Susan Crabtree – The Washington Times  April 25, 2013

A bipartisan group of more than two dozen House members, all of whom are military veterans or actively serving in the National Guard, sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday, urging him to take steps to quickly reduce the embarrassing backlog of benefit claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The backlog of claims is staggering and the steady stream of complaints is indicative of a system that lacks efficiency,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Marine Corps. “If VA leadership is unwilling to initiate the improvements and changes needed to restore confidence and trust, then the president has the responsibility to take action.”

Mr. Hunter has been harshly critical of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, penning an op-ed article with Concerned Veterans of America President Pete Hegseth earlier this month that called on Mr. Shinseki to resign his post.

Continue reading:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2013/apr/25/veterans-congress-call-obama-shake-va/

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Senators urge Obama to help resolve veterans claims backlog

Posted by Steve Vogel on April 29, 2013

 

President Obama greets members of the military during a ceremony to welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House on April 17. (Carolyn Kaster/AP).

A letter signed by a bipartisan group of 67 senators was sent to the White House Monday urging President Obama to take direct action in resolving the backlog of veterans disability claims.

“We need direct and public involvement from you to establish a clear plan to end the backlog once and for all,” states the letter to Obama, which was put together by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Dean Heller, (R-Nev.) and signed by more than two-thirds of Senate members.

The number of disability claims pending with the Department of Veterans Affairs is nearly 900,000, with more than 600,000 in the system for more than 125 days.

Continue reading: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/04/29/senators-urge-obama-to-help-resolve-veterans-claims-backlog/

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White House musters U.S. firms to hire veterans, spouses

By Zachary A. Goldfarb,  Apr 30, 2013  The Washington Post

The White House announced a significant new effort Tuesday to reduce unemployment and improve job prospects among veterans, enlisting the support of U.S. companies to hire 435,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.

Retail giant Wal-Mart, the Blackstone private-equity firm and shipper UPS are among the major American brands that are committing to hiring hundreds of thousands of veterans and spouses, officials said. Wal-Mart previously announced that it would find a job for any veteran discharged honorably in the year he or she leaves the service.

About 1 million new veterans are expected to enter the labor force in the coming years with the end of the war in Iraq and the ongoing withdrawal from Afghanistan. But many veterans are having a tough time finding jobs.

Continue reading:   http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-musters-us-firms-to-hire-veterans-spouses/2013/04/30/c86e81a0-b1ca-11e2-9a98-4be1688d7d84_story.html

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When It Comes to Using Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits, Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

by Ron Kness on April 30, 2013

Every day, I get emails from frustrated veterans trying to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you have been using your veteran education benefits for any time at all, then you know that it can take the VA eight to ten weeks to deposit your first monthly housing allowance payment into your account or for it to show up in your mail box.

In defense of the VA, they are getting better. Since implementing their Long-Term Solution software package, the wait time has dropped. According to VA itself, the average original claim (what you submit when first applying for GI Bill) eligibility wait time is 24 days. However, that doesn’t mean you will see your money in 24 days, but it does get you past the first hurdle – if you are eligible for benefits or not. If you submit a supplemental claim, (a claim after you are already in their system), the wait time is down to six days. http://www.vabenefitblog.com/when-it-comes-to-using-post-911-gi-bill-benefits-are-you-your-own-worst-enemy/

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Career-long mental health assessments proposed

Apr. 30, 2013 By Rick Maze Staff writer

An Indiana lawmaker wants to expand military suicide prevention programs to include an annual mental health assessment for active and reserve members, with reports from supervisors about any relationship or financial issues that might trigger stress or suicidal tendencies.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is calling his proposal the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, named for an Indiana National Guard specialist who took his own life in 2009 while on leave from a deployment to Afghanistan.

The bill, S 810, is the first piece of legislation introduced by the newly elected Donnelly.

Donnelly said he wants to build a mental health system that will help prevent suicide even after deployments.

The current mental health system relies “on a service member’s or veteran’s willingness to self-report suicidal thoughts and to seek out assistance,” he said. “The backup to this system is if family members, peers or co-workers identify changes in behavior and then recommend their loved one or friend seek assistance.”

This did not work for the 21-year-old Sexton, who shot himself in the head at a movie theater while sitting with friends and family. “His death came as a shock to his family and his friends, as well as his fellow Guard members,” said Donnelly. “We have lost far too many men and women such as Jacob.”

Under his proposal, referred to the armed services committee for consideration, an annual mental health assessment questionnaire would be added to the annual physical as part of a pilot program.

In addition to the questionnaire, Donnelly wants input from a service member’s immediate supervisor who “may be aware of relationships or financial problems but not be able to address them unless the service member speaks up.”

“Sometimes these problems affect performance,” Donnelly said. “The supervisor’s input would help identify potential triggers for stress and suicidal tendencies or problems in work performance.”

The questionnaire and the supervisor’s report would be reviewed by mental health professionals, he said. “If problems or risk factors are identified, service members would be referred to behavioral health specialists.”

The idea is to build a system “that monitors the member from induction to transition to veteran status,” and produce a record that a member could take with him after military service.

“It could help inform any future claims for veterans’ benefits,” Donnelly said.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130430/BENEFITS06/304300011

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Companies honored for hiring and supporting veterans

By Herb Weisbaum, NBC News contributor

We know the problem: the jobless rate for military members who have served our country since 9/11 is significantly higher than the general population.

Each year, the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit and non-partisan research organization, honors companies that have gone the extra mile to help vets as they return to the civilian workplace.

The winners of the Work Life Legacy Military Awards for 2013: Cornell University, JPMorgan Chase, Merck and Verizon Communications.

“Each of these companies has generated a holistic approach by recruiting, hiring and training vets and giving them a path inside their organizations to sustain employment and create a bright future,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, USN (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a member of the institute’s board.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/25/17913522-companies-honored-for-hiring-and-supporting-veterans

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Veterans Affairs Department last week established a hotline exclusively for women to answer questions about services like health care, education benefits and claims.

The call center — at 1-855-VA-WOMEN, or 1-855-829-6636 — is staffed with VA employees to provide information on VA resources and referrals to homeless veterans services, mental health care and Vet Centers, according to VA.

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The following posted 4/29/13

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Blue water’ Navy veterans’ long waits often end in denials at VA

By Beena Raghavendran | McClatchy Newspapers • Published April 19, 2013

By Beena Raghavendran McClatchy Newspapers

Bauman, of Baltimore, remembers the orange-striped barrels sitting on a pier off Subic Bay in the Philippines. He’s convinced that they were filled with Agent Orange that leaked into the water where he and his fellow sailors went swimming.

Now 65, Bauman has diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, colorectal cancer and essential tremor. He blames the orange-striped barrels, but he hasn’t received disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA grants benefits only to Agent Orange-exposed veterans who served on the ground or in the rivers of Vietnam. Bauman and his fellow sailors – known as blue water Navy veterans – served off the coast of Vietnam and aren’t covered.

The fight between veterans such as Bauman and the VA has resulted in a cycle of denied claims and a lack of benefits for the majority of blue water veterans that can stretch several years, advocates say. Legislation to extend compensation to these veterans was introduced in the House of Representatives in February, but getting it through will be difficult: Five previous attempts to secure benefits have been unsuccessful.

Continue reading:  http://www.theolympian.com/2013/03/26/2479113/blue-water-navy-veterans-long.html

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V.A. Aims to Reduce Its Backlog of Claims

By JAMES DAO Published: April 19, 2013

Under pressure to reduce its immense inventory of disability claims for injured and sick veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Friday its plans to process 250,000 claims that are one year or older within the next six months.

The plan calls for regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration to issue so-called provisional rulings on all claims that are one year or older, provided a minimum level of evidence has been submitted to support those claims.

If claims are given provisional approval, veterans will start receiving benefits immediately, said Allison A. Hickey, the under secretary for benefits. Those benefits are based on ratings that quantify the severity of a disability. If veterans believe that their ratings are too low, they will have a year to submit additional information.

Once that year is over, the provisional rating will become final, under the new policy. From then on, veterans will be able to challenge decisions through the existing appeals process, a multilayered bureaucracy that can take years to adjudicate cases.

The 250,000 claims that have been awaiting decisions for one year or longer are part of the department’s backlog, which includes all claims pending for at least 125 days. That backlog is now at 570,000 claims.

Representative Jeff Miller, Republican of Florida, who is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has called for Ms. Hickey’s resignation, and some veterans’ advocates have questioned President Obama’s commitment to veterans because of the department’s inability to tame the backlog.

Continue reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/20/us/veterans-affairs-aims-to-reduce-backlog-of-disability-claims.html?_r=0

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VA’s plan for backlog met with skepticism by veterans

By Gary Peterson  Contra Costa Times  04/19/2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Zacarias Catura is still waiting for a ruling on the disability claim he filed with the Oakland VA upon leaving the Army in 1992, and refiled in 2010. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said Friday that he and other backlogged veterans will be getting an answer soon.

A news release on the VA’s website announced that claims pending longer than one year will be expedited, and veterans will receive provisional decisions based on documentation currently on file. The message was slightly different at Friday’s second annual VA claims Fix-It event, co-sponsored by Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, to address the backlog of claims at the Oakland regional office.

There veterans were told by Speier, Lee and Willie Clark, the VA’s western regional director, that all claims pending two years or longer will be resolved in the next 60 days.

“We want to clear all the one-year cases,” Clark said when asked to reconcile the apparent disconnect between the VA’s release and the information given to frustrated vets gathered at San Francisco’s War Memorial Veterans Building. “But first we start with the 2-year-old cases.”

Continue reading: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_23065662/vas-plan-backlog-met-skepticism-by-veterans

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Trauma Needs Special Treatment

04/23/2013

Although the “D” would have you believe otherwise, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a one-size-fits-all medical condition. A veteran who develops PTSD because of war trauma has a fundamentally different — though equally serious — experience of PTSD than someone who suffers PTSD after a car accident or violent attack. It only follows logically, then, that a veteran would receive different treatment. Right? If only. As more veterans develop PTSD, we must resist the urge to treat this disorder with a cookie cutter solution. Through coaching, we can provide treatment that is tailored to a veteran’s unique war-related trauma and can help our Warriors thrive with their emotions, hearts and souls fully engaged.

The “D” in what is known today as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder came about in 1980, when the American Psychiatric Association first classified PTSD as an anxiety disorder. This designation is undoubtedly a good thing: it’s paved the way for funding and treatment options for the millions of veterans and non-veterans living with these invisible wounds. It also has legitimized the significant struggles of people with PTSD and reaffirmed to the world that this disorder is not merely a case of someone having a rough time coping. The medical seriousness of PTSD is crucial to understanding how to react to and treat this condition. However, let’s not forget that there’s another important element to the PTSD equation: the human one. PTSD has numerous physical and biological manifestations, but it also affects the heart and soul. Our treatment should embrace these parts of the veteran, not shun them.

Continue reading:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-cypers-kamen-ma/veterans-ptsd_b_3102923.html

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Female veterans have a new number to call for help

April 23, 2013

Female veterans have a new hotline to call to make sure they’re getting the benefits they’ve earned.

The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced the launch of the toll-free line at 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636).

“Some women Veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”

As I’ve written, the VA has been trying to ramp up to deal with the unprecedented number of women serving in the military and now becoming veterans.

Women make up nearly 15 percent of the active-duty military and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserves. The VA says the number of women using VA health care has more than doubled from nearly 160,000 in 2000 to more than 354,000 in 2012 and is expected to continue rising.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_swarm/2013/04/female-veterans-have-a-new-num.html#storylink=cpy

http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_swarm/2013/04/female-veterans-have-a-new-num.html

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Companies honored for hiring and supporting veterans

By Herb Weisbaum, NBC News contributor

We know the problem: the jobless rate for military members who have served our country since 9/11 is significantly higher than the general population.

Each year, the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit and non-partisan research organization, honors companies that have gone the extra mile to help vets as they return to the civilian workplace.

The winners of the Work Life Legacy Military Awards for 2013: Cornell University, JPMorgan Chase, Merck and Verizon Communications.

“Each of these companies has generated a holistic approach by recruiting, hiring and training vets and giving them a path inside their organizations to sustain employment and create a bright future,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, USN (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a member of the institute’s board.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/25/17913522-companies-honored-for-hiring-and-supporting-veterans

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V.A. to expedite veterans’ disability claims

By Steve Benen   Apr 19, 2013

Those who watch the show regularly know we’ve been keeping a close eye on the crushing backlog of veterans’ disability claims, causing turmoil in the lives of hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families. Today, there was an important announcement on the ongoing controversy.

Veterans waiting more than a year for a decision on their disability claims are moving to the front of the line, under a new program announced Friday.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is responding to criticism about the soaring number of claims that have been pending for longer than 125 days. The VA said that of the nearly 900,000 claims pending in the system, some 250,000 are from veterans who have been waiting at least a year for a decision.

Veterans receive disability compensation for injuries and illness incurred or aggravated during their active military service. The amount of the compensation is based on a rating assigned by the VA.

Continue reading:  http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/04/19/17828620-va-to-expedite-veterans-disability-claims?lite

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Veterans Affairs proposes change to its own rule to improve and continue health care

A longstanding department regulation says that veterans who miss two appointments without giving a 24-hour notice and an excuse ‘is deemed to have refused VA medical care,’ but critics say the law is unfair an affects homeless veterans and those with mental disorders.

BY JAMES WARREN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS APRIL 23, 2013,

Right now, if a veteran misses two appointments without giving a 24-hour notice and an excuse ‘is deemed to have refused VA medical care,’ but that could change under a new proposal by the VA.

WASHINGTON – Military veterans, like everybody else, miss doctor appointments. But the consequences of doing so, even for those wounded on the battlefield, can be extreme —the loss of health care.

That would belatedly change under a new proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A longstanding department regulation states that a veteran who misses two appointments without giving 24 hours notice and a reasonable excuse “is deemed to have refused VA medical care.”

That designation makes a veteran ineligible for further treatment — except in emergency situations or if the veteran agrees to keeps all future appointments.

The old law was criticized by veteran groups because it is seen as unnecessarily harsh, especially for homeless veterans and those with mental health issues.

But veterans groups have long complained that the policy is unnecessarily harsh, especially for homeless veterans and those with mental health issues.

In what constitutes rare contrition by a government bureaucracy, the department concedes that the regulation is “inconsistent with VA’s patient-centered approach to medical care.”

That’s especially true, it admits, for those who rely on the VA as their main source of medical care and those with service-connected disabilities.

“We propose to remove this regulation because denying follow-up medical treatment for even a short period can interfere with continuity and coordination of care, and the punitive nature of the regulation could have a negative impact on the therapeutic relationship,” the department says.

The public has until June 14 to comment on the plan. Presumably, it would not generate many objections and go into effect soon after.

jwarren@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/va-proposes-rule-change-improve-continue-vet-care-article-1.1325682#ixzz2RW5Ef1fm

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/va-proposes-rule-change-improve-continue-vet-care-article-1.1325682

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VA to Expedite Claims Decisions for Veterans Who Have Waited a Year or More

April 19, 2013

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today it is implementing an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have waited one year or longer. Effective today, VA claims raters will make provisional decisions on the oldest claims in inventory, which will allow Veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits more quickly, if eligible. Veterans will be able to submit additional evidence for consideration a full year after the provisional rating, before VA issues a final decision.

“Too many Veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog in 2015. This initiative is the right thing to do now for Veterans who have waited the longest.”

Provisional decisions will be based on all evidence provided to date by the Veteran or obtained on their behalf by VA. If a VA medical examination is needed to decide the claim, it will be ordered and expedited.

“Issuing provisional decisions not only provides Veterans with applicable benefits much more quickly, but also gives them an additional one-year safety net to submit further evidence should it become available. Our door will remain open and if a Veteran has additional evidence, their case will be fast tracked,” said Allison Hickey, Undersecretary for Benefits.

Continue reading:  http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2436

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How Veterans Can Improve Their Employability

04/25/2013

Military veterans often struggle to find employment after completing their service for a number of cultural and socioeconomic reasons. But keen job search techniques can help veterans to snag a job when transferring back into civilian life.

Since the recession of 2008, workers across the U.S. have been struggling to find and keep jobs, but military vets have been hit just as hard as domestic workers when it comes to finding meaningful employment.

The unemployment rates for veterans is slightly higher than the national average, which is hovering at 7.6 percent. In 2012, the overall unemployment rate for military veterans was 9.9 percent.

Continue reading:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sudy-bharadwaj/veterans-employment_b_3148591.html

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VA launches new hotline for women veterans

Apr. 29, 2013 By Patricia Kime

As part of an ongoing campaign to appeal to female veterans, the Veterans Affairs Department last week established a hotline exclusively for women to answer questions about services like health care, education benefits and claims.

The call center — at 1-855-VA-WOMEN, or 1-855-829-6636 — is staffed with VA employees to provide information on VA resources and referrals to homeless veterans services, mental health care and Vet Centers, according to VA.

“Some women veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said April 23. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”

VA has battled ongoing communications and image problems with female veterans, who often don’t pursue VA benefits because they perceive the department as male-centric.

Since 2011, VA has launched several initiatives to educate women on improvements made at VA to serve them, such as broadening women’s health services at medical centers, adding emergency services to fit their needs and launching an education campaign to change VA employees’ perceptions of female veterans.

Its Women Veterans Call Center initially was launched in June 2011 to contact each of the nation’s 1.8 million female veterans to inform them about available services and benefits.

After the call center was established, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., pushed VA to widen its mission to include receiving incoming calls. On April 23, she issued a statement praising the change.

“This is a critical resource in order to make sure women veterans can get the information they need in order to access the VA health care and benefits they have earned,” Murray said.

The number of women using VA benefits has doubled in the past 12 years, from 160,000 in 2000 to 354,000 in 2012, and VA officials believe the figure “will keep climbing.”

“Many women who served don’t self-identify as veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits. We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women,” said VA Center for Women Veterans Director Irene Trowell-Harris.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130429/BENEFITS04/304290020

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The following posted 4/23/13

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VA announces move to quickly reduce backlog

Apr. 19, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to quickly eliminate its backlog of older disability claims by assigning provisional ratings that take shortcuts in the normal approval process.

About 250,000 claims pending for more than a year will be handled in this unprecedented fashion under a plan announced April 19 by VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey that could put money in the pockets of veterans within months.

In the short term, Hickey said, the current average processing time for claims, 286 days, may rise, but she predicted a dramatic drop in the pile of about 804,000 pending disability compensation claims. About 570,000 pending claims are older than VA’s 125-day goal, but only about 250,000 are older than a year or more, VA spokesman Josh Taylor said.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130419/BENEFITS04/304190015

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The following posted 4/19/13

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Veterans May Need Help Finding a Job

January 21, 2013

Many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have returned to the United States to find a challenging work situation at home. The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 10.8% in December 2012 – which is an improvement from 13.1% in December 2011 – but still is high. Veterans may need help finding a job for different reasons like difficulties with credentials, injuries, or emotional difficulties. Fortunately there are some resources to help.

VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011

The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 offers employers tax credits for hiring veterans; the tax credits are increased for employing service-disabled veterans. The act also allows transitioning service people to utilize the Transition Assistance Program with career counseling and resume writing workshops. The act also helps vets apply for jobs with other branches of the federal government.

Hiring Our Heroes Program

The US Chamber of Commerce launched an initiative in March 2011 to help veterans and their spouses find jobs. The organization holds job fairs throughout the country with many large corporations and local companies participating. There are also several workshops that can help the veteran looking for a job create a brand and guide the veterans through other employment and educational choices. The Chamber also started a program specifically to help military spouses find jobs, network, and build careers.

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program

Through the VOW act, vets are also able to get additional funds for more education and training through local vocational programs or community colleges. The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program is a training program for unemployed veterans who want to get training for jobs in high-demand fields. These fields include computer support specialist, general manager, and air conditioning mechanic and installer. The program plans to retrain 54,000 veterans in 2013.

Other Programs to Help Vets Get Jobs

Other organizations besides the federal and state governments are also helping veterans find a job. Wal-Mart has just announced a plan to hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years; these veterans will have to have been honorably discharged from the service on or after January 15th. The bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. and more than 75 other companies have created a program to hire 100,000 veterans by 2020 called the 100,000 Jobs Mission. This program also helps veterans match skill sets and identify educational needs.

These programs and services can help the unemployed veteran’s job search a little easier.

http://gethiredfast.com/2013/01/veterans-may-need-help-finding-a-job/

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Senator seeks expansion of survivor benefits

Apr. 16, 2013   By Rick Maze, Staff writer

The new chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee believes many military survivors are struggling financially and is making a priority of improving their benefits.

About 350,000 surviving spouses and minor children receive survivor benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department, but 44 percent of the spouses are living on incomes of less than $20,000 a year, according to the committee.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who became committee chairman earlier this year, said that’s not good enough.

“Low-income survivors are at a disadvantage when it comes to re-establishing stability for their families, but their challenges are shared by survivors of all income levels,” Sanders said in a statement. “Men and women who gave their lives in war or as a result of service to this country have left behind loved ones who deserve a grateful nation’s support.”

He is proposing the Survivor Benefit Improvement Act of 2013, a measure that would expand federal benefits at a time when most people in Congress are looking for ways to cut spending.

The bill would:

• Provide grief counseling in retreat settings to survivors whose spouses died while on active duty. Child care would be included.

• Change remarriage rules so that survivors who remarry can continue receiving benefits under the same rules that apply to other federal benefits. Current rules cancel benefits for a spouse who remarries before age 57, but allow benefits to be restarted if the marriage ends. The bill would change the age to 55.

• Extends supplemental payments to survivors with children for five years after the veteran’s death instead of the current two.

• Expands benefits for children with Agent Orange-related spina bifida to include those whose parent or parents served in Thailand. Current benefits are limited to children of Vietnam veterans.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130416/NEWS/304160021

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DoD chastised for role in VA claims backlog

Apr. 16, 2013

Under fire from Congress for the Defense Department’s contributing role in the Veterans Affairs Department’s disability claims morass, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told House lawmakers Tuesday that DoD is “restructuring” relevant offices and responsibilities to ensure quicker delivery of medical records to VA.

Promising an announcement of the changes within 30 days, Hagel acknowledged that the delay in electronic transfer of military medical records to VA is indefensible.

“We’re way behind. We will do better,” Hagel told members of the House defense appropriations panel.

The Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees sent letters to Hagel this month pressing for DoD and VA to adhere to a plan to improve the disability claims process by speeding records transfers to VA.

That plan, signed in February, requires DoD to hand over service treatment records to VA “immediately” and establish an electronics transfer capability for the records by the end of the year.

But the lawmakers noted that in some cases, veterans’ disability claims remain delayed because it takes up to 175 days for VA to receive complete records from the DoD.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130416/BENEFITS04/304160024

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Auditors find low enrollment in vets jobs program

Apr. 16, 2013

WASHINGTON — Federal auditors say a job-training program designed to help veterans re-enter the workforce has more than 60,000 empty slots, left unfilled despite efforts to reduce the jobless rate among veterans.

The program is geared toward unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60. It covers up to one year of tuition for training in high-demand jobs at local community or technical colleges.

In all, Congress allowed for up to 99,000 participants, and the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs found that only about a third of the slots were being used. The program is just one of a range of education benefits for veterans. Most of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan qualify for one of the others, so they’re not eligible for this particular program.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130416/NEWS/304160033

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Nearly two-thirds of slots in veterans job-training program still unfilled

By Associated Press, Apr 17, 2013

WASHINGTON — Federal auditors say a job-training program designed to help veterans re-enter the workforce has more than 60,000 empty slots, left unfilled despite efforts to reduce the jobless rate among veterans.

The program is geared toward unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60. It covers up to one year of tuition for training in high-demand jobs at local community or technical colleges.

In all, Congress allowed for up to 99,000 participants, and the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs found that only about a third of the slots were being used. The program is just one of a range of education benefits for veterans. Most of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan qualify for one of the others, so they’re not eligible for this particular program.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/report-nearly-two-thirds-of-slots-in-veterans-job-training-program-still-unfilled/2013/04/16/8b57ae68-a6e9-11e2-9e1c-bb0fb0c2edd9_story.html

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Congress more willing to cut military pay raises, benefits

Apr. 17, 2013 By Rick Maze, Staff writer

The Defense Department’s plans to slow military pay growth and increase Tricare fees may have become less objectionable to Congress in a time of tight budgets.

At a Wednesday hearing, leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel said they were not pleased with the notion of saving money by reducing benefits — but also did not say they would oppose the plans.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the personnel panel chairwoman, said it was “regrettable” that the proposed 1 percent basic pay raise for Jan. 1, 2014, would be less than the average private-sector increase and added that she is “skeptical” about Tricare fee hikes aimed mostly at working-age retirees.

Gillibrand, who took over the subcommittee in January, acknowledged the Pentagon was forced by budgetary constraints to make “difficult choices” on the budget.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130417/NEWS/304170023

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Court Reporters Help Record Veterans’ Stories

By NAPS,   North American Precis Syndicate  Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013

(NAPSI)—Once again, court reporters are making sure that the stories of America’s veterans are recorded for future generations.

2013 marks the tenth consecutive year that the Veterans History Project (VHP) has worked with the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) and the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).

The mission of the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is to collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

U.S. Representative Ron Kind (WI-3) proposed the Veterans History Project after interviewing veterans in his own family at a reunion. His wife, Tawni, a court reporter, knew that transcriptions would ensure the accessibility of interview content.

Continue reading:  http://www.theshoalsnews.com/ara/money_and_finance/38d9c099-4c23-563c-9389-0cf498149c40.txt

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Audit of Oklahoma veterans agency uncovers problems

By By Sean Murphy / Associated Press Posted on April 18, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs lacks proper supervision and oversight of its seven facilities across the state, its workers are chronically underpaid and its governing board has done a poor job managing the agency, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

The 59-page audit, which involved a five-month review of the agency’s operations, was requested by Gov. Mary Fallin in August after the scalding death of a veteran at a facility in Claremore and other allegations of patient abuse and neglect.

“The agency relies on the center administrators to operate the veterans’ centers, but lacks integrated supervision and oversight necessary to ensure the centers have positive working environments and sufficient resources to provide that excellent quality care to the residents,” the audit states. “This places the veterans center residents’ well-being at risk.”

About 1,400 war veterans live at seven veterans’ centers located in Ardmore, Claremore, Clinton, Lawton, Norman, Sulphur and Talihina. The agency employs about 2,000 state workers, said agency spokesman Shane Faulkner.

Continue reading:   http://www.americanhomecomings.com/news/2013/04/18/audit-of-oklahoma-veterans-agency-uncovers-problems/

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100,000 Jobs Mission Announces 64,628 U.S. Veterans Hired Through First Quarter 2013

Coalition Grows to 101 Companies; Hosts Major Hiring Event in Dallas

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 17, 2013–

The 100,000 Jobs Mission announced today that its member companies have collectively hired 64,628 U.S. military veterans through the first quarter of 2013. This private sector initiative was launched in early 2011 by JPMorgan Chase and ten other companies with the goal to collectively hire at least 100,000 veterans by 2020. In two years, the 100,000 Jobs Mission has grown to 101 companies and has evolved into a sustainable initiative to hire veterans and share best practices.

As part of their hiring initiatives, JPMorgan Chase and the 100,000 Jobs Mission sponsored a major hiring event last week in Dallas for more than 2,100 U.S. military veterans, transitioning service members, Guard and Reserve members and military spouses. More than 125 employers attended the event representing diverse industries from technology, energy and retail to financial services, defense and telecommunications. The hiring event model used by the 100,000 Jobs Mission differs from a traditional job fair in that hiring managers are on site to interview candidates and make contingent job offers on the spot. And that was true for the Dallas hiring event where more than 980 interviews were conducted and more than 100 contingent offers were made that day — and more are expected in the coming weeks.

Continue reading:  http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130417-911621.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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Nonprofit Benefiting Disabled Veterans Seeks Partners at B4B

Corporate Partnerships with Our Forgotten Warriors will Help Injured Soldiers Access Disability Benefits and Other Resources For Disabled Veterans

LACEY, Wash., April 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Our Forgotten Warriors (OFW) doesn’t forget–and the Satterberg Foundation with Business4Better (B4B) want to help corporate America discover this organization’s unwavering commitment to injured and disabled veterans and service members. Making this possible were two awards to OFW: one for $5,000 from the Satterberg Foundation and the other for $15,000 of waived conference expenses by the organizers of B4B. “The significance of this opportunity cannot be understated,” explains co-founder and executive director, Carol Blake. “There is no other organization in the country that provides direct financial support and human intervention services comparable to Our Forgotten Warriors.” Thanks to these generosities, OFW will attend the Anaheim, CA Business4Better conference and expo, May 1-2, 2013.

Continue reading:   http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130417-913172.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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Pittsburgh area veterans hit hard by backlog of claims

April 16, 2013 By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — More than 866,000 veterans nationwide are awaiting disability benefits, and processing is taking an average of 9.5 months.

The wait is even longer in the Pittsburgh region, which is home to more veterans than almost anywhere else in the country.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said help is on the way thanks to better training and new technology, but lawmakers in Washington are skeptical he will be able to fulfill a promise to clear the backlog by 2015.

“The situation is worse today than it ever has been before,” said Florida Republican Jeff Miller last week during a hearing of the House Armed Services committee, which he chairs. “Most committee members here are very tired of the excuses we keep hearing.”

Mr. Shinseki said the backlog is the result of increased demand over a decade at war. Many veterans are returning from deployments with severe, complex injuries, he said during several hearings in Washington, including one Monday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Continue reading:  http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/pittsburgh-area-veterans-hit-hard-by-backlog-of-claims-683627/

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Veterans’ claims for benefits delayed by crushing VA backlog

By Gary Peterson  Contra Costa Times, Mark Emmons   San Jose Mercury News

Posted: 04/16/2013

William Kasten’s disability claim has languished at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Oakland Regional Office for more than 700 days. But the Livermore man is more concerned with another number: $140. That is the sum of his family’s savings.

Kasten suffers debilitating back pain and depression stemming from his Coast Guard service and can no longer work. He has lost two homes to foreclosure and had a car repossessed — all while waiting for help from a VA bureaucracy drowning in red tape.

He is caught in a crushing backlog of claims affecting veterans of all generations, but falling most heavily on post-9/11 vets who are returning to civilian life with physical and mental disabilities.

Continue reading:  http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_23039480/veterans-claims-benefits-delayed-by-crushing-va-backlog

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VA still prescribing tranquilizers to veterans with PTSD, despite warnings

Published April 09, 2013   FoxNews.com

Veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are still being prescribed tranquilizers – such as Valium and Xanax – by doctors from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Stars and Stripes reported.

This practice, however, is in direct contrast to VA guidelines, which advise against tranquilizer use for this purpose. According to Dr. Nancy Bernardy, a psychologist for the VA’s National Center for PTSD, the number of veterans being treated by the VA for PTSD has increased three-fold over the past decade, up to around 500,000 patients in 2009.

Continue reading:  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/04/09/va-still-prescribing-tranquilizers-to-veterans-with-ptsd-despite-warnings/

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Mindfulness Practice in the Treatment of Traumatic Stress

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a way of thinking and focusing that can help you become more aware of your present experiences. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as noticing the taste of a mint on your tongue. There are some things you might do every day without even thinking about them, like brushing your teeth in the morning. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the feelings and sensations of these experiences.

While researchers have not yet studied the effects of mindfulness practice in helping trauma survivors diagnosed with PTSD, research has shown mindfulness to be helpful with other anxiety problems. It has also been shown to help with symptoms of PTSD such as avoidance and hyperarousal. If you have gone through trauma, you may want to learn what mindfulness is and how it might be helpful to you.

Continue reading: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/mindful-ptsd.asp

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The following posted 4/14/13

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Army vet struggles with PTSD behind bars

Apr. 13, 2013

DECATUR, Ind. — The tattoo on the inside of Justin York’s left arm is hard to discern. Glancing at it one way, you can see the word “Life.” If you look at it another way, it reads “Death.”

If you look at it without knowing how to read it, it looks like an ornate, inky blue blur.

Life and death blurred together for the 25-year-old U.S. Army veteran to such a degree that he left his beloved Army with an extreme rating for post-traumatic stress disorder, making him unable to continue wearing the uniform.

Now he finds himself trapped inside an Adams County Jail cell, in an unwanted uniform of a different color.

Arrested in late December on a felony charge of resisting law enforcement with a weapon, York is desperate to get out, to get the charge reduced to the misdemeanor he feels is more appropriate and to get back to treatment for his PTSD.

In the four months he’s been in the small windowless cell in the jail, York’s symptoms have raged back — with auditory hallucinations of people crying out in pain or yelling his name. His wiry physical frame practically hums with the rage he’s trying to contain — anger at the system that has put him somewhere he does not believe he belongs and his inability to get free of it.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130413/NEWS/304130017

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5 Common PTSD Misconceptions

Posted by Levi Newman

A common misconception about post-traumatic stress disorder is that it only occurs in service members or veterans that have experienced the horrors of war. According to the National Center for PTSD, that simply isn’t true.

7 to 8 percent of the general American population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. That means that in the United States there are approximately 5.2 million adults with PTSD at any given time.

How PTSD Happens

But the sad truth is that PTSD is quite common in military veterans. If you live and work in a constant state of stress (such as combat) you’re never giving your body or your mind the ample time it needs to digest and process what you’re experiencing. It’s this weakening of the senses that allows you to become overwhelmed when you’re subjected to an intense, immediate event. It’s like sweltering through a 110-degree summer and then deciding to jump head first into an ice bath.

When you’ve served in a combat zone, the emotional changes that occur can be substantial. Roughly 30 percent of veterans from the Vietnam era require treatment for PTSD or depression symptoms. Even by today’s standards, 1 in 5 service members returning from service in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer the same mal-effects.

Continue reading:  http://www.veteransunited.com/network/the-5-biggest-ptsd-misconceptions/

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Veterans Affairs Officials Offer Reassurance About Troubled Hospital

James Patterson for The New York Times  Published: April 3, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. — Senior officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Wednesday that they have begun taking steps to fix problems at an embattled veterans medical center here, including hiring new senior leadership, adding primary care doctors and reviewing X-rays and CT scans that might have been misread several years ago.

“There’s been some negative publicity,” Joe D. Battle, the medical center director, said during a public meeting called after recent reports of problems at the hospital. “We’re working to change that.”

But his and other officials’ assurances did not go over well with some of the veterans in the packed auditorium near the Capitol here, drawing skeptical questions and a few catcalls.

“You have built yourself up so good,” Charles Robinson, a Marine Corps veteran, scolded the officials during the meeting. “The things you are saying is actually not true. Your clinics, and especially your blue clinic, it’s the pits. It’s the garbage.”

The blue clinic is one of the primary care clinics that treat veterans seeking basic care. Mr. Robinson said patients routinely wait five hours to see doctors, or more likely nurses, at the clinic, even when they have scheduled appointments.

Continue reading:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/us/veterans-affairs-officials-offer-reassurance-about-troubled-hospital.html

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Veterans groups divided over claims backlog, VA leadership

With the backlog of compensation claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs having ballooned in recent years, one would expect major veterans service organizations to be among the VA’s harshest critics.

TOM PHILPOTT  Published: April 6, 2013

With the backlog of compensa-tion claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs having ballooned in recent years, one would expect major veterans service organizations to be among the VA’s harshest critics.

If so, they would join a rising chorus. Network news programs have turned cameras and commentary on the mountain of 598,000 overdue claim decisions pending, suggesting bureaucratic neglect of returning ill and injured vets from Iraq and Afghanistan. Time magazine columnist Joe Klein even asked VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

One veteran association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says the administration isn’t doing near enough to end the backlog with its average wait, from filing to decision, now at 273 days and some veterans in the largest cities reportedly waiting more than 600 days.

Continue reading: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/04/06/2545670/veterans-groups-divided-over-claims.html

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Veterans’ Programs Are Set for Raise in Spending Plan

By JAMES DAO  Published: April 5, 2013

WASHINGTON — Facing growing criticism from Congress, veterans’ groups and even late-night television hosts, the Obama administration announced on Friday that it would include significant increases for veterans’ programs, including money for mental health services, in the budget it unveils next week.

The president’s budget for the 2014 fiscal year will include $63.5 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a 4 percent increase over the current budget, said Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff.

The spending plan calls for a 13.6 percent increase in discretionary spending, to $2.5 billion, for the Veterans Benefits Administration, the embattled agency within the department that oversees benefit programs, including education and disability compensation programs. And it will include $7 billion for mental health services, a 7 percent increase.

Continue reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/06/us/administration-to-increase-spending-on-veterans-programs.html?_r=0

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The Arts: A Promising Solution to Meeting the Challenges of Today’s Military

‎‎April ‎10, ‎2013

On November 15, 2012, a group of concerned and dedicated military, government, private sector, and nonprofit leaders gathered at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC for the Arts & Health in the Military National Roundtable.

The Roundtable represented the second step in the ongoing development of the multi-year National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military, a collaborative effort to advance the arts in health, healing, and healthcare for military service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers.

Continue reading:  http://blog.artsusa.org/2013/04/10/the-arts-a-promising-solution-to-meeting-the-challenges-of-todays-military/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+afta%2Fblog+%28Americans+for+the+Arts+%7C+Blog%29

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Can Washington get vets off the streets? Tens of thousands homeless despite billions in spending

Mar 29, 2013 Jim Seida / NBC News

“I had seen some stuff that I probably would have never seen before in life had I not been in Marine Corps, some good stuff and some stuff I just don’t care to think about anymore,” said Iraq War veteran Eric Swinney, seen here outside his room at Grand Veterans Village in Phoenix.

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Despite funding that has reached $5.8 billion annually and a slew of innovative community partnerships, the Obama administration is lagging in its goal to end homelessness among veterans – or, as federal veterans’ leaders like to say, “drive to zero” – by the end of 2015.

If the current rate of progress is maintained, roughly 45,000 veterans would still be without homes when the deadline passes — a big improvement since the drive was launched but also evidence of how difficult it is to eradicate the problem.

“I don’t truly think you can end homelessness,” said John Scott, who heads the Phoenix office of U.S. Vets, a national, nonprofit service provider to homeless and at-risk veterans that receives some federal funding. “Things happen that can precipitate homelessness for anyone, and it can happen quite rapidly. However, we can effect change in veterans who have been chronically homeless.”

Continue reading: http://inplainsight.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/29/17503141-can-washington-get-vets-off-the-streets-tens-of-thousands-homeless-despite-billions-in-spending

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U.S.VETS-Prescott provides housing and supportive services to homeless and at-risk veterans. They are proud to announce an expansion to their permanent housing program, which includes eight 1-bedroom apartments for single veterans and three 2-bedroom apartments for veteran families. They are now accepting applications for these units. Rent based on 30% of household income. If interested, call Joe Gatens at (928) 445-4860 ext 5906.

Welcome Back Veterans Receives $12.5 Million in Grants

Major League Baseball has announced grants totaling $12.5 million in support of Welcome Back Veterans, an initiative of MLB and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation that helps returning military service members transition to civilian life.

The grants, which include $10 million from MLB and $2.5 million from the McCormick Foundation, will fund the development of new programs and strategies to improve the quality and delivery of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment to veterans and their families, with a particular focus on those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Participating institutions include Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, the University of Michigan, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Duke University, Emory University, UCLA, and Massachusetts General in Boston.

Later this spring, MLB.com Shop will begin selling New Era caps featuring an authentic military digital camouflage design officially licensed from the U.S. Marine Corps, with the proceeds to be donated to Welcome Back Veterans as part of MLB’s $10 million commitment to the initiative.

“Major League Baseball considers it both a privilege and a responsibility to honor and assist our troops in any way we can,” said MLB commissioner Bud Selig. “We are proud to support this initiative, and we ask our fans to join us on Memorial Day and beyond in this effort to raise awareness and funds for this important cause.”

“MLB Donates $10 Million to Welcome Back Veterans.” Major League Baseball Press Release 3/27/13.

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Tim Sheridan works at the VA in the Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Staff (HVSEP) and provides assistance to veterans that are homeless in finding employment. If veterans are enrolled in the VA and are either homeless or served by one of the VA’s homeless programs he will work one-on-one with them in finding employment. If a veteran is not enrolled in VA, but is homeless he will help him or her go through eligibility to be enrolled at the VA.

His contact information is: Timothy.Sheridan@va.gov or 928-445-4860 x5278

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The following posted 3/29/13

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Sens. urge Hagel to help fix claims process

By Rick Maze – Staff writer  Mar 29, 2013

A group of senators from states with large veterans’ populations is appealing to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as a Vietnam veteran to do everything he can to help reduce the backlog of veterans’ disability claims.

Led by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., senators from Florida, New York and Texas are pushing, in particular, for electronic records-sharing between the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments as a way of speeding claims that are, on average, taking more than 300 days to complete for Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans filing their first disability claims.

Electronic records, especially medical records, would not single-handedly eliminate the pile of more than 900,000 pending veterans’ claims, but they would make a dent and smooth the path for faster processing of new claims.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-hagel-VA-claims-senators-032913w/

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MLB donates $10 million to Welcome Back Veterans

By Mark Newman / MLB.com | 3/27/2013

MLB will donate all proceeds from the sale of special caps to be worn on Memorial Day to Welcome Back Veterans.

Amid a planned reduction of 34,000 U.S. military troops in Afghanistan by next February, Major League Baseball on Monday announced an expansion of its efforts to help returning American veterans and their families with a new $10 million donation to Welcome Back Veterans.

Nearing the five-year anniversary of the apolitical organization’s inception, this backing brings MLB’s total commitment to Welcome Back Veterans to $23 million. Welcome Back Veterans is an initiative of MLB Charities and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, helping men and women make a successful transition to civilian life when their service to their country has ended. It is promoted annually on MLB’s biggest stages, including the World Series.

Welcome Back Veterans uses this funding to provide grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with MLB Charities, the McCormick Foundation and Centers of Excellence at university hospitals throughout the country.

The McCormick Foundation will contribute a minimum of $2.5 million in addition to the $10 million donation from MLB. Currently, Welcome Back Veterans is funding programs at Weill Cornell in New York, the University of Michigan, Rush University Medical Center, Duke University, Emory University, UCLA and the Red Sox’s Home Base Program at Mass General Hospital in Boston. These institutions are developing new programs and strategies to improve the quality, quantity and access to PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment for veterans, particularly those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Major League Baseball considers it both a privilege and a responsibility to honor and assist our troops in any way we can,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “We are proud to support this initiative, and we ask our fans to join us on Memorial Day and beyond in this effort to raise awareness and funds for this important cause.”

“We are grateful for Major League Baseball and the caring fans who have stepped up and given generously to support healthcare and research to help veterans successfully return to life with their families and communities,” said David Hiller, president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation.

This season, in addition to wearing “Stars & Stripes” caps on the Fourth of July, all 30 clubs will wear specially designed caps on Memorial Day (May 27) featuring an authentic military digital camouflage design officially licensed from the U.S. Marine Corps. These New Era caps will be available for sale at the MLB.com Shop and clubhouse stores, and MLB Advanced Media and MLB Properties will donate all net proceeds received from sales of the caps to Welcome Back Veterans as part of the overall $10 million donation.

“We as players are extremely proud not only to wear these caps but also to represent and pay our respects to our returning veterans,” Mets third baseman David Wright, who comes from the naval community of Norfolk, Va., said at that introductory news conference announcing Welcome Back Veterans. “Growing up in a military town in Virginia, I have friends and family who have given up their lives to serve a cause. Because of these men and women, I get the opportunity to play a game and live in freedom. I hope we remember these veterans.”

Welcome Back Veterans also addresses needs in partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, with support from MLBAM and MLB Network.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130325&content_id=43295858&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

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Veterans Affairs lauds technology, blames predecessors for 2-year claim wait

Jane C. Timm, @janestreet  03/27/2013

Veterans Affairs’ Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers blamed the previous Veterans Affairs administration for the recently revealed 700-day wait that many veterans face when claiming disability.

The crux of the problem, Sowers said, is that they inherited an inefficient, paper-based claims system.

“Why are we still using paper in 2013?” Morning Joe‘s Mike Barnicle asked.

“Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” Sowers fired back. “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.”

The wait now tops 600 days in many places.

Continue reading:  http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/03/27/veterans-affairs-lauds-technology-blames-predecessors-for-2-year-claim-wait

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Helmets to Hardhats helps veterans return to normal life

Edward Colimore, Inquirer Staff Writer   MARCH 27, 2013

Drew McIlhenny doesn’t talk much about the combat he faced in Iraq or the loss of five fellow Marines during his unit’s deployment to Al Asad in 2006 and 2007.

The Port Richmond man focuses on friendships with service buddies, his young family, and a new civilian job as a sheet metal worker.

Bryan Hummel, a Marine reservist who lives in Erial, Camden County, also concentrates on a sheet metal career – made possible for him and McIlhenny by a national federally funded program, Helmets to Hardhats.

They and thousands of other veterans across the country completed online resumés and profiles, and were fast-tracked to training and jobs in the building and construction industry because of their service.

The help is welcome, considering that the jobless rate among veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq was 10.9 percent in August 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent data. In the wider population of all veterans, the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent; the rate for non-veterans was 7.9 percent.

But Helmets to Hardhats “made the [military-to-civilian] transition easy,” said McIlhenny, 28, a journeyman who builds ductwork and installs heating and air-conditioning units. “You can’t beat the job for the amazing money and benefits.”

Continue reading: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20130327_Helmets_to_Hardhats_helps_veterans_return_to_normal_life.html

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VA’s ability to quickly provide benefits plummets under Obama

Mar 11, 2013  Aaron Glantz

The Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to provide key information to Congress and the public that shows the agency’s ability to quickly provide service-related benefits has virtually collapsed under President Barack Obama.

Internal VA documents, obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting and authenticated by the agency, reveal that delays newly returning veterans face before receiving disability compensation and other benefits are far longer than the agency has publicly acknowledged. The documents also offer insight into some of the reasons for those delays.

The agency tracks and widely reports the average wait time: 273 days. But the internal data indicates that veterans filing their first claim, including those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, wait nearly two months longer, between 316 and 327 days. Those filing for the first time in America’s major population centers wait up to twice as long – 642 days in New York, 619 days in Los Angeles and 542 days in Chicago.

The ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, to 245,000 in December – an increase of more than 2,000 percent.

As a candidate, Obama had promised to revamp a “broken VA bureaucracy,” but the documents reveal that many of the administration’s attempts – including efforts to boost staffing and computerize claims processing – have fallen apart in the implementation. Calls to the White House press office were not returned.

Continue reading:  http://cironline.org/reports/va%E2%80%99s-ability-quickly-provide-benefits-plummets-under-obama-4241

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Congressman calls on top VA official to resign over benefits backlog

Leo Shane III

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers frustrated over worsening waits by veterans for overdue benefits claims have begun targeting Veterans Affairs workers and leaders, saying someone needs to be held accountable.

On Wednesday, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., called for the department’s top benefits administrator, Undersecretary Allison Hickey, to step down over the lack of the improvement in the claims backlog.

Last week, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee threatened to cut off funding to the department’s headquarters staff unless improvements are made. Lawmakers from both committees questioned whether any underperforming employees have been reprimanded or fired for the continued failure of the system.

“There are many people losing patience as we continue to hear the same excuses from VA about increased workload and increased complexity of claims,” Miller said at a hearing Wednesday. “Without better workload or surge capacity planning, I fear that VA is simply one national mission away from complete collapse and utter failure.”

Nearly 900,000 veterans compensation and disability claims are currently pending with the department, and about 630,000 of those have been in the system for more than four months.

That backlog has steadily worsened over the last few years, despite VA promises last summer that the numbers would improve by now and the department’s stated goal of erasing the overdue claims in 2015.

The department processed more than 1 million veterans claims each of the last three years, but still saw the number of overdue files increase.

Continue reading:  http://www.stripes.com/news/congressman-calls-on-top-va-official-to-resign-over-benefits-backlog-1.212589

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VA backlog continues to mount; no clear solutions in sight

ByLeo Shane III

WASHINGTON — VA Secretary Eric Shinseki pledged Tuesday that his department will make progress toward ending the benefits backlog this year. House and Senate leaders promised to tackle the issue in upcoming hearings. Veterans groups are lobbying lawmakers this week on the depth of the problem.

But exactly how anyone can fix the mounting headache remains unclear.

As of last week, the benefits backlog – the number of claims pending for more than 125 days – sat above 600,000 cases, up about 7 percent from a year ago. The average claim takes about 270 days to process.

Department officials have offered a host of solutions over the last year, but have no positive trend to show for it. More claims adjusters, different processing methods and closer coordination with veterans groups have yet to pull down the overdue case numbers.

In a speech before leaders of the American Legion on Tuesday, Shinseki said that the VA has processed more than 4.1 million claims in the last four years, a figure unmatched in department history.

The problem is that VA offices took in 4.6 million claims over that same period, rendering the quicker processing moot.

Continue reading:  http://www.stripes.com/va-backlog-continues-to-mount-no-clear-solutions-in-sight-1.209707

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VA backlog on education payouts at record level

ByLeo Shane III

WASHINGTON – Alan Fitzpatrick filed for his GI Bill benefits in early August, so he knew his checks might be delayed until after the fall semester started. He put aside enough money to make it by for two months, figuring everything would be processed by then.

Now, almost three months later, he’s still wondering where the money is.

“I had to borrow $100 from the school so I could afford gas to get to classes,” said Fitzpatrick, a 23-year-old freshman at Lake Land College in central Illinois. “I know other veterans who put their paperwork in the same time as me, and they got their benefits a month ago. But I’m still waiting.”

Department of Veterans Affairs officials said that education payouts typically see longer delays at the start of the spring and fall semesters, but this year the backlog is worse than ever.

“We’re hearing from a lot of folks who couldn’t pay their first month’s rent because of the problems,” said Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America.

VA officials acknowledged that nearly 58,000 veterans are still waiting for this semester’s enrollments to be processed, but said they hope to finish that work by Nov. 2. Nearly half of those are students attending college on the post-9/11 GI Bill.

According to department statistics, the number of pending education benefits claims spiked to more than 330,000 last month, nearly double what that figure has been for September 2011 and 2010. The total number of unprocessed claims hasn’t dipped below 100,000 since July 2011, and the number of pending post-9/11 GI Bill claims has also been steadily rising since then.

Continue reading: http://www.stripes.com/va-backlog-on-education-payouts-at-record-level-1.194563

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For disabled veterans awaiting benefits decisions, location matters

By Aaron Glantz

If you’re a Northern California veteran who has waited a year for a decision on a war-related disability claim, you might consider a move to South Dakota — where the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs typically responds in less than half the time.

Returning home from Afghanistan to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Atlanta? Veterans who live in Lincoln, Neb., and Fargo, N.D., get their benefits faster.

The geographic inequity of VA wait times is fully detailed for the first time in an analysis by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Simply put: Veterans in sparsely populated states often encounter quick resolution of their compensation claims for problems ranging from back injuries to post-traumatic stress disorder while those in metropolitan areas languish.

Two tours in Iraq left Crystal Colon with a bad back and PTSD. Her second deployment came after her best friend, a fellow soldier, killed himself during training. Colon filed a disability claim with the VA’s Waco, Texas, office in May 2010. But when she moved to Illinois a year later, the agency failed to mail her claim file to Chicago for nearly nine months.

Two years after she filed her claim, Colon is still waiting — and hoping.

“It does a lot to your psyche,” she said.

Continue reading:  http://www.stripes.com/news/waiting-for-help-tracking-veterans-disability-claims/for-disabled-veterans-awaiting-benefits-decisions-location-matters-1.187279

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Backlog of VA disability claims grows despite effort to trim

By Aamer Madhani and Gregg Zoroya

WASHINGTON – Although the Obama administration has stepped up efforts to process medical disability claims by U.S. veterans, a top Department of Veterans Affairs official is set to tell lawmakers Wednesday that the agency’s backlog continues to grow.

Allison Hickey, undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said in written testimony submitted in advance of a hearing before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that the flow of VA claims has increased 48 percent over the past three years.

“Despite unprecedented (Veterans Benefits Administration) claims production — completing over 1 million claims each year for the last two years — VA’s backlog has grown,” Hickey stated in her written testimony to the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

As of mid-June, the VA had 870,000 pending cases; and 66 percent had been pending more than 125 days, according to a special analysis of data cited by Hickey. At the same time last year, the VA was dealing with more than 836,000 claims, with 59 percent pending more than 125 days, according to data on the VA’s website. The VA has set a goal of processing all claims in fewer than 125 days by 2015.

Continue reading:  http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/backlog-of-va-disability-claims-grows-despite-effort-to-trim-1.183213

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VA unveils new process to eliminate backlog; critics await results

ByLeo Shane III

WASHINGTON — Express service is on the way for tens of thousands of pending veterans benefits claims.

Veterans Affairs officials on Wednesday announced plans for a new processing model designed to get through those claims more efficiently, including an “express lane” for simpler or fully documented claims.

The most complicated packets will be turned over to the department’s own version of a special operations team, which will sort through compensation questions for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, prisoner of war status or homelessness.

VA Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey said the changes – combined with new training programs and the completion of a massive claims project related to Agent Orange illnesses – will put the department on track to eliminate the claims backlog by the end of 2015.

Critics remain skeptical of those promises.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Until we see results and not just ink on paper, this is just another announcement.”

The VA has about 884,000 pending compensation and pension claims. Almost two-thirds of those have been waiting for action for more than 125 days, longer than the department’s target.

Hickey said the new segmented-lanes approach to processing claims will help increase both the speed and accuracy of claims specialists, boosting the department’s output by up to 200,000 cases when it’s fully implemented.

Continue reading: http://www.stripes.com/news/va-unveils-new-process-to-eliminate-backlog-critics-await-results-1.182702

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Skeptics doubt VA’s claim of breakthrough on claims backlog

ByLeo Shane III  Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs officials say they’re poised to make a major breakthrough on the department’s massive claims backlog, but skeptical lawmakers and veterans advocates say they’ve heard such proclamations before.

VA officials announced Tuesday that they have all but wrapped up work on Agent Orange disability claims that overwhelmed the processing system over the last two years. Nearly 230,000 of those cases have been reviewed and finalized, and officials said fewer than 500 open cases remain.

The VA had set aside 37 percent of the department’s rating staff and 13 resource centers to deal solely with the Agent Orange cases. With the work finished, officials said, those centers and about 1,200 claims processors will begin dealing with the overall disability and pensions backlog.

More than 911,000 claims remain unprocessed, down from more than 1.4 million last year but still up 60 percent from when the Agent Orange claims push started two years ago. About two-thirds of those cases have been pending for more than 125 days, despite department promises to deal with them quickly.

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called that embarrassing.

Continue reading: http://www.stripes.com/news/skeptics-doubt-va-s-claim-of-breakthrough-on-claims-backlog-1.180811

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Disabled veterans endure agonizing wait for federal benefits

By Jodi Weigand

TARENTUM, Pa. — Dale Fatchet of Brackenridge was shot twice and wounded by a hand grenade while serving in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.

Although one of the bullets pierced a knee, it wasn’t until he retired in 2008 from the Postal Service that he had knee replacement surgery. Prior to the operation, he had received full disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“They reduced my disability because I got a new knee,” said Fatchet, 64, who was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor during his service in 1968 and 1969.

“One minute they tell you you’re 100 percent disabled, and then once I got out (of the H. John Heinz III Progressive Care Center in Aspinwall), they didn’t even call me in for a physical — they automatically reduced my benefits.

“I’ve been in appeal for three years.”

As a service officer for the Tarentum VFW, Fatchet knows all too well the long waits veterans have when they apply for or appeal disability benefits.

Service officers help veterans gather the required paperwork and file a compensation claim with the Veterans Benefits Administration in Pittsburgh.

Continue reading: http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/disabled-veterans-endure-agonizing-wait-for-federal-benefits-1.195332

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VA claims-processing delays hit highest level in 20 years

By Chris Adams

C.J. LIN/STARS AND STRIPES

WASHINGTON — The time needed to process veterans’ disability claims shot up by nearly 40 percent last year despite years of effort by federal officials to streamline and shorten the process, records show.

The times necessary to process education benefits and burial benefits, as well as the time needed to wind through the Department of Veterans Affairs appeals process, also increased in fiscal 2012.

The disability-processing time is closely watched by Congress and veterans’ advocates as a measure of VA efficiency. In fiscal 2012, the average days to complete a VA disability compensation or pension claim rose to 262 days, up from 188 days in fiscal 2011, according to a recently completed VA performance report.

The 262-day average is the highest that measure has been in at least the past 20 years for which numbers were available.

The VA’s long-term goal is to get the processing time to an average of 90 days.

“The entire system is a mess,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a support and advocacy group. “They’ve been saying now for 10 years that it’ll get better, and it still doesn’t get better, and we’ve seen tremendous frustration from our members in the last few months. It’s reached a breaking point.”

Continue reading: http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/va-claims-processing-delays-hit-highest-level-in-20-years-1.198825

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DOD lends staff to VA to address claims backlog

Leo Shane III

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is developing more in-depth exit physicals for departing troops and lending staff to the Department of Veterans Affairs in an effort to help eliminate the massive backlog of disability claims.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said those efforts, combined with earlier department initiatives to create express service for simple claims and highly trained processing teams for complex ones, will help ease the problem in 2013 and keep the agency on track to eliminate the backlog by the end of 2015.

Progress on that promise has been slow.

Since July, when the new processing protocols were implemented, the number of disability claims pending for more than 125 days has remained stagnant, at nearly 600,000 cases. In fiscal 2012, the average VA pension or compensation claim took more than 260 days to complete.

Continue reading: http://www.stripes.com/news/dod-lends-staff-to-va-to-address-claims-backlog-1.199637

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MRI could diagnose Gulf War Illness

Patricia Kime – Staff writer Mar 20, 2013

Veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War suffering from chronic pain and fatigue have brain damage to their white matter, the connective nerve fibers that transmit electrical impulses among the brain’s gray matter, a Georgetown University Medical Center study finds.

Using advanced scans called diffusion tensor imaging, researchers discovered that the brains of 31 veterans who served in the Gulf War had significant changes to the axon bundles — the white matter — in the parts of the brain that process pain and fatigue.

Patients without Gulf War illness did not have the neuronal changes, study lead investigator Dr. James Barniuk said.

“This provides a completely new perspective,” Barniuk said. “While we can’t exactly tell how this tract is affected at the molecular levels, the scans tell us these axons are not working in a normal fashion.”

The research, published online Wednesday in PLOS ONE, appears to support previous studies that have shown brain changes in veterans exposed to different neurotoxins, including anti-nerve agent pills, insect repellent, Sarin nerve gas and environmental pollutants such as burn pits and oil well fires.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-gulf-war-study-032013/

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The Unemployment Safety Net Is Not Very Safe at All

Hamilton Nolan

If you are unfortunate enough to be one of the 12 million officially unemployed Americans today, there are a few things you can do to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps: 1) Be born wealthier; 2) invest your copious disposable income in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds and wait 30 years; and 3) do not believe your country’s empty promises to you.

Unemployment benefits, which had been extended during the depths of the recession, are now being cut back across America. Sounds okay on a macro level, maybe, but it’s not much help for the long-term unemployed. Since the length of eligibility is set on a state by state basis, workers in different parts of the country face drastically different safety nets. None of this is necessarily rational. The WSJ reports:

But the duration of benefits doesn’t necessarily match up with states’ economic situations. Alaska, for example, currently offers the longest unemployment benefits, at 86 weeks, despite an unemployment rate of 6.7%, well below the national mark. Georgia and South Carolina, meanwhile, both offer newly unemployed workers less than a year of benefits despite unemployment rates of 8.7%. Nationally, states now offer 55 weeks of benefits on average; the average unemployed worker has been out of work for 36.9 weeks, but about a quarter of job seekers have been looking for at least a year.

Continue reading: http://gawker.com/5991492/the-unemployment-safety-net-is-not-very-safe-at-all

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Senate votes to restore tuition assistance

Rick Maze – Staff writer  Mar 20, 2013

The Senate voted Wednesday to restore tuition assistance for all services, reversing a budget-cutting move ordered by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

Sponsored by Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., the order is part of the Senate’s version of the 2013 budget. If it becomes law — and that is not yet certain — it would apply only through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The amendment, passed by voice vote, does not say how the cost would be covered, only that the Defense Department would have to restore funding.

“Veterans mobilized to reinstate tuition assistance, and today the Senate listened,” said Ryan Gallucci, deputy legislative director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who used tuition assistance when he was a civil affairs specialist to work toward a college degree.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-senate-votes-to-restore-tuition-assistance-032013w/

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The following posted 3/20/13

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Wounded Iraq vet ending struggle

By Matt Campbell – The Kansas City Star via AP   Mar 20, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tomas Young has been fighting for the last nine years: fighting his government, fighting the Veterans Administration and fighting his own deteriorating body.

But soon the struggle will be over. The Kansas City man who was paralyzed from the chest down by a sniper’s bullet during the Iraq War is now in hospice care and preparing to die, The Kansas City Star reported.

Sometime in the next few weeks, after he has said all his goodbyes, he intends to refuse nourishment, water and life-extending medication. He expects his 33-year life to be over a few days after that.

“Because I’m tired,” Young explained this week from his bed. “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Young is mostly confined to his bed. His colon was removed in November, and he doesn’t eat solid food. A pump that he controls provides anti-pain drugs through a tube into his chest. He gets nauseated and tires easily.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/ap-wounded-iraq-vet-tomas-young-ending-struggle-032013/

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A Pattern of Problems at a Hospital for Veterans

By JAMES DAO  Published: March 18, 2013

WASHINGTON — In an unusually strong letter sent to the White House on Monday, the office that handles complaints from federal whistle-blowers says it has found a pattern of problems at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Jackson, Miss., that raises serious questions about the hospital’s management practices.

The problems over the last six years include poor sterilization procedures, chronic understaffing of the primary care unit and missed diagnoses by the radiology department.

Though some of the problems seem to have been addressed, the large number of whistle-blower complaints from one hospital — five in this case, from separate people in different departments — raise a “troubling pattern of disclosure,” the letter from the Office of Special Counsel said.

“Collectively, these disclosures raise questions about the ability of this facility to care for the veterans it services,” wrote Carolyn N. Lerner, the special counsel.

Some of the most serious problems are raised by a retired doctor who worked at the medical center for 30 years. He accuses the hospital of failing to notify patients whose X-rays and CT scans may not have been properly read by a radiologist.

That radiologist, who has left the hospital, was accused by colleagues in a lawsuit of missing diagnoses because he read images too fast or not at all.

Continue reading:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/us/whistle-blower-complaints-at-veterans-hospital-in-mississippi.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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Veterans Face Red Tape Accessing Disability, Other Benefits

March 19, 2013 by Aaron Glantz

Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans

Ten years ago, the United States invaded Iraq and began what the Bush administration said would be a short war.

But it wasn’t until December 2011 that the United States officially ended its military mission there.

In addition to the tens of thousands of Iraqis who died, the war cost the lives of nearly 4,500 American service members, and wounded more than 32,200 men and women in America’s military. Many of the wounded vets have faced — or are still facing — long waits for their disability and other benefits to begin.

Journalist Aaron Glantz has written a series of articles for the Center for Investigative Reporting about how government bureaucracy is failing veterans when it comes to these benefits. He says 900,000 veterans are waiting for benefits and that the number will surpass one million “very soon.”

Based on Department of Veterans Affairs documents Glantz collected through the Freedom of Information Act, he learned that 600,000 of these claims are backlogged, meaning those veterans have been waiting for more than four months to access their benefits. Glantz says that on average veterans are waiting 273 days.

Glantz says the Obama administration has not been as successful in streamlining the process as it hoped it would be.

Continue reading:  http://www.npr.org/2013/03/19/174639343/veterans-face-red-tape-accessing-disability-other-benefits

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As suicides rise among veterans, outreach increases

Connie Cone Sexton, The Arizona Republic  March 19, 2013

The VA says there were an estimated 8,030 suicides among vets in 2010, an increase from 7,300 in 2000.

PHOENIX — Michael Rolack never heard the gunshot, only the screams of his grandson’s fiancee.

Running to the front yard of his Phoenix home, he saw the body of 28-year-old Nicholas Rolack, a Marine Corps veteran, who had just put a bullet in his head.

Thinking back on that March 7, 2012, night, Michael Rolack’s voice catches in grief.

“Just two hours before he killed himself, we had been watching a movie. I knew he was having a hard time after coming back from Iraq, but he wouldn’t talk; he wouldn’t share nothin’,” Rolack said. “His hurt must have been so big that he couldn’t get around it. Maybe he felt like he had to do it to keep from hurting us.”

Suicide among veterans and active military members is not a new problem, but the number of incidents has risen significantly in the last decade, reaching what former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described as “epidemic” levels. His statement to Congress coincided with efforts by the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs to ramp up suicide-prevention programs.

Continue reading: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/19/veterans-outreach-increases/2001571/

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Lost & Found: What Brain Injury Survivors Want You to Know

Barbara J. Webster, Lash & Associates

I need a lot more rest than I used to. I’m not being lazy. I get physical fatigue as well as a “brain fatigue.” It is very difficult and tiring for my brain to think, process, and organize. Fatigue makes it even harder to think.

My stamina fluctuates, even though I may look good or “all better” on the outside. Cognition is a fragile function for a brain injury survivor. Some days are better than others. Pushing too hard usually leads to setbacks, sometimes to illness.

Brain injury rehabilitation takes a very long time; it is usually measured in years. It continues long after formal rehabilitation has ended. Please resist expecting me to be who I was, even though I look better.

Continue reading: http://www.brainline.org/content/2011/07/lost-found-what-brain-injury-survivors-want-you-to-know.html

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VA official: Be patient on claims backlog

Rick Maze – Staff writer   Mar 20, 2013

An embattled Veterans Affairs Department official responsible for the growing mountain of benefits claims pleaded Wednesday for more time to show success in getting them processed.

Allison Hickey, the retired Air Force brigadier general who for two years has been VA’s undersecretary for benefits, said she continues to believe it is possible to eliminate the backlog of claims in 2015 and to complete initial claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy.

The heap of pending claims is growing, she said, because she has ordered offices to file the oldest claims first, which means two-year-old claims are now being completed ahead of newer claims. “I would have made our productivity look better, but I chose not [to],” she said.

Hickey testified before a skeptical House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, a panel whose chairman has called for her removal. “There are many people, myself included, who are losing patience as we continue to hear the same excuses from VA about increased workload and increase complexity of claims,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the committee chairman.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-va-official-asks-for-more-time-to-cut-claims-backlog-032013w/

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Outreach to combat suicide continues

Connie Cone Sexton – The Arizona Republic  Mar 20, 2013

PHOENIX — Michael Rolack never heard the gunshot, only the screams of his grandson’s fiancée.

Running to the front yard of his Phoenix home, he saw the body of 28-year-old Nicholas Rolack, a Marine Corps veteran, who had just put a bullet in his head.

Thinking back on that March 7, 2012, night, Michael Rolack’s voice catches in grief.

Crisis help

Crisis Line (for veterans and active duty): 800-273-8255 (push 1) or texting 838255. Also online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or militarycrisisline.net.

“Just two hours before he killed himself, we had been watching a movie. I knew he was having a hard time after coming back from Iraq, but he wouldn’t talk; he wouldn’t share nothin’,” Rolack said. “His hurt must have been so big that he couldn’t get around it. Maybe he felt like he had to do it to keep from hurting us.”

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/gannett-as-suicides-rise-outreach-increases-032013/

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Used to Helping, a Chaplain Finds the Tables Turned

A Counselor in Need: Sent home from Iraq, Lt. Col. Richard Brunk, an Army chaplain, returned to Houston, where he is learning to cope with a serious brain injury.

By JAMES DAO

It was Lt. Col. Richard Brunk’s second Sunday in Baghdad, and so, of course, there was church. Only 16 soldiers showed up, but that was good for that busy day, election day across Iraq. The presiding chaplain asked everyone to take seats up front. It was a providential move.

A 122-millimeter rocket exploded outside, virtually collapsing the rear of the chapel. Colonel Brunk was pitched forward, an outstretched arm failing to stop his head from hitting the marble floor. Gathering himself amid the chaos, he noticed some foil-wrapped chocolates scattered like pebbles before him and offered one to the chaplain, sprawled on the ground nearby.

“If I’m going to die, it’s going to be with chocolate on my breath,” the colonel said jokingly. The chaplain moved his lips in reply. “And I realized: ‘Uh oh, I’ve got a problem,’ ” Colonel Brunk recalled. “Because I couldn’t hear him.”

The explosion broke Colonel Brunk’s wrist, shattered both his eardrums and rattled his skull, medical records show. It would be the first of two major blasts in 2005 that traumatically injured his brain.

Continue reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/us/chaplain-with-traumatic-brain-injuries-finds-tables-turned.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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Veterans Face Elevated Unemployment Rates

By Ben Casselman

A decade after the launch of the war in Iraq, one troubling legacy is clear: persistently high unemployment among veterans.

Veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan (or in many cases, both) had an unemployment rate of 10.9% in August 2012, according to new data released by the Labor Department on Wednesday. Among nonveterans, the unemployment rate was 7.9% at the time.

Among the broader population of veterans who have served on active duty since September, 2011 — wherever they served — the unemployment rate was 9.9%, still significantly higher than for both non-veterans and for veterans of earlier conflicts. Those who served during the first Gulf War had an unemployment rate of just 5.9%.

Unemployment among post-Sept. 11 veterans has been a persistent problem, despite various public and private-sector programs to put them back to work. The issue is partly one of demographics. The typical veteran of what the Labor Department refers to as “Gulf War era II” is male and under age 35 — two groups with elevated unemployment rates in the population at large.

But demographics alone don’t explain the gap. The unemployment rate for Gulf War era II vets between ages 25 and 34 is 10.6%; for those under age 25, it is over 20%. Both figures are well above the equivalent rates for civilians, or even just civilian men.

Veterans’ employment challenges might seem surprising, and not only because of the goodwill that their service engenders among many Americans. Returning veterans have many traits that make them desirable employees: discipline, leadership experience, problem-solving ability and, often, hard-to-find trade skills.

But veterans also face hurdles that most civilians don’t. Some 28% of Gulf War era II veterans have a service-related disability; 9% are at least 60% disabled. They also have less work experience. Veterans who served in the reserves or National Guard — who are presumably more likely to have had civilian work experience — had unemployment rates more in line with the general population.

The good news: Veterans’ job prospects are improving. Their unemployment rate dropped more than two percentage points from 2011 to 2012, a faster rate of improvement than the population as a whole. But the situation remains grim: More than 200,000 recent veterans remain unemployed, and nearly half a million more are out of the labor force altogether.

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2013/03/20/veterans-face-elevated-unemployment-rates/

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Veterans’ disability claims can take years to process

By Ken Alltucker The Republic | azcentral.com  Mar 19, 2013

Corey Copeland’s next-to-last military assignment near Balad, Iraq, was his most perilous.

Enemy mortars targeted the region so often that it earned the nickname Mortaritaville, a sardonic play on the carefree, beach-themed song by Jimmy Buffett.

Copeland, 42, survived his one-year tour in Iraq. In 2009, he retired from the U.S. Navy and braced for a new battle at home: securing disability benefits for injuries sustained over a 20-year military career.

Copeland’s claim for hearing loss, broken ankle, back pain, high blood pressure and other health conditions is one of 21,843 service-related claims and 4,990 appeals pending at the Department of Veterans Affairs office in Phoenix as of Monday. The number of outstanding claims in Phoenix has more than doubled over the last decade, leaving a backlog that frustrates veterans, military families and lawmakers.

In metro Phoenix, the average wait is 451 days until the VA evaluates a claim to determine whether and how much a veteran should be paid, according to figures provided by the VA. More complicated cases with eight or more claims can take longer. If the veteran challenges the decision, an appeal can take years.

Continue reading:  http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20130312veterans-disability-claims-can-take-years-process.html?nclick_check=1

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Traumatic Brain Injury and the Great Lie

I recently was invited by a good friend who lives in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts to participate in a panel discussion about PTSD and TBI . This discussion was to be held after a “reading” of a new play called “Make sure it’s me” written by playwright “Kate Wenner” of Southfield Ma. The play tells the story of TBI from a few different perspectives but leaves those who have seen it with a better understanding of the complexities of TBI, the way it effects families and especially wives. I wasn’t there to critique the play, which I thought was very good by the way, but to participate on a panel discussion about PTSD, TBI and where as a nation we have fallen down in the after care and subsequent treatment of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered with TBI.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a complex injury with a broad spectrum of symptoms and disabilities. The impact on veterans, so graphically portrayed in this play and especially to the caregivers left to pick up the pieces of these broken lives can be devastating. The purpose of this play was to educate and empower caregivers and survivors of traumatic brain injuries and to help the general American public understand, in a “visceral” way, the impact that this injury has on our military. Continue reading:  http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/10/23/the-struggle-to-treat-traumatic-brain-injury/

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Veterans struggle to overcome brain injuries, PTSD

By Ken Alltucker The Republic | azcentral.com  Mar 19, 2013

Erik Castillo doesn’t remember the mortar rounds exploding around him, but he’ll never forget the burning sensation when shrapnel pierced his skull and brain.

The 21-year-old Army specialist was inspecting a Humvee to prepare for patrols on July 27, 2004, when explosions rocked the ground in Baghdad. Castillo removed his helmet and tried to run, but collapsed. His fellow soldiers and commanding officers rushed to his aid.

“Just by the look on their faces,” Castillo recalls, “I knew something bad had happened to me.”

Doctors and nurses ensured Castillo would survive despite losing nearly all the right side of his skull and suffering severe brain trauma. He has undergone 19 surgeries and completed years of physical and speech therapy as he lives independently in the Tucson area.

Traumatic brain injuries such as Castillo’s are among the signature injuries of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Continue reading:  http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20130314veterans-struggle-overcome-brain-injuries-ptsd.html _____________________________________________________________

US not ‘living up’ to promises for veterans

Rose Gordon Sala, @RoseGSala

Rep.-elect Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, as she poses with other female House members prior to the official opening of the 113th Congress. Photo by Cliff Owen/AP Photo) (v)

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, called on the country to do more for its veterans on the 10th anniversary of the war and to not be duped into another war.

“We could be doing so much better,” she said on The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday. “I do think we’re doing better for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than we did for Vietnam veterans but that was a pretty low bar.”

Duckworth lost both her legs while serving as an Army helicopter pilot in the Iraq War and is the former assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs. She defeated Tea Party favorite Rep. Joe Walsh in November to win Illinois’ 8th district.

Continue reading:  http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/03/20/u-s-not-living-up-to-promises-for-millions-of-veterans

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Whistle-blowers allege wrongdoing at VA center

Robert Burns – The Associated Press Mar 19, 2013

WASHINGTON — Employees at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Mississippi have reported a range of “serious wrongdoing,” including improperly sterilized instruments and missed diagnoses of fatal illnesses, an independent federal investigative agency said in a letter to the White House.

The agency said the allegations raise doubt about the facility’s ability to care for veterans.

In the letter sent Monday to the White House and Congress, the Office of Special Counsel said an initial 2009 report by a whistle-blower employee at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., alleged that the staff routinely failed to properly clean and sterilize reusable medical equipment such as scalpels and bone cutters.

In all, five whistle-blowers representing what the Office of Special Counsel called “a diverse group” of employees at the Jackson hospital made a variety of allegations over several years that imply improper care of patients. One doctor at the facility alleged in January that thousands of radiology images were unread or improperly read, resulting in missed diagnoses of “serious and, in some cases, fatal illnesses,” the special counsel said.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/ap-whistle-blowers-allege-wrongdoing-at-va-center-031913/

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White House forced to consider reinstating TA

By Tony Lombardo – Staff writer   Mar 18, 2013

The White House will have to consider reinstating tuition assistance for troops after a petition on its official website garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

A petition titled “Reinstate Military Tuition Assistance and block the Armed Service Branches from any further suspension of TA” was posted March 8 on “We the people.”

This White House-run website invites Americans to start petitions on issues important to them. If a petition is able to get enough online signatures, the White House staff has to review it. President Obama will sometimes respond himself.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/navy-white-house-petition-tuition-assistance-031813/

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Job Search Advice for Veterans: Best Job Options

March 18, 2013

Finding a job after completing military service can be challenging. The government and a number of companies are working together to help vets find employment but vets may have a difficult time determining the best way to utilize the skills they learned in the military. CareerCast has listed the best career paths for military vets.

Continue reading:  http://gethiredfast.com/2013/03/job-search-advice-for-veterans-best-job-options/

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Veterans May Need Help Finding a Job

Many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have returned to the United States to find a challenging work situation at home. The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 10.8% in December 2012 – which is an improvement from 13.1% in December 2011 – but still is high. Veterans may need help finding a job for different reasons like difficulties with credentials, injuries, or emotional difficulties. Fortunately there are some resources to help.

Continue reading:  http://gethiredfast.com/2013/01/veterans-may-need-help-finding-a-job/

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Tuition program another budget-cut casualty

By Gregg Zoroya – USA TODAY Mar 16, 2013

More than 250,000 troops will be denied tuition for classes this year because of mandatory cuts in federal spending, according to figures released this week by the Army and Air Force.

The Marine Corps also has cut its tuition assistance program for the year but had no estimate on the number of Marines affected.

Suspension of the popular program, which covers tuition costs for attending college classes during off hours or even online while on combat deployments, was among the changes troops have seen immediately from the automatic budget cuts that began taking effect March 1.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/gannett-troop-tuition-cuts-sequester-031613/  

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Miller wants better discipline for VA employees

By Rick Maze – Staff writer   Mar 15, 2013

The chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said Friday he wants stricter performance reviews for workers processing veterans benefits claims, with the threat of discipline and even termination hanging over those who are too slow or make too many mistakes.

By Rep. Jeff Miller’s estimates, the more people the Veterans Affairs Department hires to process claims, the worse the department performs. In 1997, the average field officer processed 138 claims a year. In 2011, with three times as many overall employees, the average field officer processed 73 claims a year, said Miller, a Florida Republican.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-jeff-miller-wants-better-discipline-at-va-031513w/

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VA wait times mean some die before getting care

By Patricia Kime – Staff writer  Mar 15, 2013

Internal Veterans Affairs Department documents show that at least two veterans died last year waiting to see a doctor while others couldn’t get primary care appointments for up to eight months, members of a House oversight and investigations panel said Thursday.

Addressing the ongoing problem of vets who suffer through long waits for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics, House lawmakers joined federal investigators and veterans service organizations in castigating VA on an issue that has endured for more than a decade.

“Evidence shows that many VA facilities, when faced with a backlog of thousands of outstanding or unresolved consultations, decided to administratively close out these requests. Some reasons given included that the request was years old, too much time had elapsed, or the veteran had died,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans Oversight and Investigations panel.

“This is unacceptable,” said Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., the panel’s ranking Democrat. “Veterans deserve timely, accessible health care.”

According to VA, about 49 percent of new patients and 90 percent of established patients are able to see a primary care doctor or specialist within VA’s goal of 14 days, a metric established in 2011.

But the first-time patients who weren’t seen within 14 days waited an average 50 days to schedule initial appointments.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-wait-times-VA-031513w/

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The following posted 3/15/13

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Lawmakers troubled by reserve jobless rates

By Rick Maze – Staff writer   Mar 14, 2013

With an unemployment rate as high as 50 percent for some National Guard and reserve units returning from deployment, lawmakers are worried that it’s not just the troops who are suffering — national security is taking a hit as well.

The unemployment numbers, however, are a matter of some dispute.

At a hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s economic opportunity panel March 14, defense officials cited an 11 percent unemployment rate for all ranks and an 18 percent jobless rate for young enlisted members.

Those figures are down from a 13.1 percent overall jobless rate for reserve-component troops in 2011 and a 23 percent rate for junior enlisted members, said Ronald Young, the Pentagon’s director of family and employer programs and policy.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-reserve-unemployment-031413w/

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VA doctor: Health data suppressed, manipulated

By Patricia Kime – Staff writer   Mar 13, 2013

The Veterans Affairs Department has suppressed and manipulated data that would support claims from Iraq, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf veterans that they’ve contracted illnesses from environmental pollution while serving in theatre, a high-level whistleblower told a House Veterans Affairs panel on Wednesday.

Dr. Steven Coughlin, an epidemiologist formerly with the VA’s Office of Public Health, told the House Veterans Oversight Committee that when results of research he conducted didn’t gel with unwritten department policies on the health consequences of oil-well fires, burn pits, pesticides, nerve agents and other pollutants, the information disappeared. Continue reading:

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-va-doctor-says-health-data-suppressed-manipulated-031313/

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VA staffing ill-serves patients, lawmaker says

By Patricia Kime – Staff writer  : Wednesday Mar 13, 2013

Patients who never see the same doctor twice, facilities that don’t offer comparable services as others, and doctors restricted from seeing veterans because they’ve reached monthly earnings caps — these are issues the new chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s health panel wants addressed on his watch.

In his first panel hearing as chairman, Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., said Veterans Health Administration staffing measures — or lack thereof — contribute to problems in patient care, including prolonged wait times for appointments and differences in care between facilities.

“I’m concerned that there seems to be a great deal of difference between facilities and there doesn’t seem to be guidance to ensure there is adequate service. … The fact that we don’t have a plan for that is disappointing,” said Benishek, a general surgeon who worked more than 20 years as needed at a VA hospital.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-va-staffing-ill-serves-patients-dan-benishek-says-031313/

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First lady urges CEOs to hire more veterans

By Darlene Superville – The Associated Press Wednesday Mar 13, 2013

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama challenged America’s top CEOs on Wednesday to “think outside the box” and hire more veterans.

The first lady said that, while declines in overall unemployment are encouraging, joblessness among the 9/11 generation of veterans — those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — is nearly two points higher than the national average, at 9.4 percent. She said that figure means that about 200,000 veterans don’t have jobs, not including their spouses and those who will return home after the U.S. ends its combat mission in Afghanistan.

Unemployment nationwide fell two-tenths of a point last month to 7.7 percent, its lowest level in more than four years.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/ap-first-lady-urges-ceos-hire-more-veterans-031313/

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Veteran Faces Jail Time for Treating PTSD With Medical Marijuana

In 2003, former U.S. Navy Corpsman Jeremy Usher returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, only to suffer from flashbacks of combat and a variety of mental health issues, including nightmares and insomnia, panic attacks, and depression. Thanks to medical marijuana, he is doing better, but is now facing jail time for choosing a medication the federal government refuses to legitimize.

A combat medic, Usher was on the back of a helicopter sent to rescue wounded marines when he was shot in the head, causing brain damage and memory loss and leaving him with a stutter. When he walked out of a treatment at a San Diego hospital, he was still not well, and according to the Greeley Tribune, “suffered form extreme paranoia as he wandered San Diego, constantly spinning around while walking to make sure no one was sneaking up on him.”

According to the the Greeley Tribune, Usher then began self-medicating with alcohol, marking the beginnings of his criminal record. He is currently serving probation in Colorado — where pot is now legal for adults — for his second and third DUIs. Usher says he is cleaning up in his act in counseling and school, but is facing jail time for violating probation by treating his PTSD with medical marijuana nonetheless. For failing dozens of drug tests, he could do 29 days in jail.

Usher told the Greeley Tribune he feels like he is “being punished for being a little different” and “not understanding why.” His doctors have written letters to the court explaining that medical marijuana and Marinol pills have helped treat his PTSD, and they recommend he stay on it. Nonetheless, America’s draconian drug policy is now threatening to send a traumatized veteran to jail, where he worries his progress could begin to reverse

Surely, living without medication in jail, where the environment is often unpredictable and violent, is not beneficial to a PTSD sufferer’s mental health. Moreover, if Usher is abstaining from drinking and using medical marijuana to treat the PTSD that caused his self-medication and run-ins with the law in the first place, identifying the public safety threat that might justify his incarceration is difficult, to say the least.

Usher maintains hope that he will be allowed to continue his medication, but also wants to prevent the same consequences for other veterans.

“I want to raise enough awareness so that this doesn’t happen to guys coming out of there,” Jeremy told the Greeley Tribune.

“I’m never going to be free of the flashes of the memories; I’m stuck with those for life. What I’m able to do is manage those in an appropriate manner, without just going out and cracking open a bottle.”

http://www.alternet.org/speakeasy/kristen-gwynne/veteran-faces-jail-time-treating-ptsd-medical-marijuana

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The following posted 3/8/13

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Army suspends Tuition Assistance program

By Jim Tice – Staff writer    Friday Mar 8, 2013

The Army’s popular Tuition Assistance program is being suspended because of the budget squeeze, although the many thousands of soldiers currently enrolled in courses will be allowed to complete those courses.

The shutdown will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today.

About 200,000 soldiers are currently using tuition assistance.

Soldiers will not be allowed to enroll in TA-funded courses after that deadline, according to Lt. Col. Tom Alexander, spokesman for the Army’s personnel chief.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/army-army-to-suspend-tuition-assistance-030813/

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Big drop in unemployment for young vets

By Rick Maze – Staff writer   Friday Mar 8, 2013

The job picture appears to have dramatically improved for veterans in February, with the jobless rate for Post-9/11 veterans falling to 9.4 percent, down from 11.7 percent in January.

For veterans of all generations, the February unemployment rate was 6.9 percent, down from 7.6 percent in January.

Improvement was not nearly as large for the national unemployment rate, which dropped from 7.9 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February, according to Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report had good economic news, though, as the economy grew 236,000 jobs, according to the employment situation report.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-veterans-job-numbers-improve-february-030813/

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Writing Becomes a Release for Veterans Suffering from PTSD

Posted by Levi Newman

One of the first major concerns service members face after a long deployment is coming to terms with some of the things they may now carry forever—namely, post-traumatic stress disorder.

As a writer I’ve always felt that a good way to deal with these overwhelming feelings is to get them out by putting them to paper. For me, this doesn’t mean letting the world in, it just allows me to let the bad memories out. Either way, it’s always been a comforting way to say what needs to be said.

A Plan of Action

Deborah Marshall and Dr. Susan Swartwout are two writers that decided to do something similar in order to help veterans.These dedicated women took it upon themselves to teach veterans how to become writers, and then authors.

The only catch—writing had to be based on the veterans’ real-life experiences. And so began the mission for over 30 veterans turned writers to turn their memories into an anthology.

Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors” was edited in early 2012 by Dr. Swartwout and released on Veterans Day that same year. The goal of which wasn’t just to say they had completed a book together, it was meant to inspire hope and healing for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, as well as let the world know what they had to say.

The first volume, backed by the Missouri Humanities Council, Warrior Arts Alliance and Southeast Missouri State University Press, saw admissions ranging from essays and poetry, to photographs and short stories. The 74 unique entries cover topics from World War I to the present. While the idea and book was initially established in Missouri, veteran writers hailed from as far away as South Carolina and Minnesota.

Feels Good to Get it Out

Participating veterans said that the writing workshop and book collection became a great way to reconnect not only with other veterans, but the civilian population that hasn’t always understood them. The writers also felt that because they each felt like they had a unique perspective on military life and travels, they became more motivated to share their stories.

If you or someone you know would like to be part of “Proud to be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 2” please contact the Warrior Arts Alliance and submit your work.

http://www.veteransunited.com/network/writing-becomes-a-release-for-veterans-suffering-from-ptsd/?pid=26&utm_source=status&utm_medium=fb&utm_term=vbb&utm_campaign=blog

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The following posted 3/1/13

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DoD may pull tuition help from 900 colleges

By Jim Tice – Staff writer : Wednesday Feb 27, 2013

Several thousand soldiers who draw tuition assistance may have to switch colleges if they want to continue attending school on the Army’s dime.

That’s because more than 900 colleges attended by active and reserve soldiers are in danger of losing their eligibility to receive tuition assistance payments unless they sign an agreement designed to ensure certain educational services and protections for soldiers.

The Defense Department has directed that all educational institutions that accept TA sign a Voluntary Education Partnership memorandum of understanding by March 1 to remain eligible for such payments.

WHAT’S UP WITH YOUR SCHOOL?

Soldiers can check the status of their schools by accessing www.dodmou.com.

As of February, 3,100 schools were registered with GoArmyEd, the Army’s online system for managing tuition assistance.

However, only 2,185 of those schools had signed the memorandum of understanding.

The 915 remaining schools must sign the memo by March 1 to remain TA-eligible.

About 18,000 soldiers, or 9 percent of the 201,000 active and reserve soldiers who draw TA, attend schools that have not yet signed the memo of understanding, according to Dr. Pamela Raymer, director of the Army Continuing Education division of Human Resources Command.

TA records indicate that most of these soldiers serve in the National Guard, or with Cadet Command ROTC detachments, and are attending local colleges and universities.

Raymer said the Army has made a major effort to contact these soldiers and alert them that their school may be dropped from the TA program. If a soldier is in a class with a school that does not sign the MOU by March 1, he will be allowed to complete the class.

However, on March 1, the school will be shut out of GoArmyEd, and the soldier will have to switch to a TA-eligible school to continue his education with Army funding assistance.

Raymer urged soldiers in this situation to contact their local education center for assistance in switching schools.

There are 86 active Army education centers, 16 Army Reserve Readiness Command education offices and 54 National Guard education offices that can provide such assistance.

Protecting soldiers

Schools registered with GoArmyEd include a combination of institutions that provide postsecondary education programs online and in traditional classroom environments.

The vast majority of the 201,000 Regular Army, Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers who draw tuition assistance are working toward undergraduate and graduate college degrees, according to Raymer.

Under the current TA formula, payments are capped at $250 per semester hour of instruction, and a maximum annual total of $4,500.

During fiscal 2012, the Army paid out nearly $373 million in tuition assistance payments.

The memorandum of understanding issued by the Defense Department conveys the commitments and agreements between the educational institution and the Army to ensure that soldiers receive a quality education.

“We want these protections for the soldier to maximize the transfer of credits, consider military skills and experience for college credit, maximize academic testing and minimize residency requirements,” Raymer said.

The MOU also reinforces an executive order issued last year designed to frustrate the predatory marketing and sales practices of some for-profit schools.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/army-dod-may-pull-tuition-help-from-900-colleges-022713/

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Google-SVA Scholarships

The Google-SVA Scholarship program is focused on rewarding high caliber student veterans pursuing a degree in the Computer Science field. The goals of the Google-SVA Scholarship are to:

  • To identify high-performing student veterans in the Computer Science field, and to reward achievement and encourage further study through the scholarship program.
  • To affect the retention of student veterans in the Computer Science field by providing recognition and funds needed for university expenses, such as tuition, books and lab fees.
  • To help foster communities of students through  Google sponsored events like the Annual Scholars’ Retreats. The Scholars Retreat is an all-expenses paid retreat for the scholarship winners for that academic year. It provides an important networking opportunity for the top students from all over the US to meet with each other, and with Google engineers in a personable and fun environment.

http://studentveterans.org/index.php/our-programs/individual-programs/google-sva-scholarships.html?utm_source=Scholarships%3A+PNC%2C+Google%2C+IPEF&utm_campaign=Scholarship+Newsletter+2%2F27&utm_medium=email

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Electronic records key to cutting VA backlog

By Rick Maze – Staff writer : Tuesday Feb 26, 2013

The ability of the Veterans Affairs Department to reduce its expanding backlog of benefits claims rests with electronic records, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday.

In an address to the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ group, Shinseki repeated the Obama administration’s goal of eliminating the benefits claims backlog in 2015.

“We intend to process claims in less than 125 days at 98 percent accuracy,” he said, “and to end the backlog in claims that has built up over decades.”

As he spoke, VA had about 897,700 pending claims, including about 627,700 that have been in processing for more than 125 days — the department’s goal for maximum processing time.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, said reducing the backlog will surely not happen this year. VA expects to process about 1 million claims this year, Sanders’ said in an address to the Legion before Shinseki spoke, but will receive about 1.2 million, so the backlog will grow by about 200,000.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/military-shinseki-legion-claims-022613w/

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DoD releases new plan for mobile devices

By Andrew Tilghman – Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Feb 26, 2013 15:28:43 EST

Troops may soon see new cell phones and wireless tablet computers issued by commands across the force after the Defense Department’s top tech officials on Tuesday issued a long-awaited plan for military use of mobile devices.

The Pentagon’s plan will for the first time clear the way for the widespread flow of classified information over wireless cellular networks. And for the first time it will allow classified information to be handled by off-the-shelf commercial phones and tablets.

Defense officials have not selected a specific phone or tablet. Instead, this summer they will formally issue the technical specifications for the security standards that will apply to all four services.

That in turn will open the door for private technology companies to begin developing devices and software for sale to individual commands within the Defense Department. Individual commands will determine which device may be best suited to its individual needs.

By next year, commands may have alternatives to the nearly 500,000 Blackberry smartphones, which have been the primary mobile device for most service members in recent years.

The common standards will help the military to “capitalize on the full potential of mobile devices,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Wheeler, the Pentagon’s deputy chief information officer.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/military-new-plans-mobile-devices-022613w/

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Lawmakers push to fund VA one year in advance

By Patricia Kime – Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Feb 26, 2013 14:28:33 EST

Each year, Congress funds the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care budget at the start of the fiscal year to ensure the government has money to cover eligible veterans’ medical care costs for the entire year.

On Monday, two House lawmakers moved to fund all of VA’s discretionary budget a year ahead, saying the change would protect VA during periods of fiscal uncertainty.

“If there is one thing people in Washington and across America agree on, it’s that we should never let funding for veterans become a casualty of Washington gridlock,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

The “Putting Veterans Funding First” bill, H.R. 813, would require Congress to pay VA’s discretionary budget, about $59 billion, up front.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/military-lawmakers-push-to-fund-va-one-year-in-advance-022613w/

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New VA clinics, expansions left in limbo

By Kevin Freking – The Associated Press  Tuesday Feb 26, 2013

WASHINGTON — A veterans’ health clinic in Brick, N.J., is in such disrepair that when the snow gets heavy, patients have to go elsewhere for fear the roof might collapse. Another in San Antonio has extensive mildew and mold problems that could prove a health hazard for employees and patients in the coming years.

In Lake Charles, La., it’s not the condition of a clinic but the lack of one. It’s estimated that 6,000 veterans would enroll in VA health care if the community were to get a new clinic.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has cited these examples as it sought approval from Congress last year for a dozen new or expanded health clinics around the country.

Lawmakers anticipated that the cost for the current fiscal year would probably run into the tens of millions of dollars, but the estimate from the Congressional Budget Office came in at $1.2 billion. The nonpartisan CBO said that sound accounting principles require the full cost of the 20-year leases for the clinics be accounted for up front.

The huge jump in the clinics’ price tag left lawmakers scrambling, and in the face of the budget-cutting climate on Capitol Hill, the VA request stalled. Now the agency is warning that unless lawmakers act, some currently operating clinics may have to close after their old leases expire and other long-planned expansions will not go forward.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/ap-new-va-clinics-expansions-left-in-limbo-022613/

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First lady to press governors on veterans’ jobs

By Julie Pace – The Associated Press Monday Feb 25, 2013

WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama on Monday challenged governors to make it easier for military personnel to transfer their skills to civilian jobs as they return home from Afghanistan and other far-flung posts.

“While this time of war may be ending, the truth is our responsibility to our troops and their families will really just be ramping up,” Mrs. Obama told governors during an event at the White House.

Mrs. Obama pressed states to pass legislation or take executive action by 2015 allowing veterans to receive professional credentials or licenses based on their experiences in the military. Administration officials said that would allow veterans to apply for jobs more quickly rather than having to take courses for skills they already have.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/ap-michelle-obama-to-press-governors-on-vets-jobs-022513/

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 Ailing vets turn to charities in larger numbers

By Gregg Zoroya – USA TODAY: Thursday Feb 21, 2013

Susan Rocco starts authorizing help on a litany of pleas from wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at 7 a.m. in her home north of Quantico, Va.

One is a young Marine veteran living in a shelter who needs clothing and electricity turned on so he can go back home; another is a Marine missing a leg who visits his parents but needs a ramp built to get into their house; and a third is hospitalized for attempted suicide, and his wife needs travel money to visit him.

Rocco is eastern-region case director for the military charity Semper Fi Fund. As the hours unwind through the day, she authorizes 34 grants worth $37,000 to help dozens of current and former troops in need.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/gannett-ailing-veterans-turn-to-charities-022113/

 

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The following posted 2/20/13

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Transitioning to a civilian career

By Jacqueline M. Hames, for Soldiers magazine

Moving into any career is difficult, no matter where you start or where you’re going. You must consider many things: Personal interests that translate into job skills, how to build a resume and, most importantly, the interview process. But when a Soldier moves into a civilian career field, it can be infinitely more difficult.

Sometimes the skills Soldiers learned while in the Army don’t translate well to civilian careers. Soldiers have to change their way of dress and their way of thinking to accommodate civilian etiquette. Sometimes, civilian careers don’t account for disabilities Soldiers may have as a result of service.

Luckily, Soldiers don’t have to navigate this transitional maze alone.

The Army Career and Alumni Program, born from the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program in the 1990s, was established to help Soldiers coming back from war file for unemployment and find civilian jobs, Dr. William Barnson, ACAP center installation manager at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., explained.

With ACAP centers located on most major Army installations, the worldwide program offers transition workshops that teach tips and tricks for interviews, resume writing and how to dress for and communicate in the civilian work force.
Continue reading:  http://www.army.mil/article/67915/Transitioning_to_a_civilian_career/

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Life after the military; wounded warriors seek civilian jobs

By KellyGustafson

For many of America’s bravest men and women, the joy of coming home from a deployment is sometimes shattered by the harsh reality of injuries, night terrors and post traumatic stress disorder.

Repeat deployments and more than a decade of war have strained America’s military forces. As the war in Afghanistan winds down, many injured soldiers are returning and must find careers in the civilian workforce. Every year for the next five years, about 16,000 soldiers will return to civilian life and will be looking for jobs.

In addition to preparing soldiers for the transition, the U.S. Army’s Warrior Transition Command recently announced a new program that aims at potential employers, to educate them about wounded veterans and dispel stereotypes about hiring the men and women who have been fighting overseas .

According to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, 36 percent of employers feel PTSD and other mental health issues such as Traumatic Brain Injury make it risky to hire veterans.

Continue reading:  http://nationalsecurityzone.org/site/life-after-the-military-wounded-warriors-seek-civilian-jobs/

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Veterans face hurdle in civilian job search

By Lisa Cornwell – The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — A major concern for Daniel Gentry upon leaving the Army has always been a challenge for veterans — how to convince prospective employers that combat duties like checking for land mines or repairing bombed roads lead to skills useful in civilian jobs.

Veterans say military teamwork can translate to collaboration skills in business and that command positions develop leadership abilities also valuable to companies.

“I was worried that employers might not get it,” said Gentry, an Army engineer in Iraq before leaving the military in 2010.

Over the next five years, a projected 1.5 million service members will leave the military looking to start new careers, Department of Labor officials estimate, and President Barack Obama and others have called on businesses to hire veterans. But the 10 percent national unemployment rate in November for those serving in active duty at any time since 2001 highlights the difficulty. The comparable rate for non-veterans was 7.2 percent.

Continue reading:   http://www.navytimes.com/news/2012/12/ap-vets-face-hurdles-civilian-job-search-122212/

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Jobless rate rises for Post-9/11 vets

By Rick Maze – Staff writer: Feb 1, 2013

January was not a good month for veterans seeking jobs. The unemployment rate for Post-9/11 veterans climbed to 11.7 percent, up from 9.9 percent in December, while the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.9 percent.

For veterans of all generations, the January unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, still below the national average. However, this is the third consecutive month it has increased; that rate was 7 percent in December and 6.6 percent in November.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/military-veterans-unemployment-report-january-020113/

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Younger vets still struggle as economy improves

By Kevin Freking and Tim Talley – The Associated Press: Feb 19, 2013

WASHINGTON — Two months after completing his five-plus years as an Army medic, Dan Huber is still looking for a job. And while he’s had some promising interviews, he has no assurances the search will end soon.

That’s given him some insight that he shares with some of his buddies back at Fort Polk in Louisiana: Don’t wait until you’ve left the military to determine how you’ll make ends meet as a civilian.

“I’ve told them: ‘Hey, man, you guys have really got to start planning months and months in advance. It’s not just planning for interviews. It’s planning to make sure you’ll be afloat in this time period, which you don’t know how long will take,’ ” said Huber, 26, of Waukesha, Wis.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/ap-younger-vets-still-struggle-as-jobs-scene-improves-021913/

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The following posted 2/11/13

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House VA chair wants to cut claims backlog

By Ledyard King – Gannett Washington Bureau
Posted : Friday Feb 8, 2013 18:27:43 EST

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, the Pensacola-area Republican who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, wants to speed up the time it takes to process veterans disability claims.

It’s one of two main priorities Miller outlined in an interview Wednesday in his Capitol Hill Office. The other is providing veterans greater access to mental health services, possibly by allowing them to access the TRICARE system that serves active-duty military personnel.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has set a goal that, by 2015, no disability compensation claim will take more than 125 days to fully process and that 98 percent will be accurate. As of August, it took an average 260 days to process each claim, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.

That’s up from 161 days in 2009. The accuracy rate is currently about 85 percent, according to Miller’s office.

One million service members are expected to become veterans within the next five years, further straining the agency’s capabilities.

The GAO called the VA’s ability to process claims in a timely manner “a daunting challenge.”

Some 1.7 million veterans live in Florida.

The agency processes about 1 million disability benefits claims nationally a year, but there’s another 1 million they can’t get to, said Miller of Chumuckla.

“I don’t want to sit here and continue to beat up on the VA,” said Miller, who publicly criticized the agency last year for spending too much on conferences and for mismanaging construction of a new VA hospital in Orlando. “A .500 batting average in baseball — that’s pretty damn good. It ain’t good in the veterans world.”

Tom Tarantino, a former Army captain who served in Iraq, said he knows the agency is trying to do a better job, But he called the backlog “an epically bad” challenge.

“The problem is very complex,” said Tarantino, chief policy officer for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home with more injuries. They’re surviving combat at a much higher rate, so claims for disabilities are five times more complicated than they ever were.”

The backlog has been exacerbated by the administration’s 2010 decision to accept 260,000 previously denied and new claims associated with Agent Orange exposure.

Allowing those claims was the “right thing,” Miller said.

“But I don’t think VA planned,” he said. “They had an idea of the numbers of people that would be coming through the system, and that’s where I fault VA.”

Agency officials agree the delay has been an ongoing problem and have taken steps to shorten waiting times.

The VA has begun redeploying workers it dedicated to process the new Agent Orange claims now that those requests are practically complete. They promise to work more closely with other federal agencies to shorten paperwork delays. And they’re planning to cut down on processing delays by converting to an electronic records system.

But in a report that came out Monday, the VA’s inspector general said ongoing problems with the paperless system indicate the agency “will continue to face challenges in meeting its (2015) goal of eliminating the backlog.”

Miller, whose Panhandle district includes more than 100,000 veterans, hopes to address gaps in mental health services as well. His committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the issue.

Non-emergency appointments can take months to schedule, he said. Allowing veterans to access TRICARE health professionals, he said, “could double access overnight.”

Such a move would require Pentagon approval but Miller doesn’t see that as a problem. The bigger issue would be convincing veterans’ organizations to go along with a plan that could send many of their members to a network operated by a different bureaucracy.

But organizations like Tarantino’s see the suicide rate among veterans — 22 per day, according to the VA — and say something must be done.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” he said of Miller’s suggestion. “You hear a lot of talk about sending care outside the VA and it’s always problematic and a little controversial. But you know what’s problematic and controversial? Twenty-two people a day killing themselves.”

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/gnt-house-va-chair-wants-claims-backlog-020813/

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McHugh discusses improved mental health care

By Mike Baker – The Associated Press  Monday Feb 4, 2013

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Army leadership is looking to improve coordination among its mental health programs and other soldier-resilience efforts, acknowledging Monday that a patchwork system of tools is often confusing for both commanders and soldiers.

Army Secretary John McHugh said he has asked Army officials to finish a plan for an overhaul in the next couple weeks. He hopes to improve processing times in the disability evaluation system and integrate “resilience” programs into the day-to-day training of soldiers, and he has the goal of lowering the incidence of suicide, sexual assault and substance abuse among soldiers.

McHugh said there are already a variety of programs available to help soldiers. But he said there is widespread confusion about the available tools, so commanders are unaware of the benefits and programs. That means soldiers aren’t getting matched up with the appropriate opportunities. Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/02/ap-army-lewis-john-mchugh-discusses-improved-mental-health-care-020413/

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The following posted 1/31/13

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How to Feed the Homeless

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Unless you’ve been hungry for more than a few hours, you don’t know what homeless people struggle with every day. They never know how or when they’ll eat their next meal. Hunger affects their ability to concentrate and function, making it more difficult for them to find ways to help themselves. Follow these steps to help them.

Instructions

  • 1Pack an extra sandwich in your lunch and give it to someone on the street. This is the most personal way to feed them. Homeless people enjoy the nurturing that comes from homemade food just as much as anyone.
  • 2Order extra food at lunch or dinner and ask that the waitress wrap it up. Make sure you’ve got extra eating utensils; then give the meal to the first homeless person you see. While not as personal as offering homeless people homemade food, it’s a nourishing hot meal that will quiet hunger pangs for a few hours.
  • 3Find out where there are food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens. The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program has a list of organizations who feed the homeless.
  • 4Locate the organizations, churches and agencies that provide food for the homeless and type these on sheets of paper to distribute to homeless people.
  • 5Donate nonperishables to food pantries and food banks. Make an effort to buy some every week and make a trip with your children so they understand that not everyone has a full refrigerator.
  • 6Give money to local pantries and organizations such as America’s Second Harvest, which partners with businesses to feed homeless people.
  • 7Give your time to organizations that feed the homeless. Pick up food donations if you’ve got access to a car. Make meals if you like to cook. Serve the food if you like to interact with people.

Tips & Warnings

  • When feeding people on the street with prepared foods, choose high calorie proteins that are filling. Vegetables and fruit will give them vitamins and minerals that are hard for them to get.
  • Don’t give money directly to homeless people. You might be supporting a substance abuse habit. Either feed them directly or tell them where they can be fed.

Read more: How to Feed the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html#ixzz2IwNoJydW

http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html

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 Facts About Helping the Homeless

Skylar Ezell

Skylar Ezell is a talented writer who began his professional writing journey in 2007. He has written for such online publications as YBE Magazine, ParleMagazine.com and Metromix.com (Atlanta). He is a 2009 graduate of Georgia State University, with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and public relations.

By Skylar Ezell, eHow Contributor

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There are many ways people can help the homeless.

Being homeless is a hard situation for any person to deal with. Luckily, there are ways for those who are more fortunate to offer assistance. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of how exactly they can help combat the homeless problem in their area. Here are some facts on helping the homeless.

  1. The Numbers of Homeless
  • The struggling American housing market and the subsequent recession are forcing more individuals and families out of their homes. According to National Alliance to End Homelessness, the recession was on track to force 1.5 million more people into homelessness by the end of the year 2011. In 2008, the U.S. Conference of Mayors claimed an increase of the homeless populations in 19 out of the 25 cities surveyed. Cities also reported a 12 percent homelessness increase since 2007.

Building a Shelter Doesn’t Increase Homeless Populations

  • Some may argue that building a homeless shelter will somehow draw more homeless people to the neighborhood. There is often a fear that this increased number of homeless individuals will bring about more panhandling, property crime and violent crime in these areas. This is not accurate. Building and supporting a local shelter does not bring in addition homeless in droves and actually reduces the number of homeless on the streets and provides them with a safe place to stay while in transition.

Homeless Shelters Need Monetary Donations

  • Opening and maintaining a homeless shelter can be a difficult task. It requires start-up funds, as well as continuing financial support. Often this financial support comes from fundraisers and contributions from local communities. Since the onset of the recent recession and housing crisis, local governments across the nation can only offer a fraction of the financial support to these facilities as they had in years past. This increases the need for financial support from local community members and non-governmental organizations.

Different Ways to Volunteer

  • There are many different ways you can help fight homelessness, including volunteering. Giving just a few hours a week can be of great assistance to the functioning of a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or job training facility. Intake assessment takers meet with homeless residents in a specified shelter or organization and match them with specific programs and housing to help them get back on their feet. Other volunteers include certified counselors, cooks, spiritual guides and fundraisers.

Read more: Facts About Helping the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_8177951_helping-homeless.html#ixzz2IwLzLr3T

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How to Help Homeless Veterans

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Sadly, new statistics suggest that a significant portion of the homeless population is composed of veterans. Homeless veterans are old and young, including many men an women who served their country in recent years. While this is disturbing, various organizations are helping homeless veterans. You can also help homeless veterans by following a few steps.

Instructions

  • 1Make a list of things the person needs, such as temporary housing, clothes, medical treatment and a job.
  • 2Help the person find temporary housing in a shelter. Contact the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development at (202) 708-1112 to obtain a list of shelters in your area.
  • 3Create a file of the person’s personal records, which will be necessary to get permanent housing, a job and other benefits. This file includes photo identification, birth certificate and a social security card. Obtain photo identification at your state’s motor vehicle office.
  • 4Obtain a copy of the person’s military service and health records by sending a request to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. You may fax the request to (314) 801-920.
  • 5Contact the Veterans Administration at (800) 827-1000 to obtain a copy of the book known as “Federal Benefits for Veterans and Their Dependents.” If the person is eligible for a claim, identify a service representative, such as the American Legion or AMVETS to help file the claim.
  • 6Encourage the person to obtain medical assistance through the local VA Medical Center. Find your local VA Medical Center through the Veterans Administration website or by calling (877) 222-8387. Obtain additional assistance through the National Health Care for the Homeless Council at (615) 226-2292.
  • 7Assist the person in finding a job by calling the Department of Labor’s VETS Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program. Obtain the number for your local office at the Department of Labor’s website. For disabled veterans contact VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services at (877) 222-838.

Tips & Warnings

  • Establish an address where the person can receive mail. Options include a shelter, the local VA office, a church or a friend’s home.
  • Other organizations provide assistance to homeless veterans, such as United Way, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army.

Read more: How to Help Homeless Veterans | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2189723_help-homeless-veterans.html#ixzz2IwLSxwg4

__________________________________________________________

 How to Feed the Homeless

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Unless you’ve been hungry for more than a few hours, you don’t know what homeless people struggle with every day. They never know how or when they’ll eat their next meal. Hunger affects their ability to concentrate and function, making it more difficult for them to find ways to help themselves. Follow these steps to help them.

Instructions

  • 1Pack an extra sandwich in your lunch and give it to someone on the street. This is the most personal way to feed them. Homeless people enjoy the nurturing that comes from homemade food just as much as anyone.
  • 2Order extra food at lunch or dinner and ask that the waitress wrap it up. Make sure you’ve got extra eating utensils; then give the meal to the first homeless person you see. While not as personal as offering homeless people homemade food, it’s a nourishing hot meal that will quiet hunger pangs for a few hours.
  • 3Find out where there are food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens. The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program has a list of organizations who feed the homeless.
  • 4Locate the organizations, churches and agencies that provide food for the homeless and type these on sheets of paper to distribute to homeless people.
  • 5Donate nonperishables to food pantries and food banks. Make an effort to buy some every week and make a trip with your children so they understand that not everyone has a full refrigerator.
  • 6Give money to local pantries and organizations such as America’s Second Harvest, which partners with businesses to feed homeless people.
  • 7Give your time to organizations that feed the homeless. Pick up food donations if you’ve got access to a car. Make meals if you like to cook. Serve the food if you like to interact with people.

Tips & Warnings

  • When feeding people on the street with prepared foods, choose high calorie proteins that are filling. Vegetables and fruit will give them vitamins and minerals that are hard for them to get.
  • Don’t give money directly to homeless people. You might be supporting a substance abuse habit. Either feed them directly or tell them where they can be fed.

Read more: How to Feed the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html#ixzz2IwNoJydW

http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html

______________________________________________________________

Poverty & Homelessness Volunteer Opportunities

http://www.volunteerguide.org/opportunities/poverty?gclid=CJ-W9JaW1qgCFRlPgwodxlDdAQ

You can help reduce poverty and homelessness:

Find out how to reduce poverty and homelessness in just 15 minutes:

Find out how to reduce poverty and homelessness in just a few hours (either once, or each week):

Find out how to reduce poverty and homelessness during a volunteer vacation:

 _____________________________________________________________

How to Help the Homeless

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Homelessness is a very real and misunderstood situation that affects over one million Americans. Some view homelessness as a natural consequence of laziness or a lack of motivation. However, homelessness often stems from job loss, mental illness, domestic violence or teenagers running away from home. Fortunately, there are ways to help.

Instructions

  • 1Donate items for the homeless. Set aside used clothing and toys next time you clean out the closet. Other donations, such as food and cash, can also be taken to a homeless shelter.
  • 2Work at a shelter. You can help feed the homeless year-round. Even people with very busy schedules can volunteer whenever it’s possible.
  • 3Volunteer your time with other organizations that offer aid to the homeless. Check with your local Salvation Army to find ways you can help. The little bit of kindness you give, will be remembered for a long time.
  • 4Use your talents to help others. Lawyers can provide free legal help. Medical and dental services can be offered to the homeless at no cost by doctors and dentists. If you are a teacher, you can offer tutoring.
  • 5Educate others. Whether you’re letting others know about a shelter, what they can do to help, or responding when an uninformed person makes an incorrect and insensitive comment, your knowledge can go a long way in convincing others to help.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact a church to find out about opportunities to help. Many churches have food and clothing drives or send out teams to volunteer at homeless shelters.
  • Be mindful of your safety. It is always a good idea to go with someone else when visiting new places or talking to people you don’t know.

Read more: How to Help the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2049819_help-homeless.html#ixzz2IwMaY7h7

http://www.ehow.com/how_2049819_help-homeless.html

 ______________________________________________________________

 Easy Ways to Help the Homeless

Spencer Hendricks

Spencer Hendricks has written for various well-regarded blogs. His work has appeared in the “Kickapoo Prairie News” and online at sprayahen.com and Spencer Vs. The Food Industry. He is currently in the process of obtaining a degree in Web development.

By Spencer Hendricks, eHow Contributor

You can help the homeless population.

The next time you see a homeless person, remember that the only thing separating you from him is bad fortune. The majority of the homeless population suffers from problems with addiction, mental disorders, painful childhoods or domestic violence from a spouse or family member, any of which may factor into their predicament in life. With minimal effort, you have the power to make a big difference in the life of a homeless person.

  1. Treat Them With Kindness
  • Understand that the homeless population deserves your respect, just as other individuals do. There are a wide variety of reasons behind homelessness, and taking on a negative viewpoint about those without a place to live is thoughtless. A simple smile or word of kindness may give a homeless person a much-needed boost, and in some cases may help as much as a warm meal would, depending on the situation. Don’t automatically ignore or dismiss the homeless population; they are people just like you going through a difficult time.

Make Donations

  • Donate your money, food or unwanted clothing items to any local organization who makes a point to assist the homeless, including churches and synagogues. Bring an extra sandwich with you on your trip through town and hand it a homeless person on the street, even if she asks for money. As a general rule, never attempt to help by giving cash directly to a homeless person. Although your intentions are good, it’s possible that he will not use it in a way that really improves his situation.

Volunteer

  • Get involved in the community to help the homeless. Volunteer your time at a shelter or soup kitchen, where you have a chance to provide the homeless population with a nourishing meal or a secure place to sleep for the night. You may also volunteer your talents or hobbies. For instance, doctors may volunteer at free clinics for the day to provide medical treatment, while anyone with a passion for cooking or gardening may pass on their knowledge to the homeless population to put to use.

Employ the Homeless

  • Some members of the homeless population would relish the opportunity to work if an opportunity arose. If you run a place of business, consider someone from a homeless shelter for an open position. While some homeless people may require training, others have extensive work history and simply lack the good fortune of finding a job in recent times. Make sure compensation is on par with livable wages, which allows the employee to cover basic costs like housing, utilities, health care and transportation.

Read more: Easy Ways to Help the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_8314777_easy-ways-homeless.html#ixzz2IwN7dooG

http://www.ehow.com/info_8314777_easy-ways-homeless.html

 ___________________________________________________________________

 How to Feed the Homeless

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Unless you’ve been hungry for more than a few hours, you don’t know what homeless people struggle with every day. They never know how or when they’ll eat their next meal. Hunger affects their ability to concentrate and function, making it more difficult for them to find ways to help themselves. Follow these steps to help them.

Instructions

  • 1Pack an extra sandwich in your lunch and give it to someone on the street. This is the most personal way to feed them. Homeless people enjoy the nurturing that comes from homemade food just as much as anyone.
  • 2Order extra food at lunch or dinner and ask that the waitress wrap it up. Make sure you’ve got extra eating utensils; then give the meal to the first homeless person you see. While not as personal as offering homeless people homemade food, it’s a nourishing hot meal that will quiet hunger pangs for a few hours.
  • 3Find out where there are food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens. The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program has a list of organizations who feed the homeless.
  • 4Locate the organizations, churches and agencies that provide food for the homeless and type these on sheets of paper to distribute to homeless people.
  • 5Donate nonperishables to food pantries and food banks. Make an effort to buy some every week and make a trip with your children so they understand that not everyone has a full refrigerator.
  • 6Give money to local pantries and organizations such as America’s Second Harvest, which partners with businesses to feed homeless people.
  • 7Give your time to organizations that feed the homeless. Pick up food donations if you’ve got access to a car. Make meals if you like to cook. Serve the food if you like to interact with people.

Tips & Warnings

  • When feeding people on the street with prepared foods, choose high calorie proteins that are filling. Vegetables and fruit will give them vitamins and minerals that are hard for them to get.
  • Don’t give money directly to homeless people. You might be supporting a substance abuse habit. Either feed them directly or tell them where they can be fed.

Read more: How to Feed the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html#ixzz2IwNoJydW

http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html

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 Facts About Helping the Homeless

Skylar Ezell

Skylar Ezell is a talented writer who began his professional writing journey in 2007. He has written for such online publications as YBE Magazine, ParleMagazine.com and Metromix.com (Atlanta). He is a 2009 graduate of Georgia State University, with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and public relations.

By Skylar Ezell, eHow Contributor

There are many ways people can help the homeless.

Being homeless is a hard situation for any person to deal with. Luckily, there are ways for those who are more fortunate to offer assistance. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of how exactly they can help combat the homeless problem in their area. Here are some facts on helping the homeless.

  1. The Numbers of Homeless
  • The struggling American housing market and the subsequent recession are forcing more individuals and families out of their homes. According to National Alliance to End Homelessness, the recession was on track to force 1.5 million more people into homelessness by the end of the year 2011. In 2008, the U.S. Conference of Mayors claimed an increase of the homeless populations in 19 out of the 25 cities surveyed. Cities also reported a 12 percent homelessness increase since 2007.

Building a Shelter Doesn’t Increase Homeless Populations

  • Some may argue that building a homeless shelter will somehow draw more homeless people to the neighborhood. There is often a fear that this increased number of homeless individuals will bring about more panhandling, property crime and violent crime in these areas. This is not accurate. Building and supporting a local shelter does not bring in addition homeless in droves and actually reduces the number of homeless on the streets and provides them with a safe place to stay while in transition.

Homeless Shelters Need Monetary Donations

  • Opening and maintaining a homeless shelter can be a difficult task. It requires start-up funds, as well as continuing financial support. Often this financial support comes from fundraisers and contributions from local communities. Since the onset of the recent recession and housing crisis, local governments across the nation can only offer a fraction of the financial support to these facilities as they had in years past. This increases the need for financial support from local community members and non-governmental organizations.

Different Ways to Volunteer

  • There are many different ways you can help fight homelessness, including volunteering. Giving just a few hours a week can be of great assistance to the functioning of a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or job training facility. Intake assessment takers meet with homeless residents in a specified shelter or organization and match them with specific programs and housing to help them get back on their feet. Other volunteers include certified counselors, cooks, spiritual guides and fundraisers.

Read more: Facts About Helping the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_8177951_helping-homeless.html#ixzz2IwLzLr3T

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How to Help Homeless Veterans

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Sadly, new statistics suggest that a significant portion of the homeless population is composed of veterans. Homeless veterans are old and young, including many men an women who served their country in recent years. While this is disturbing, various organizations are helping homeless veterans. You can also help homeless veterans by following a few steps.

Instructions

  • 1Make a list of things the person needs, such as temporary housing, clothes, medical treatment and a job.
  • 2Help the person find temporary housing in a shelter. Contact the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development at (202) 708-1112 to obtain a list of shelters in your area.
  • 3Create a file of the person’s personal records, which will be necessary to get permanent housing, a job and other benefits. This file includes photo identification, birth certificate and a social security card. Obtain photo identification at your state’s motor vehicle office.
  • 4Obtain a copy of the person’s military service and health records by sending a request to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. You may fax the request to (314) 801-920.
  • 5Contact the Veterans Administration at (800) 827-1000 to obtain a copy of the book known as “Federal Benefits for Veterans and Their Dependents.” If the person is eligible for a claim, identify a service representative, such as the American Legion or AMVETS to help file the claim.
  • 6Encourage the person to obtain medical assistance through the local VA Medical Center. Find your local VA Medical Center through the Veterans Administration website or by calling (877) 222-8387. Obtain additional assistance through the National Health Care for the Homeless Council at (615) 226-2292.
  • 7Assist the person in finding a job by calling the Department of Labor’s VETS Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program. Obtain the number for your local office at the Department of Labor’s website. For disabled veterans contact VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services at (877) 222-838.

Tips & Warnings

  • Establish an address where the person can receive mail. Options include a shelter, the local VA office, a church or a friend’s home.
  • Other organizations provide assistance to homeless veterans, such as United Way, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army.

Read more: How to Help Homeless Veterans | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2189723_help-homeless-veterans.html#ixzz2IwLSxwg4

__________________________________________________________

How to Feed the Homeless

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Unless you’ve been hungry for more than a few hours, you don’t know what homeless people struggle with every day. They never know how or when they’ll eat their next meal. Hunger affects their ability to concentrate and function, making it more difficult for them to find ways to help themselves. Follow these steps to help them.

Instructions

  • 1Pack an extra sandwich in your lunch and give it to someone on the street. This is the most personal way to feed them. Homeless people enjoy the nurturing that comes from homemade food just as much as anyone.
  • 2Order extra food at lunch or dinner and ask that the waitress wrap it up. Make sure you’ve got extra eating utensils; then give the meal to the first homeless person you see. While not as personal as offering homeless people homemade food, it’s a nourishing hot meal that will quiet hunger pangs for a few hours.
  • 3Find out where there are food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens. The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program has a list of organizations who feed the homeless.
  • 4Locate the organizations, churches and agencies that provide food for the homeless and type these on sheets of paper to distribute to homeless people.
  • 5Donate nonperishables to food pantries and food banks. Make an effort to buy some every week and make a trip with your children so they understand that not everyone has a full refrigerator.
  • 6Give money to local pantries and organizations such as America’s Second Harvest, which partners with businesses to feed homeless people.
  • 7Give your time to organizations that feed the homeless. Pick up food donations if you’ve got access to a car. Make meals if you like to cook. Serve the food if you like to interact with people.

Tips & Warnings

  • When feeding people on the street with prepared foods, choose high calorie proteins that are filling. Vegetables and fruit will give them vitamins and minerals that are hard for them to get.
  • Don’t give money directly to homeless people. You might be supporting a substance abuse habit. Either feed them directly or tell them where they can be fed.

Read more: How to Feed the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html#ixzz2IwNoJydW

http://www.ehow.com/how_2058615_feed-homeless.html

____________________________________________________________

Poverty & Homelessness Volunteer Opportunities

http://www.volunteerguide.org/opportunities/poverty?gclid=CJ-W9JaW1qgCFRlPgwodxlDdAQ

You can help reduce poverty and homelessness:

Find out how to reduce poverty and homelessness in just 15 minutes:

Find out how to reduce poverty and homelessness in just a few hours (either once, or each week):

Find out how to reduce poverty and homelessness during a volunteer vacation:

 ________________________________________________________________

How to Help the Homeless

eHow Culture & Society Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

By an eHow Contributor

Homelessness is a very real and misunderstood situation that affects over one million Americans. Some view homelessness as a natural consequence of laziness or a lack of motivation. However, homelessness often stems from job loss, mental illness, domestic violence or teenagers running away from home. Fortunately, there are ways to help.

Instructions

  • 1Donate items for the homeless. Set aside used clothing and toys next time you clean out the closet. Other donations, such as food and cash, can also be taken to a homeless shelter.
  • 2Work at a shelter. You can help feed the homeless year-round. Even people with very busy schedules can volunteer whenever it’s possible.
  • 3Volunteer your time with other organizations that offer aid to the homeless. Check with your local Salvation Army to find ways you can help. The little bit of kindness you give, will be remembered for a long time.
  • 4Use your talents to help others. Lawyers can provide free legal help. Medical and dental services can be offered to the homeless at no cost by doctors and dentists. If you are a teacher, you can offer tutoring.
  • 5Educate others. Whether you’re letting others know about a shelter, what they can do to help, or responding when an uninformed person makes an incorrect and insensitive comment, your knowledge can go a long way in convincing others to help.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact a church to find out about opportunities to help. Many churches have food and clothing drives or send out teams to volunteer at homeless shelters.
  • Be mindful of your safety. It is always a good idea to go with someone else when visiting new places or talking to people you don’t know.

Read more: How to Help the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2049819_help-homeless.html#ixzz2IwMaY7h7

http://www.ehow.com/how_2049819_help-homeless.html

 ___________________________________________________________

Easy Ways to Help the Homeless

Spencer Hendricks

Spencer Hendricks has written for various well-regarded blogs. His work has appeared in the “Kickapoo Prairie News” and online at sprayahen.com and Spencer Vs. The Food Industry. He is currently in the process of obtaining a degree in Web development.

By Spencer Hendricks, eHow Contributor

You can help the homeless population.

The next time you see a homeless person, remember that the only thing separating you from him is bad fortune. The majority of the homeless population suffers from problems with addiction, mental disorders, painful childhoods or domestic violence from a spouse or family member, any of which may factor into their predicament in life. With minimal effort, you have the power to make a big difference in the life of a homeless person.

  1. Treat Them With Kindness
  • Understand that the homeless population deserves your respect, just as other individuals do. There are a wide variety of reasons behind homelessness, and taking on a negative viewpoint about those without a place to live is thoughtless. A simple smile or word of kindness may give a homeless person a much-needed boost, and in some cases may help as much as a warm meal would, depending on the situation. Don’t automatically ignore or dismiss the homeless population; they are people just like you going through a difficult time.

Make Donations

  • Donate your money, food or unwanted clothing items to any local organization who makes a point to assist the homeless, including churches and synagogues. Bring an extra sandwich with you on your trip through town and hand it a homeless person on the street, even if she asks for money. As a general rule, never attempt to help by giving cash directly to a homeless person. Although your intentions are good, it’s possible that he will not use it in a way that really improves his situation.

Volunteer

  • Get involved in the community to help the homeless. Volunteer your time at a shelter or soup kitchen, where you have a chance to provide the homeless population with a nourishing meal or a secure place to sleep for the night. You may also volunteer your talents or hobbies. For instance, doctors may volunteer at free clinics for the day to provide medical treatment, while anyone with a passion for cooking or gardening may pass on their knowledge to the homeless population to put to use.

Employ the Homeless

  • Some members of the homeless population would relish the opportunity to work if an opportunity arose. If you run a place of business, consider someone from a homeless shelter for an open position. While some homeless people may require training, others have extensive work history and simply lack the good fortune of finding a job in recent times. Make sure compensation is on par with livable wages, which allows the employee to cover basic costs like housing, utilities, health care and transportation.

Read more: Easy Ways to Help the Homeless | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_8314777_easy-ways-homeless.html#ixzz2IwN7dooG

http://www.ehow.com/info_8314777_easy-ways-homeless.html

  ________________________________________________________

The following posted 1/31/13

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How to Help Homeless Veterans

By an eHow Contributor

Sadly, new statistics suggest that a significant portion of the homeless population is composed of veterans. Homeless veterans are old and young, including many men an women who served their country in recent years. While this is disturbing, various organizations are helping homeless veterans.

Read more: How to Help Homeless Veterans | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2189723_help-homeless-veterans.html#ixzz2IwLSxwg4

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 Help Slow To Come For Returning U.S. Veterans

by Annmarie Fertoli   January 26, 2013

Hundreds of veterans and military spouses meet with prospective employers at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., in December. Veterans say they’re still having trouble finding jobs and getting other types of assistance.

As thousands of troops are set to return from Afghanistan over the next two years, veterans on the home front say they want to see increased reintegration support this year.

The latest jobs report — and the first of the New Year — shows a dismal picture for the nation’s newest veterans. Unemployment among those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan stands at 10.8 percent — far higher than the national rate of 7.8 percent.

It’s a number that has veterans and their advocates concerned.

Continue reading:  http://www.npr.org/2013/01/26/170276601/xxx?ft=1&f=1001

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To Combat Suicides, Army Focuses On The Homefront

by Blake Farmer   January 25, 2013

Alicia McCoy holds a photo of her husband, Sgt. Brandon McCoy. Despite taking part in basewide suicide prevention efforts at Fort Campbell in 2009, Sgt. McCoy took his own life in 2012.

When Sgt. Brandon McCoy returned from Iraq, he showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife, Alicia, remembers him being on edge in public.

“I’m watching him, and his trigger finger never stopped moving, constantly,” says Alicia.

Four years later, after he returned from a tour in Afghanistan in 2011, she says, she’d wake up with his hands wrapped around her throat. She told him: Get help or get a divorce. So he scheduled an appointment and — along with Alicia — trekked to the Fort Campbell hospital located on the Tennessee-Kentucky border.

Continue reading:

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/25/169699893/to-combat-suicides-army-focuses-on-the-homefront?ft=1&f=2&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NprProgramsATC+%28NPR+Programs%3A+All+Things+Considered%29&utm_content=FeedBurner

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Managing Life’s Wounds

01/25/2013 by Chuck Ross

You may have seen some coverage of the report released this past fall on the growing importance of caregivers in providing help that would require a registered nurse if the patient were in a hospital. “Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care” was jointly researched and written by AARP and the United Hospital Fund. Managing prescription and non-prescription medications took up the biggest chunk of these surrogate nurses’ time. But more than a third of those providing what otherwise would qualify as professional care also managed wound treatment — and two-thirds of those were fearful of making a mistake.

Wound care is a tough job, for many reasons. First, there’s the “ick” factor — many of us can get squeamish around open wounds. Second, there’s a real fear that doing something wrong could mean more pain or a serious infection for a loved one. I had to meet both these reactions head-on while Dad was living with me, caring for everything from diabetes-related toe wounds to skin tears resulting from a fall on my back deck. In few of these cases did the medical pros who sent him home with me consider the emotional hurdles I’d have to jump to handle these tasks. Continue reading: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/01/25/managing-lifes-wounds/

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The following posted 1/24/13

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Senate starts year with vets employment bill

By Rick Maze – Staff writer    Jan 23, 2013

Helping veterans find jobs is one of the top legislative priorities for Senate Democrats.

One of the first 10 bills introduced in the 113th Congress is a measure that seeks to get more veterans hired for civil service jobs; provide federal grants to encourage employers to hire veterans as first responders; expand small-business loans; and strengthen employment and reemployment rights.

It also extends for two more years the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP, that provides up to one year of GI Bill benefits to certain unemployed veterans so they can learn a new marketable skill.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman and cosponsor of the bill, said his panel “will be looking very seriously at how to improve veterans’ employment and training programs.”

The bill’s chief sponsor is Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader.

Many of the ideas in it are neither new nor created by Democrats. For example, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman and the chief architect of VRAP, has also talked about extending the life of the program, which so far has helped about 90,000 veterans learn a new skill.

Miller said in December he wanted to see the program’s first-year results before proposing an extension. The Senate, however, has moved ahead to open the program to another 100,000 people, with 50,000 slots to open in 2014 and another 50,000 in 2015.

The Reid bill also requires a single federal website to give veterans information on all federal programs involving employment, unemployment and job training.

The bill also:

• Provides $250,000 to be used for grants to hire veterans as law enforcement officers and for priority hiring for federal law enforcement jobs.

• Requires every federal agency to consider giving preferential treatment to federal contractors who have workforces made up of at least 5 percent veterans. This would apply to all contracts valued at $25 million or greater.

• Strengthens federal enforcement of employment and reemployment rights for veterans, including more oversight to determine when employers have a pattern of resisting full compliance with the law. Repeat violators would be barred from receiving federal contracts.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/01/military-senate-veterans-jobs-bills-012313w/

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Reenergizing Veterans Through Adventure and Challenge.

Outward Bound for Veterans helps thousands of returning service members and recent veterans readjust to life at home through powerful wilderness courses that draw on the healing benefit of teamwork and challenge through use of the natural world.

http://www.outwardbound.org/veteran-adventures/outward-bound-for-veterans-home/

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 Here’s How Veterans Can Score Free Tickets

Posted by Christiana Nielson

When you go to a concert or sporting event, there’s often a scattering of empty seats about. Usually, those seats were purchased, but their owners couldn’t come for one reason or another. Until recently, there wasn’t much you could do about it. But now, if you’re ever in that sticky situation, there’s a military-friendly solution: Veteran Tickets Foundation.

The premise behind the organization is for civilians and veterans to give back to the community they love and support by working to provide free tickets to various events so that veterans and military members may be able to attend. Civilians, current servicemembers and veterans alike can donate tickets to the Veteran Tickets Foundation, who then disperses the free tickets. An empty seat doesn’t do anyone any good, argues the foundation, so why not donate the ticket to a game or concert you can’t go to?

Top-rated free tickets

Events that veterans and the military are able to attend through the foundation include Disney on Ice, NBA games, various plays and musicals and more. Once you sign up for VetTix, you can start claiming tickets, and can even request to take family or friends with you to events. As of December 2011, the foundation has given away 289,000 tickets.

As far as nonprofits go, they’re hitting it out of the park.

“The organization received top-rated status by being positively reviewed by their own constituents,” said Jessica Belsky, communications director at GreatNonprofits.org.

One reviewer of VetTix on GreatNonprofits.org, said “VetTix gave us the opportunity to attend events and broaden our own exposure to the Arts. We were able to attend plays, concerts, and even the ballet that we would not even have considered. Thank you VetTix for a great concept and putting unused tickets to great use!”

Fulfilling wishes

According to PR Web, the foundation also teamed up with 5-Hour Energy in 2012 to provide football tickets for Air Force veteran Michael Daugherty following his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Through the foundation’s Hero’s Wish program, Daugherty also was able to meet the game’s announcers.

The Military Wallet mentioned the foundation as one of the only organizations that includes veterans in their staff as well as recipient group. Veteran Tickets Foundation is giving back to those who gave freedom to them and is doing great things in the military and veteran communities.

http://www.veteransunited.com/network/heres-how-veterans-can-score-free-tickets/?utm_source=status&utm_medium=fb&utm_term=vbb&utm_content=nineteenthirty&utm_campaign=bp

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Veterans Creative Arts Festivalwill be Feb. 11-13 at Bob Stump VA Medical Center featuring over 50 categories of art, music, drama, writing and dance. For application and information, contact Paula Moran at 928-717-7402 or Sharla Peterson at 445-4860 Ext. 6243.

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The Foundation for Art & Healing

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) represent significant burdens for those afflicted, their caregivers, and military and civilian healthcare delivery systems. New approaches are urgently needed to help active service members suffering from PTSD & TBI thrive on duty and successfully transition to civilian life.

The application of creative and expressive therapies as part of treatment plans has recently shown significant and sustained benefit at leading institutions such as Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, and various VA institutions across the country.

The Foundation for Art & Healing is committed to extending the impact of this early field work by bringing greater awareness to how art and creative engagement powerfully influences the overall healing of PTSD and TBI and connecting people with helpful resources.

http://www.artandhealing.org/programs/ptsd/

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TRAUMATIC INCIDENT REDUCTION (TIR) 

TIR, or Traumatic Incident Reduction, is a systematic method of locating, reviewing and resolving traumatic events.

Once a person has used TIR to fully and calmly view a painful memory or a web of related memories, life events no longer trigger it and cause distressing symptoms.

TIR has proven useful in relieving a wide range of fears, limiting beliefs, suffering due to losses (including unresolved grief and mourning), depression, and other PTSD symptoms. The TIR technique, though directive, can be traced to roots in psychoanalytic theory and desensitization methods; however, it is carried out in a thoroughly person-centered, non-judgmental and non-evaluative context.  This month’s art gallery selection

The idea of emotional trauma being curable has only recently been considered by leading traumatologists. In May of 1993, Charles Figley and Joyce Carbonell convened a seminar and informal research study at Florida State University. The invited participants were innovators in the field who were successfully treating emotional trauma.

The panel members 1  included Dr. Frank Gerbode and Gerald French, who spoke on the treatment paradigm know as Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR).

Since that time, thousands of people suffering traumatic sequelae have resolved their residual pain, suffering, anguish and grief with the benefit and efficacy of therapeutic techniques used in the clinical practice of Traumatic Incident Reduction.

http://healing-arts.org/tir/

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The following posted 1/18/13

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Americans should spend more money on veterans

Supporting our troops cannot begin and end with the mere act of waving a flag or wearing a yellow ribbon

By Tom Rogan

It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with President Obama’s strategy on Afghanistan, because the president has made his decision. After more than a decade of war, major U.S. military operations are coming to an end. Many will welcome this development; years upon years of war have wearied America. But while this exhaustion is understandable, it’s also insignificant. Since the fall of 2001, while we spent money in malls, our fellow citizens were giving everything abroad. Now these veterans need our support.

While their fortitude is incredible and their military successes undeniable, after multiple combat deployments, many veterans face serious challenges when they come home. In 2012, 349 service personnel took their own lives, a 16 percent increase over 2011, and more than were killed in action. We must stop this national catastrophe. But how?

First, we’ve got to increase public awareness concerning the mental health challenges that our veterans face. If we can, you can bet we’ll see a rise in donations to NGOs focused on the mental health of vets, like The Soldiers Project, the Coming Home Project, and New Directions.

Continue reading:   https://secure.palmcoastd.com/pcd/FormRedirect?iID=9411301

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Can Eye Movements Treat Trauma?

Recent research supports the effectiveness of EMDR

ByTori Rodriguez

Imagine you are trying to put a traumatic event behind you. Your therapist asks you to recall the memory in detail while rapidly moving your eyes back and forth, as if you are watching a high-speed Ping-Pong match. The sensation is strange, but many therapists and patients swear by the technique, called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Although skeptics continue to question EMDR’s usefulness, recent research supports the idea that the eye movements indeed help to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Much of the EMDR debate hinges on the issue of whether the eye movements have any benefit or whether other aspects of the therapeutic process account for patients’ improvement. The first phase of EMDR resembles the start of most psychotherapeutic relationships: a therapist inquires about the patient’s issues, early life events, and desired goals to achieve rapport and a level of comfort. The second phase is preparing the client to mentally revisit the traumatic event, which might involve helping the person learn ways to self-soothe, for example. Finally, the memory processing itself is similar to other exposure-based therapies, minus the eye movements. Some experts argue that these other components of EMDR have been shown to be beneficial as part of other therapy regimens, so the eye movements may not deserve any of the credit. New studies suggest, however, that they do.

Continue reading:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=can-eye-movements-treat-trauma

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The American Legion Claims Coach provides U.S. military veterans and their families with step-by-step guidance to assist in the process of filing claims for government benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This app features a comprehensive directory of accredited American Legion service officers, searchable by ZIP Code. The app has a built-in organizer to help veterans and their families keep track of appointments, documents, and deadlines. The built-in organizer, “My Checklist,” can easily be e-mailed and printed directly from the app, which also includes a glossary of VA terms, frequently asked questions, helpful filing tips, links to valuable resources and bulletins about benefits.

The American Legion Claims Coach is an organizational tool to help veterans, their families and service officers ease the process of VA benefits application. The app does not replace personal contact with service officers, but it can help veterans understand the often-complicated process, gather the right documentation for meetings and map out the steps in the journey from VA claims application through decision. The app does not automatically set appointments for the user, nor does it directly file forms with VA. The Claims Coach is designed purely to serve as an educational and organizational tool to streamline the process and make the most of a veteran’s time with his or her service officer.
This app was developed by The American Legion, the nation’s largest organization of wartime veterans, with input from the Legion’s nationwide network of accredited service officers, whose educational programs, outreach efforts and advocacy are supported by The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.suddenindustries.al

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END VETERAN HOMELESSNESS

On any given night, more than 60,000 U.S. military veterans sleep on our streets. Homelessness is always a tragedy, but it is especially appalling when it befalls men and women who have served our country in uniform.

Homeless veterans tend to remain homeless longer than their peers and suffer mental illness and deadly health conditions at significantly higher rates. Often, these conditions are directly related to their military service.

100,000 Homes communities are partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Got Your 6 to help end homelessness for America’s veterans.

Together, we will find permanent housing for 20,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless veterans by July of 2014.

100,000 Homes communities work closely with their local VA teams to identify the most vulnerable people on their streets and help them access VA resources. More than 20 communities have also participated in Rapid Results trainings with the Campaign, VA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. These trainings have helped local teams shrink the amount of time a homeless veteran must wait to access permanent housing by as much as 80 percent!

10934 Veterans housed by participating communities!

The 100,000 Homes Campaign has made a special commitment through Got Your 6 and the Clinton Global Initiative to help community’s house 20,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless veterans by July of 2014. Together, we’re making progress!

DONATE TO THE FIGHT

Educate Yourself

Read our report on veteran homelessness based on more than 23,000 surveys with homeless individuals in over 40 communities!

Make a Donation

Your donations go straight to our work with participating communities to help them house more veterans more quickly. Every dollar counts!

Survey Homeless Veterans in Your Area

Use our smartphone app, Homeless Connector, to gather data about homeless veterans on your street or block and send that data to your local Campaign team!

Follow this issue on Facebook     Follow the Campaign on Facebook to connect with people across the country working to end veteran homelessness and get the latest on our collective efforts!

 

 

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Homeless Veterans, and Veterans who are struggling

United States veterans are the people who served our country in time of need, risking their lives to protect us, our freedom, and our beliefs, both during times of war and times of peace, and the ambiguous times in between. Our veterans have earned their places as some of the most respected members of our society, and when they come home, or when they leave the service, they deserve the right to pursue their careers, their family lives, and their personal interests.

But some veterans get lost after their service, and are too often forgotten by society. They may slip through the cracks due to traumatic brain or other injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may lack the support they need to transition successfully to civilian life, or they may be victims of a down and unforgiving economy. Veterans may find themselves struggling to put food on the table for themselves and their family, or even homeless, living on the street or in shelters with a growing sense of frustration and despair.

On Any Given Night

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that on any given night there may be over 75,600 homeless veterans in shelters and on the streets across the country. Over the course of one year (October 2008-September 2009), 136,334 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter or transitional housing program, more than 5,000 of them alongside their families.

While veterans represent 8% of the total population in the United States, they are disproportionately represented among our homeless: a startling 12% of the homeless population are veterans, or 16% of homeless adults. Most homeless veterans — over 90% — are male. About half of homeless veterans are disabled.

According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, two-thirds of America’s homeless veterans served for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone. Veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq are currently considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty and lack of support networks.

More women veterans and women veterans with young children are seeking help today than ever before. The American Legion states that one of every 10 homeless veterans under the age of 45 is now a woman. Statistics from the HUD study show that of homeless veterans with families (defined by HUD as comprised of at least one adult and one child), 58% are women.

An Unmet Need

Statistics collected by the Veterans Administration show that no region in the country has enough shelter beds available to serve the need. Around the United States, community groups are hampered by lack of space, lack of funding, and the public’s general lack of understanding of the challenges facing veterans trying to turn their lives around.

We Can All Help

The Veterans Site is more than a simple, free way to give a homeless and hungry veteran a meal. It is also a vehicle to spread the word that homeless veterans are out there and that they need our help. Together, we have an opportunity to honor and assist our country’s homeless veterans and their families.

These men and women were here for us when we needed them. Now it is our turn to reach out to help them.

Please remember to click every day to help veterans in need, and spread the word!

http://www.theveteranssite.com/clickToGive/aboutthecause.faces?siteId=10&link=ctg_vet_aboutthecause_from_veteranresources

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Support Healing through Service Dogs for Veterans 

Sponsored by: The Veterans Site

For many veterans, it can be hard to return to normal life, performing daily activities, connecting with others, or managing stress of what they’ve been through.

Service dogs can add assistance and joy to a veteran’s life. In addition, helping train a service dog can enhance a veteran’s experience back at home and help him or her manage PTSD.

Tony Baker, Senior Policy Advisor at Office of Congresswoman Betty Sutton, contacted the Veterans Site to provide an update on legislation that would help veterans get their lives back.

The Dog Training Therapy Act would direct the VA to carry out a pilot program to help train service dogs for veterans in need of therapeutic care for post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. This legislation is necessary in providing veterans with alternative care that can be integral to their recovery.

http://www.theveteranssite.com/clickToGive/campaign.faces?siteId=10&campaign=VetsServiceDogFunding&pageNum=1

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Veterans’ disability costs climb

By Gregg Zoroya and Meghan Hoyer – USA Today  Jan 16, 2013

What the nation owes each year to veterans who are disabled by war and service has more than doubled since 2000, rising from $14.8 billion to $39.4 billion in 2011, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The toll of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where troops served repeatedly in combat zones, is a key contributor to escalating costs of individual disability payouts, said Alison Hickey, VA undersecretary for benefits.

“I would point first and foremost to multiple deployments,” said Hickey, a retired Air Force brigadier general. “I would call it unprecedented demand.”

The 3.4 million men and women disabled during their service, some of them having served in World War II, are about 15 percent of the nation’s 22.2 million veterans.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/01/gannett-veterans-disability-costs-climb-011613

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The following posted 1/17/13

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Wal-Mart pledges to hire 100,000-plus veterans

By Anne D’Innocenzio – AP Retail Writer
Tuesday Jan 15, 2013

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and nation’s largest private employer, is making a pledge to boost its sourcing from domestic suppliers and hire more than 100,000 veterans.

The plans were to be announced as part of an address by Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. business, at an annual retail industry convention in New York.

The company, based in Bentonville, Ark., says it plans to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next 10 years. According to data from Wal-Mart’s suppliers, items that are made, sourced or grown in the U.S. account for about two-thirds of the company’s spending on products for its U.S. business.

Wal-Mart also projects that it will hire more than 100,000 recently discharged veterans in the next five years. Honorably discharged veterans will have a “place to go,” says Wal-Mart’s Simon, according to prepared text supplied by the discounter. The hiring pledge, which will begin on Memorial Day, covers veterans within 12 months of leaving active duty. Most of the jobs will be in Wal-Mart’s stores or its Sam’s club locations. Some will be in the company’s distribution centers.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/01/ap-wal-mart-pledges-to-hire-100000-plus-vets-011513/

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The following posted 1/5/13

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Vets face residency confusion at state schools

By Allen G. Breed – The Associated Press: Saturday Jan 5, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. — In choosing to serve her country in uniform, Hayleigh Lynn Perez knowingly accepted a nomadic life. Now the former Army sergeant says she and thousands of other veterans trying to get a higher education are being penalized for that enforced rootlessness.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the federal government will pick up the full in-state cost for any honorably discharged service member wishing to attend a public college or university. But because the often intricate rules governing residency differ from state to state, and even within university systems, many veterans face a bewildering battle to exercise the benefits they’ve already fought for.

“It is part of our contractual agreement when we join the military,” says Perez, who filed a $10 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the University of North Carolina Board of Governors after one of its schools denied her resident status. “It’s been paid for — with blood and sweat and tears and deployments.”

Until last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs would cover up to the highest rate charged for in-state students at a public school in that state. But under changes that took effect in August 2011, while veterans can receive up to $17,500 a year for study at private schools, the agency will pay only “the actual net cost for in-State tuition and fees assessed” by the public institution the veteran is attending.

And if that person is deemed a nonresident, the veteran often must pay the difference out of pocket.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2013/01/ap-vets-residency-confusion-state-schools-gi-bill-010513/

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The following posted December 2013

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Soldier Suicides Exceed Combat Deaths in 2012

By Carl Wicklander | 12/30/2012 | War and Foreign Policy |

In an era of terrorism that accompanies extended enlistments, multiple deployments, and yellow “Support the Troops” decals, suicides among American soldiers have been steadily increasing.

Earlier this year, Injury Prevention, a peer review journal on public health, reported that suicides had increased 80% and reached its highest rate in 10 years among soldiers. The suicide rate among soldiers is about one and a half times that of the general population.

According to statistics provided by the Department of the Army, soldier suicides exceeded combat deaths in Afghanistan in 2012. With one day left in the year, 212 American soldiers died in Afghanistan this year, but 303 active duty, reservists, and National Guard personnel took their own lives. All branches of the armed services have seen increases in soldier suicides, but the Army’s numbers are greatest.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta credits the increase of soldier suicides to:

“A nation that’s been at war for over a decade. . . . You have repeated deployments and sustained combat exposure to enormous stresses and strains on our troops and on their families that produced a lot of seen and unseen wounds that contribute to the suicide risk.”

As a result, the Army has begun making attempts to address the suicides, including an entire day of suicide prevention for all active duty troops. Another tactic the Army has taken is introduce an online software program to help commanding officers identify the signs that one of their soldiers may be contemplating suicide or other high-risk behavior. As reported by IVN, the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act also includes provisions for the mental health of soldiers.

The mental health of America’s soldiers was highlighted in a 2006 Hartford Courant investigation which found only 6.5 percent of the soldiers who indicated mental health problems were actually referred to the proper assistance before deployment.

Through at least September, the Army reported approximately 33 suicides per month, but the tentative final number is barely over 300, an indication the military may be stanching the surge of soldier suicides. Regardless, with the total of deaths due to suicide still higher than combat deaths, it remains an alarming issue.

As the U.S. presence in Afghanistan winds down, soldier suicides may gain more attention as a public health issue, but with the ever-present chance there may be a further U.S. presence in countries from Iran to Pakistan to Syria, the issue may also not be resolved or much improved anytime soon.

As the nation engages in a public debate on mental health following the Sandy Hook catastrophe, and with a military that will have been at war for a dozen years in 2013, the gravity of these issues will certainly perpetuate and necessitate addressing.

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Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans

Receive a Tax Credit of up to $9600 for Every Eligible Veteran Hired

How can your organization claim a tax credit for hiring veterans?

Employers were given another incentive to hire veterans on November 21, 2011, when President Obama signed into law two new tax credits, the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides incentives of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit doubles the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit for long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities, to up to $9,600.

Who is an eligible veteran?

Returning Heroes Tax Credit

•           Short-term Unemployed: A new credit of 40% of the first $6,000 of wages (up to $2,400) for employers who hire veterans who have been in receipt of unemployment compensation for at least 4 weeks.

•           Long-term Unemployed: A new credit of 40% of the first $14,000 of wages (up to $5,600) for employers who hire veterans who have been in receipt of unemployment compensation for longer than 6 months.

Wounded Warrior Tax Credit

•           Veterans with Services-Connected Disabilities: Maintains the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit for veterans with service-connected disabilities hired within one year of being discharged from the military. The credit is 40% of the first $12,000 of wages (up to $4,800).

•           Long-Term Unemployed Veterans with Services-Connected Disabilities: A new credit of 40% of the first $24,000 of wages (up to $9,600) for firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been in receipt of unemployment compensation for longer than 6 months.

What should you do to file for these credits?

You must submit Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, to the WOTC Coordinator within your State Workforce Agency (do not mail to the IRS) by June 19, 2012, for veterans hired on or after November 22, 2011, and before May 22, 2012. For veterans hired on or after May 22, 2012, IRS 8850 must be filed 28 days from the day the veteran begins work.

Businesses should claim these credits on their income tax returns. The credit is first figured on Form 5884 and then becomes a part of the general business credit claimed on Form 3800.

http://www.orioninternational.com/employers_TaxCreditsHiringVeterans.aspx

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For Veterans, The Wait For Disability Claims Grows Longer

by Quil Lawrence  December 27, 2012

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began the year with a promise to cut wait times disability benefits claims. Instead, the backlog of pending claims has worsened.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began the year with a promise to cut wait times disability benefits claims. Instead, the backlog of pending claims has worsened.

Kevin English served three tours as a Marine in Iraq. When he came home to Arizona, he suffered from vicious headaches and neck pain that made it hard to keep a job. The worst day, he says, was when he found he couldn’t lift a simple aluminum ladder.

“I actually got made fun of … cause everyone knew I was a Marine,” English says. “And they could tell I was struggling. They were, like, ‘Damn, I thought you were supposed to be a Marine. Let’s go.’”

The Department of Veterans Affairs had rated English as partially disabled, but the former Marine soon found working impossible. His wife, Lindsay Dove, helped him file a new claim in February 2011. Then they waited. And waited.

English was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of veterans who suffered injuries while serving in the military must wait many months for care and compensation. Slightly more than 863,000 people had pending compensation claims with the VA in December, according to a Dec. 17 report.

Continue reading:   http://www.npr.org/2012/12/27/168069322/for-veterans-the-wait-for-disability-claims-grows-longer?ft=1&f=1001

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Number of homeless Iraq, Afghan vets doubles 

By Gregg Zoroya – USA Today Posted : Wednesday Dec 26, 2012 19:13:47 EST

The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are homeless or at risk of losing a roof over their heads has more than doubled in the past two years, according to government data.

Through the end of September, 26,531 of them were living on the streets, at risk of losing their homes, staying in temporary housing or receiving federal vouchers to pay rent, the Department of Veterans Affairs reports.

That’s up from 10,500 in 2010. The VA says the numbers could be higher because they include only the homeless the department is aware of.

The increase arrives as President Obama’s goal of ending homelessness for all veterans is showing some results.

The VA attributes the increase partly to more aggressive efforts to identify and assist this younger generation of veteran.

The department says effects of the two wars on them, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and a slow economic recovery have contributed to their homelessness.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/gannett-homeless-iraq-afghanistan-veterans-122612

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Online program may help ID self-harm patterns

By Meghann Myers – Staff writer Dec 28, 2012

The Army is developing an online software program leaders hope will help commanding officers connect the dots between a soldier’s history of high-risk behavior and any outward signs he might be considering self-harm.

The Commander’s Risk Reduction Dashboard, requested by the Army G-1’s office and scheduled for a February release, will pull incident reports from multiple Army databases to create a profile commanders can consult when considering the best way to intervene with a soldier who might need help.

So far this year, the Army has confirmed 113 active-duty suicides, with 64 cases still under investigation, though typically 90 percent of suspected suicides are confirmed. The numbers for 2012 are on track to pass last year’s historic high of 165 confirmed active-duty suicides.

“The software will help commanders better detect, measure and track unit-level risk behaviors to engage soldiers who may be at high risk in prevention and intervention activities,” said Army Communications-Electronics Command spokeswoman Andricka Thomas. “Prevention is the key, and there is no easy solution. The Army aims to mitigate suicide risks.”

The concept for the dashboard came out of an Army Red Book recommendation that commanders needed some sort of program to consolidate all of their soldiers’ disciplinary records in one easy-to-use platform, Les McFarling, director of the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army G-1, told Army Times.

Continue reading:  http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/army-online-program-may-help-identify-self-harm-patterns-122812w/

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Vets benefits legislation in danger of expiring 

By Rick Maze – Staff writer   Friday Dec 21, 2012

The fate of two veterans bills that had been on the verge of becoming law depends on whether the House of Representatives returns for a post-Christmas legislative session to work on deficit reduction legislation.

That is far from certain. The House abruptly left town Thursday after the Republican leadership was unable to get enough votes to pass its latest proposal in the tug-of-war with the White House and Senate over economic policy. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Friday that whether the House returns depends on whether President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., can come up with a balanced deficit reduction plan for the House to consider.

If the House doesn’t return, pending legislation — including the two veterans bills passed Dec. 18 by the Senate — would expire, and would have a chance of becoming law only if reintroduced when the new session of Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

House passage had been planned as part of a routine vote on non-controversial bills, but no vote can happen unless the House is in legislative session.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-veterans-bills-122112w/

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Veterans face hurdle in civilian job search

By Lisa Cornwell – The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — A major concern for Daniel Gentry upon leaving the Army has always been a challenge for veterans — how to convince prospective employers that combat duties like checking for land mines or repairing bombed roads lead to skills useful in civilian jobs.

Veterans say military teamwork can translate to collaboration skills in business and that command positions develop leadership abilities also valuable to companies.

“I was worried that employers might not get it,” said Gentry, an Army engineer in Iraq before leaving the military in 2010.

Over the next five years, a projected 1.5 million service members will leave the military looking to start new careers, Department of Labor officials estimate, and President Barack Obama and others have called on businesses to hire veterans. But the 10 percent national unemployment rate in November for those serving in active duty at any time since 2001 highlights the difficulty. The comparable rate for non-veterans was 7.2 percent.

Continue reading:   http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/ap-vets-face-hurdles-civilian-job-search-122212/

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VA denies high error rate in denied claims

By Rick Maze – Staff writer  Dec 18, 2012

The Veterans Affairs Department is fighting back against an independent study that concluded 60 percent of disability benefits claim denials were done in error.

A report by the nonprofit and nonpartisan National Center for Policy Analysis released last week says 31 percent of VA claims are likely to be denied and that 60 percent of those denials are likely be erroneous. VA officials, however, said Monday that only 10 percent of veterans filed notices of disagreement last year and that only 1.2 percent of the appeals were reversed on review.

In a statement, VA said the report’s errors are the result of using outdated data and reaching “inaccurate conclusions” based on very small samples.

That does not mean VA isn’t worried about the state of claims. “We know that too many veterans have to wait too long to get the benefits they have earned and deserve,” the statement says. “That is unacceptable, and we are implementing a robust plan to fix the problem.”

VA is on track to finish calendar year 2012 with about 900,000 pending claims, with slightly more than two-thirds of those claims being older than 125 days. This is about 20,000 more claims than VA had on hand at the start of the year, and the number of claims older than 125 days —VA’s processing goal — climbed from about 560,000 at the start of the year to about 607,000 by year’s end.

While the pile of claims is growing, the VA statement expressed confidence that improvements were coming. “VA is aggressively building a strong foundation for a paperless, digital disability claims system — a lasting solution that will transform how we operate and eliminate the backlog. We are 100 percent confident that this plan will ensure we achieve the secretary’s goal of eliminating the backlog by the end of 2015,” the statement said.

VA says the estimation that 60 percent of claim denials are in error appears to have come from a “flawed” 2009 study of the appeals process

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-va-denies-high-error-rate-in-denied-claims-121812w/

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Proposed COLA cut riles vets groups

By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Dec 12, 2012 15:49:26 EST

A small proposed change is creating some big complaints as the White House and Congress toy with the idea of changing how cost-of-living adjustments are calculated as a money-saving maneuver.

Sixteen military and veterans’ organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the National Military Family Association, have lined up against a change that would reduce the annual COLA by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points a year.

COLA WATCH

Retired COLAs: Tracking inflation

This change would save about $208 billion over 10 years — a sizeable chunk of the goal of achieving $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. The plan assumes that consumers facing higher prices on goods and services may simply decide not to spend any money, or substitute lower-cost products or services.

Under the new formula, known as the “chained Consumer Price Index,” what would have been a 2 percent COLA, for example, would be as low as 1.5 percent.

No decision has been made about adopting the revised formula, but the change being considered during budget negotiations would apply to most federal entitlement programs, including 3.2 million veterans receiving disability compensation, 2.3 million military retirees and 9 million veterans receiving Social Security.

In a letter to congressional leaders, the 16 organizations say the change will have a big effect on veterans and retirees, with a bigger impact on those who receive benefits for the longest period — because they were disabled at a young age, live a long life, or both.

For a veteran with a service-connected disability rated at 100 percent who started receiving disability pay at age 30, benefits would be reduced by $1,425 a year at age 45 under the revised COLA formula, $2,341 a year at age 55 and $3,231 a year at age 65, the letter says.

A veteran receiving Social Security who retires at age 65 would receive a benefit that is $600 less a year at age 75, $1,000 less a year at age 85 and $1,400 less a year at age 95, according to the letter.

The letter does not calculate the effect on military retired pay, but when the idea was proposed two years ago, it was estimated to reduce the lifetime value of military retired pay by about 6 percent. An E-7 retiring this year with 20 years of service would, over 40 years, receive $109,335 less in retired pay. An O-5 retiring this year with 20 years of service would receive $207,991 less over 40 years.

In their joint letter, the military and veterans’ groups say the current COLA formula already understates costs facing retirees and the disabled because it does not take into account the possibility that they are paying more for health care than younger, healthier people.

“Although veterans who have service-connected disabilities and those receiving pension benefits are eligible for VA health care, they may still be impacted by rising out-of-pocket health care costs. Adopting the chained CPI would make the situation worse,” the letter says.

“We agree that political leaders need to restore fiscal discipline, but we believe it should be done with great care and without reneging on this country’s promises to veterans, including the promises of Social Security and VA disability compensation and pension benefits — all of which are modest in size,” the letter says.

“Many veterans who rely on these programs live on fixed incomes and very tight budgets. For them, every dollar of hard-earned benefits counts in meeting basic expenses, attaining quality of life, and building a better future for themselves and those who depend on them. For many of them, reducing the annual COLA would mean real sacrifice.”

The letter was signed by the Air Force Women Officers Associated, American Military Retirees Association, American Military Society, Association of the United States Navy, Blinded Veterans Association, Gold Star Wives, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Jewish War Veterans, Military Officers Association of America, National Association for Uniformed Services, National Guard Association of the United States, National Military Family Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans for Common Sense, VetsFirst, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

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Veteran Housing Programs Supported
Department of Veterans Affairs
The Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program supports organizations that will coordinate or provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families who are residing in permanent housing, are homeless and scheduled to become residents of permanent housing, or, after exiting permanent housing, are seeking other housing. The application deadline is February 1, 2013.

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DoD ethics review encompasses top brass perks

By Andrew Tilghman – Staff writer  Dec 7, 2012

The massive staffs and countless perks routinely provided to general and flag officers are under scrutiny after a recent string of ethical lapses in the senior brass ranks.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, singled out the vast web of “support” that accompanies the Pentagon’s top billets after he was asked to review ethics training provided to top officials.

“Gen Dempsey believes we must look at the level and type of support that senior leaders receive in the execution of their duties to ensure that it is necessary and to ensure that we are being consistent, sensible and efficient,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said Friday.

Dempsey’s recommendation was forwarded to President Obama several days ago, Little said. Dempsey also suggested that ethics training should begin earlier and occur more frequently throughout officers’ careers.

Continue reading: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-senior-officer-perks-ethics-review-dempsey-120712w/

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VA makes 5 illnesses presumptive for TBI claims

By Patricia Kime – Staff writer   Dec 7, 2012

The Veterans Affairs Department is proposing to add five medical conditions to a list of diseases that, if diagnosed in a patient with a brain injury received during military service, automatically would be presumed service-connected.

The proposed regulations change, expected to be published Monday in the Federal Register, would make it easier for afflicted veterans to receive benefits and health care from VA.

Illnesses under consideration include unprovoked seizures, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, certain types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and hormone deficiencies caused by changes of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

Service connection will depend in part on the severity of the traumatic brain injury and onset of the illness, which will be considered secondary to the TBI, according to VA.

Officials said the change was made based on a 2008 Institute of Medicine report that noted “sufficient evidence of an association” between the diseases and moderate and severe TBI, and in the case of depression, mild concussions.

“We must always decide veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available, and we will,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said. “Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence that ensure they receive benefits earned through their service to the country.”

More than 250,000 service members suffered a TBI from 2000 to 2012, with 194,000 classified as “mild” — a concussion. About 42,000 suffered a “moderate” TBI defined as a “confused or disoriented state that lasts more than 24 hours but less than seven days” and can be seen in brain images. Another 2,527 received a severe TBI, and 3,949 had a penetrating wound to the head, which can be caused by a weapon or blow that results in skull fragments lodged in the brain.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule before it is finalized.

The new regulation has the potential to add claims to an already burdened VA disability claims backlog. About 900,000 benefits claims are pending before the department.

Paul Sullivan, a Persian Gulf War veteran and spokesman for the law firm Bergmann & Moore, which handles disability claims, called the new regulation “good news for veterans.”

“What this does is make it easier for VA to process the claim with one less evidentiary step. And it established a framework for considering other conditions secondary to TBI,” Sullivan said.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, newly minted ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, issued a statement applauding the move but cautioned VA to prepare for a fresh influx of claims.

“While this announcement is a positive step forward, VA needs to be prepared for the new claims, which could stress an already backlogged and overwhelmed claims process,” he said.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-va-new-tbi-illnesses-120712w/__________________________________________________________

New online training resource network announced

Staff report  Dec 6, 2012

The Army Training Network now offers soldiers the most current information on training aids, devices, simulators and simulations, officials announced Dec. 5.

ATN is the one-stop shop for Army training tools and resources, and this latest web page gives leaders and trainers access to the training tools available, how to use them and how to get them.

“The page’s content makes the leader and training manager’s job much easier, and in the end makes unit training more challenging and realistic,” William Brosnan, training analyst on the ATN team, said in a statement.

From the website, soldiers can get information on resources such as pictures to support briefings and presentations, training films, antipersonnel practice mines, training grenades, and flight simulators.

To visit the site, go to https://atn.army.mil.

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New transition classes available at all bases

By Andrew Tilghman – Staff writer   Dec 6, 2012

The long-awaited overhaul of the military’s Transition Assistance Program is now operational at all 206 military installations worldwide, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today.

The three-day class that helps prepare service members for the civilian job market is now a requirement for all separating troops, in keeping with a law enacted in 2011, Panetta said.

This replaces the patchwork of voluntary programs that were offered across the force in recent years, which varied substantially from one command to another and were often criticized by troops as essentially unhelpful.

“This is in many ways a national security issue. It gets to the heart of taking care of the people who fight for us, and ensuring that we can then recruit the very best force that is possible,” Panetta said Thursday at a joint news conference in Washington with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The new TAP program will offer troops detailed guidance on preparing a resume, job-hunting resources, interview skills, and managing personal finances as a civilian.

The new program comes in response to persistently high levels of veterans’ unemployment. In October, the unemployment rate for veterans who have served in uniform since 2001 was 10 percent, compared to 7.4 percent for non-veterans, according to the Department of Labor.

A second phase of the new TAP program will be implemented during 2013 and will offer further instruction tailored for troops who want to attend school or start their own business, defense officials say.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-all-bases-have-new-tap-classes-120612w/

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Lawmakers urge VA to keep better records

By Patricia Kime – Staff writer   Dec 6, 2012

Lawmakers are pressing for digitization of military records, and better file sharing among agencies responsible for them, following media reports of missing or inaccurate unit records and the temporary disappearance of 250 files from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

In November, media investigators at Pro Publica and the Seattle Times found that the Veterans Benefits Administration denied some claims because service members’ units had lost or inaccurately catalogued their field records, making it impossible to prove they had deployed or suffered a service-related medical condition.

And on July 3, a person walking in the woods behind the records repository in St. Louis found a dumped cache of 250 military records. A follow-on investigation found they’d been unloaded by a temporary employee who was supposed to have filed them.

Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., said Tuesday that problems must be addressed by all three agencies that handle troop records, including the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs Department and the National Archives, to ensure the records are “initiated, maintained and transferred as efficiently as possible.”

“Often, a single record or notation can be the difference in whether a veteran’s disability claim is granted or denied. This is why we must work together to ensure that no records are lost, overlooked or otherwise unable to be associated with an individual disability claim,” said Runyan, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s disability assistance and memorial affairs panel.

Several initiatives are underway to digitize records and ensure accuracy. DoD and VA are piloting a $4 billion integrated electronic health records system to ease the transfer of information between the departments; VA is rolling out the Veterans Benefits Management System, a paperless claims processing system; and NRPC maintains an electronic system that the tracks records and automates work assignments.

Veterans’ advocacy groups pressed Congress during a Dec. 4 hearing on the matter to encourage creation of a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record that would include an individual’s complete personnel and medical information starting from recruitment.

They also urged Congress to press the military to reconstruct lost unit records and lower the standard of proof for veterans to provide information related to claims when records are lost.

According
to Vietnam Veterans of American, among 3,956 claims appeals of veterans represented by VVA between 2001 and 2003, 954 involved missing service records.

“There should be no way that the VBA should be able to deny their claims based on lack of military records,” said Michael Viterna, president of the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates.

Ranking subcommittee member Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., said managers and the employees who handle military records must take their responsibilities seriously.

“Veterans and their families should not be burdened with the responsibility of recreating lost files, providing multiple copies of records that once were in DoD or VA’s possession,” McNerney said.

Runyan promised follow-on hearings to address the problems associated with lost and inaccurate unit records and closer scrutiny of record-keeping in general, which he considers vital to clearing VA’s disability claims backlog.

In a Wednesday email to Military Times, National Archives Chief Operating Officer Jay Bosanko said the administration is investigating the displacement of the records in St. Louis and the Justice Department is also looking into the matter.

He added that the records were recovered and affected veterans are being notified.

“The National Archives carries the responsibility for collecting and preserving the service records of America’s military members. This responsibility is serious. … It is also very great, with hundreds of millions of documents in our care. No one takes that responsibility more seriously than the archivist, David S. Ferriero, himself a Navy veteran,” Bosanko wrote.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-lawmakers-urge-va-to-keep-better-disability-claim-records-120612w/

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VA, DoD call for better exit physicals

By Rick Maze – Staff writer   Dec 6, 2012

More comprehensive separation physicals could soon be required for service members, even if they have no specific health complaints, to reduce problems down the road if they later file for benefits for a service-connected disability, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

Panetta appeared at a joint press conference with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to talk about joint efforts between the two agencies to smooth the transition to from military service to civilian life.

Many veterans seeking benefits have trouble proving a service connection for their disability, a problem made worse by the sometimes poor record-keeping in medical and administrative records often required for the VA to rule in a veteran’s favor.

A long-term fix to the problem, under way for more than a decade, is creation of a joint DoD/VA electronic medical records system. Additionally, deployed units are now required to do a better job with administrative records that show troop movements and even specific missions that might be crucial in proving the service-connection of a disability.

But better record-sharing doesn’t help if there is nothing in the record in the first place, Panetta said. That is why the Pentagon favors more detailed exit physicals that might document problems so a separating service member could immediately apply for disability compensation upon discharge, or years later of he faces a disability that could have a service-connected cause.

These steps will help future veterans but do little for those who have already filed claims and are stymied by a lack of supporting evidence. Shinseki said VA claims processors are trying to help veterans locate lost records or find other ways to prove a service connection for disability.

As of Dec. 3, VA had 896,000 pending claims, with 67 percent in processing for more than 125 days. Weekly VA workload reports that track progress on claims show that 821,000 are original claims. The reports do no indicate how many of the claims are delayed because of missing military records, but Shinseki said he knows this is a reason for part of the delay.

Panetta and Shinseki also are working on plans to integrate the DoD and VA medical systems, an idea also discussed for several years. They have asked their staffs to look at ways to accelerate the integration, and expect to discuss this issue in January when the two secretaries meet again to discuss cooperation.

Veterans, especially those trying to hold down post-service jobs while also seeking benefits and treatment from VA, are frustrated by a bureaucracy that for many seems outdated and slow. VA’s inspector general described the Winston-Salem, N.C., office, for example, as a place where complicated claims files a foot thick or larger gather dust and threaten to topple over, symbolizing an era of paper-pushing that seems out of touch to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans compared to the high-tech military they just left.

Shinseki said progress is being made toward a mostly paperless claims system, which VA expects to be in use in all 56 regional offices by the end of 2013.

That won’t solve everything, however; many veterans still complain about problems with even just trying to contact VA for information.

This can be an issue even for someone who understands the system. Rep.-elect Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a disabled veteran who was an assistant VA secretary working on programs to expand outreach to veterans, spent three days complaining on her Facebook page about problems she had reaching someone at VA. Nobody answered the phone; she left messages, scheduled call-backs from VA that never came and even spent 57 minutes on hold.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-shinseki-panetta-separation-physicals-120612w/

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NORTHERN ARIZONA VETERANS UPWARD BOUND (VUB) program provides free pre-college modules and assistance for qualified veterans who want to begin a post-secondary education or training program. They are currently registering for January classes in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Clarkdale, and online; subjects include math, computers, conversational Spanish, American history & literature, student success skills, college-level writing prep, American Sign Language, and financial education. In addition to the free modules, assistance is provided to apply for financial aid and veterans benefits, assessing skills and career options, and completing college/university applications. For info about the program, visit www.yc.edu/vub or call 928-717-7688. Information is also provided regarding pertinent resources, local events, and information for anyone interested in military/veteran issues through social media outlets. If your organization has information or events you’d like to share with the veteran population, contact vubonline@yc.edu with the details.

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Vets Flock To Colleges … But How Are They Doing?

by Larry Abramson  December 5, 2012

Record numbers of veterans are returning home from war and heading to college. The biggest draw: the generous benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which in three short years has helped 860,000 vets go to school.

But there’s still little known about how these students are doing.

For years, Sarah Yaw has been working with veterans at Cayuga Community College, a small school in rural, upstate New York. She took a leave in 2009, around the time the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect. When she returned to the school, she found a dramatic change.

“In that time period we had a 400 percent increase in student veterans on campus,” Yaw says.

It was particularly remarkable because the school was not recruiting vets. They just started showing up, she says.

Continue reading: http://www.npr.org/2012/12/05/166501611/vets-flock-to-colleges-but-how-are-they-doing?ft=1&f=1001

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Changes sought for psych disorder discharges

By Kelly Kennedy – USA Today  Nov 28, 2012

WASHINGTON — After nearly 30,000 service members were forced out of the military for “personality disorders,” often after combat service, a bipartisan House coalition hopes to require the Pentagon to review those cases in the hopes that some veterans could receive benefits.

Those processed out with a “personality disorder,” which is considered a pre-existing condition, received an administrative discharge and no possibility of health benefits or disability retirement pay from the military. Many of those service members had served in combat and showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Vietnam Veterans of America, which filed a lawsuit in 2010 demanding the records of those veterans. They were also not eligible for benefits from Veterans Affairs.

“It’s pretty clear to us that it is our responsibility to make this right,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. “They need to get back and get their cases adjudicated correctly.”

Walz introduced his bill in October, long after the House passed its version of the annual defense authorization bill, but he’s hoping the Senate will add the bill as an amendment to its version of the authorization bill. It was co-sponsored by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif.; Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; and Thomas Rooney, R-Fla.

Failing to provide these veterans with the help they need to function in society will cost more money in the long run, Walz said. He said the issue “just wasn’t addressed,” and that a case of a young woman discharged for a personality disorder after she had been raped while in the military “really troubled me.”

The discharges left former service members not only without benefits, but also with a diagnosis that caused many of them to fear showing potential employers their military records. The form troops must sign as they’re being counseled about personality disorders states, “If separated with less than an honorable discharge/characterization, you could encounter substantial prejudice in civilian life.”

Personality disorders usually appear long before a person’s 18th birthday, and many of the service members said they had no symptoms of a mental health disorder before they deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The military also screens for personality disorders before allowing a person to join the military.

“I think it would be the right thing to do, to have their cases reopened and reviewed,” said Mike Hayden, a retired Air Force colonel and deputy director of government affairs for the Military Officers Association of America. “These were service members diagnosed with personality disorder, when what they really had was post-traumatic stress, in order to curtail their disability benefits.”

Beginning in 2008, after several media reports exposed the problem, the Army surgeon general must approve any personality disorder discharges.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/11/gannett-changes-psych-disorder-discharges-112812/

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Company to pay for IT training for veterans

By George Altman – Staff writer   Nov 30, 2012

SAP, a major business software company, will pay for 1,000 veterans to get training for information technology careers over the next year, company officials announced recently.

The initiative has already started in Texas, and SAP said it will soon expand to California, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In addition to addressing veterans’ unemployment woes, the program also will help make up for a lack of skilled workers in the IT industry, according to the company.

“In giving back and providing a vehicle for them to train and do new things, we get so much more in return as a company, as an ecosystem and as a country,” said Steve Peck, SAP’s senior vice president of alliances. “We’ve got a big ecosystem out there that I know is going to gobble this talent up, no question about it.”

Company officials said the initiative is starting as a pilot program that they plan to grow dramatically in coming years. “We’re starting small, we’re making sure we get the kinks out. Over four years, though, the goal is to train 20,000 veterans,” said Diane Fanelli, also a senior vice president with the company.

The cost of training 1,000 veterans in IT will be paid entirely by SAP — $1.5 million for the first year, Fanelli said. She added that the company will work to get the training covered by the GI Bill, so that it can continue indefinitely into the future.

John Moran, deputy assistant secretary for veterans’ employment and training at the Department of Labor, attended the announcement and commended SAP. He said federal officials will work to ensure vets know about the program, in part by mentioning it during Transition Assistance Program classes that departing service members attend.

“We’re committed to helping you get the word out,” Moran told SAP officials.

Fanelli said her industry is simply growing more quickly than existing training programs are creating IT workers. “These are not double-digit growth products — these are triple-digit growth products, year over year. The magnitude of the opportunity in the marketplace we see is really high,” she said.

As Iraq vets look for work at home and the war in Afghanistan winds down, a trend of major companies launching veteran training initiatives related to their industries appears to be developing.

Recently, General Electric, Alcoa, Boeing and Lockheed Martin announced a joint effort to train 15,000 veterans — and maybe as many as 100,000 — for manufacturing careers. Officials with that project similarly said their industry is badly in need of more trained workers.

SAP officials said their program isn’t designed just to train people to come work for them. The company anticipates hiring only 10 percent to 15 percent of program graduates, with the rest likely going to IT companies that SAP partners with and businesses that SAP serves.

The larger goal of the initiative, said SAP Vice President of Government Relations Robert Cresanti, is to help create a critical mass of IT training and trained professionals that will reduce the need to outsource such work in the future.

Using an oceanographic analogy, Cresanti said SAP’s initiative is just making the “plankton.”

“You need some algae and finally you end up with some whales,” he said. “We need to provide the food source, essentially, for these businesses and the capability in the country, and they’re hungry to hire.”

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/11/military-SAP-IT-training-veterans-113012w/

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DoD creates brain repository to study wounds

Gregg Zoroya – USA Today   Nov 28, 2012

The Pentagon has created a brain bank in the Washington suburbs to research the damage that can occur during military service, particularly in combat from exposure to blast waves.

Only one brain sample has been collected so far as officials embark on a lengthy process of determining how best to educate troops about brain donation and their families about consenting to the process after a loved one dies.

Related reading:

K.C. Chiefs, Army leaders discuss head injuries

“A big part of this is this educational outreach campaign that we have (in preparation) so that families and servicemembers will know that this repository exists and the importance of the work that we do,” says Dan Perl, a neuropathologist who is lead investigator for research at the Rockville, Md., site.

Perl says he hopes the donation process will work in a similar way to how many servicemembers agree to donate vital organs to save lives.

“Mild traumatic brain injury is one of the signature injuries of the war,” says Jonathon Woodson, the Pentagon’s top medical officer. “The brain repository is one way of helping with … untangling some of the mysteries.”

A key goal is understanding subtle changes to the brain, which over time can result in dementia. A small study of four servicemembers’ brains completed this year by Department of Veterans Affairs scientists showed evidence of a progressive disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The same disorder — marked by memory loss, aggression and suicidal thoughts — has been found in deceased NFL players and professional boxers who endured repetitive concussions.

Concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries have long been a risk for troops in combat who repeatedly endure exposure to blasts from roadside bombs — known as improvised explosives devices, or IEDs. Studies estimate that several hundred thousand troops may have suffered concussions caused by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan

Repetitive damage can cause destructive buildup of a tau protein in the brain, evidence of CTE. This can be diagnosed currently only through brain autospy.

“We’re particularly interested in the degree and extent to which CTE is a problem for the military,” Perl says.

“The whole idea is to understand not only what’s happening,” Woodson says, “but what magnitude of injury might precipitate this (brain damage) and how we might intervene.”

Brains decay rapidly after death and permission to receive a specimen must be gotten quickly, says Army Col. Dallas Hack, who directs military medical research funding.

The brain repository is part of a new $70 million Center for the Study of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, a joint project of the Defense Department and National Institutes of Health.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/11/gannett-pentagon-creates-brain-repository-112812/

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Two nonprofits expand help for wounded warriors

By Karen Jowers – Staff writer   Nov 28, 2012

The nonprofit groups Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Homefront have teamed up to expand emergency financial assistance to more wounded warriors.

The Wounded Warrior Project will fund the assistance, which will be provided through Operation Homefront.

In the past, the Wounded Warrior Project has not provided emergency financial assistance, and Operation Homefront’s policy has been to help service members for up to two years after they leave the military.

But that two-year window will not apply to wounded warriors receiving assistance under this new initiative, which provides cash grants to cover basic needs such as food, rent and utilities.

Those eligible are service members and veterans who incurred physical or mental injuries, illnesses or wounds that were not due to their own misconduct, while on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Their families also are eligible.

Operation Homefront will begin accepting online requests for assistance Dec. 3 on its website.

“For years we have wanted to extend our eligibility to cover more warriors,” said Jim Knotts, Operation Homefront president and chief executive officer, in a statement announcing the partnership.

“We set up our programs and services to ensure wounded warriors and their families are healing their minds and bodies for a lifetime, but we also realize there are times when an urgent financial need arises,” said Steve Nardizzi, executive director of the Wounded Warrior Project.

The partnership is an example of nonprofit teamwork that plays to the strengths of both organizations, Knotts said. “Nonprofits have to work smarter, work together and more often, and find ways to ensure our wounded warriors receive the support they will need after the current deployments end.”

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/11/military-nonprofits-expand-assistance-grants-112812w/

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Plan would help National Guard access benefits

By Rick Maze – Staff writer   Nov 28, 2012

Every state would have a transition assistance adviser dedicated to helping National Guard members access benefits and health care under a proposal introduced Tuesday in the Senate.

The plan, unveiled by Sens. Robert Casey, D-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., as an amendment to the 2013 defense authorization bill, requires the appointment of transition advisers based on the size and deployment of National Guard forces.

At a minimum, states would need to have one adviser available for a period beginning 180 days before and ending 180 days after deployment. Additionally, states would be required to have at least one permanent adviser if at least 1,500 National Guard members reside in the state. States with more than 5,000 Guard residents would need one adviser for every 1,500 members.

Advisers would be paid by the Defense Department, which would be responsible for establishing the program and providing the advisers.

The advisers would be responsible for setting up programs to disseminate information on relocation, health care, mental health care and financial support, not just for Guard members but also for residents who are veterans of active duty. Advisers also would provide information on support services available to veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The amendment would set aside $10 million to start the program in 2013, and give the Defense Department three months to set up the program, a clock that would start if the amendment becomes law.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/11/military-senate-advisers-national-guard-benefits-112812w/

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9 More Iraq, Afghan War Veterans Joining Congress

By Associated PressNov. 24, 20120

(WASHINGTON) — As Tammy Duckworth sees it, her path to Congress began when she awoke in the fall of 2004 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She was missing both of her legs and faced the prospect of losing her right arm.

Months of agonizing therapy lay ahead. As the highest-ranking double amputee in the ward, Maj. Duckworth became the go-to person for soldiers complaining of substandard care and bureaucratic ambivalence.

Soon, she was pleading their cases to federal lawmakers, including her state’s two U.S. senators at the time — Democrats Dick Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois. Obama arranged for her to testify at congressional hearings. Durbin encouraged her to run for office.

Continue reading:  http://nation.time.com/2012/11/24/9-more-iraq-afghan-war-veterans-joining-congress/

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Better Business Bureau has Tips to Avoid Scams Targeting Veterans:  The BBB Military Line provides free resources to military communities at www.bbb.org/us/Military  Information on how to qualify for veteran benefits can be obtained at www.azdvs.gov. For more information, contact Mary Hawkes at 928-772-3410 or email to mhawkes@arizonabbb.org  Website is www.arizonabbb.org

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10 Financial Tips for Military Families

Members of the military have access to special benefits and legal protections that can make a huge difference in their family’s personal finances.

By Kimberly Lankford, Contributing Editor, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

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1. Take advantage of low-cost investments. Servicemembers are lucky to have access to one of the lowest-cost retirement-savings plans around. The Thrift Savings Plan charges just about 25 cents a year for every $1,000 invested, and it lets you choose one of five index mutual funds or a target-date fund (called the lifecycle fund, or L Fund), which automatically becomes more conservative as your retirement date gets closer. You can invest up to $17,000 in the TSP in 2012 (or $17,500 in 2013), and you can boost your contributions to $50,000 for the year ($51,000 in 2013) if you’re receiving tax-free income while deployed. Your contributions to a traditional TSP lower your taxable income and grow tax-deferred for retirement.

And now you have access to a Roth TSP, too, which is like a Roth IRA  but without the income restrictions. Money you contribute to a Roth TSP doesn’t lower your taxable income now, but you can withdraw the money (including the earnings) tax-free in retirement. That can be a particularly good deal for servicemembers who expect to earn much more money (and owe higher taxes) when they leave the service. See www.tsp.gov for details. With potential changes to the military pension program under discussion, and because most servicemembers don’t stay the 20 years required to qualify for a pension anyway, it’s important to do some saving on your own. See TSP.gov for details.

2. Get 10% on your savings, guaranteed. Unlike most high-interest guarantees, this one is not a scam. The military’s Savings Deposit Program lets deployed servicemembers invest up to $10,000 in the program and receive 10% annual interest, compounded quarterly, for up to three months after their return. For more information, see the Savings Deposit Program page at the Defense Finance and Accounting Web site

3. Benefit from tax-free in, tax-free out. Saving in a Roth IRA can be a particularly good deal if you’re receiving tax-free combat-zone pay. In that case, your money goes into the Roth tax-free and your contributions as well as your earnings come out tax-free, a double tax benefit that’s tough to beat. You can contribute up to $5,000 to a Roth for 2012 ($5,500 in 2013). And if your spouse doesn’t work, you can contribute up to the maximum on his or her behalf, too. You have until April 15, 2013, to make contributions to a Roth for 2012. To contribute to a Roth for 2012, your modified adjusted gross income must be less than $125,000 if you’re single or $183,000 if you’re married filing jointly. Those income limits rise slightly in 2013. See 2013 Retirement Account Contribution Limits for details.

4. Transfer your education benefits. People who have served for at least 36 months since Sept. 11, 2001, have access to a very valuable benefit: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which can cover the full cost of in-state tuition and fees for a public college for up to 36 months (four academic years) or up to $17,500 per year for a private college or foreign school. And now longtime servicemembers can transfer their benefits to their spouse or children. For more information, see Best College-Savings Options for Military Families.

5. Sign up for inexpensive life insurance. Servicemembers have access to one of the lowest-cost life insurance programs available. Service members’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) costs only 6.5 cents per $1,000 of coverage per month, or $312 a year for the maximum $400,000 – regardless of your age, health or likelihood of being deployed. You can also get $100,000 in coverage for your spouse for as little as $60 a year if he or she is under age 35. See www.insurance.va.gov/sgliSite for more information.

6. Maximize your tax breaks. Service members can maintain legal residence in one state even if they are transferred to another state, as long as they are in the military. This flexibility can help a lot of you’re stationed in a tax-free state — such as Florida or Texas — and move to another state where you would otherwise have to pay state income taxes. And now your spouse can maintain that state of residency, too, even if you have to move. For more information, see State Tax Breaks for Military Families.

7. Take advantage of low loan rates. The Service members Civil Relief Act provides special legal benefits for service members, including an interest-rate cap of 6% on any loans you took out before you were called to active duty. You have to apply to the lender for this benefit, which is intended to help you if your ability to pay is affected by military service — as it may be if you take a pay cut when activated to the Reserve or National Guard. The law also gives you the right to terminate an apartment lease if you have orders for a permanent change of station or are deployed to a new location for 90 days or more. The Armed Forces Legal Assistance Office (http://legalassistance.law.af.mil) can help with these requests. See Lower Loan Rates for the Military for details.

8. Make the most of housing breaks. Members of the military tend to move frequently, and often with little notice. But they also get some perks – including a tax-free housing allowance and access to Veterans Administration loans, which are now one of the only ways to get a house with no money down (and no private mortgage insurance). For more information about the VA loans, see the Veterans Administration site. If you put little or no money down, though, you could end up being upside down on your home if prices drop and you have to move — as happened to many military members over the past few years. For help dealing with underwater homes, see Fannie Mae’s advice at the KnowYourOptions.com military page, the government’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program (at MakingHomeAffordable.gov) or the Homeowners Assistance Program for a special program for members of the military who have to move.

9. Calculate a comparable salary. When you are thinking about leaving the military, you need to do some careful calculations to figure out how the new job stacks up financially next to your military career. Not only do you need to compare military and nonmilitary salaries, but you also need to add in the value of the military benefits you’re giving up. For instance, you’ll no longer have free health care, low-cost life insurance or a tax-free housing allowance, and you’ll have to pay taxes in the state where you actually live after you leave the service, even if you had been able to maintain residency in a tax-free state while on active duty. And if you leave before 20 years, you’ll forgo your entire pension and won’t be eligible for retiree health insurance. See Leave the Military for a Civilian Job for more information about the calculations if you’re leaving before 20 years. And see http://www.kiplinger.com/magazine/archives/when-to-retire-from-the-army.html When to Retire From the Army for information about deciding whether to stay for 20 or 30 years.

10. Make the most of resources for finding a new job. When you are ready to leave the military, you may find it difficult to translate your military skills into the civilian job market. You can get help from the military community-service office on your base and the www.acap.army.mil Army Career and Alumni Program. There are similar programs for the other branches. And the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service program and Veterans Career OneStop Center are packed with resources to help veterans find jobs.

For more information about personal finance issues for military families, see our Military Finance Special Report and the Financial Field Manual: Personal Finance Guide for Military Families.
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7 Facts About Our Veterans That Will Shock The Hell Out Of You

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This entry was posted in Economic Fairness, Eye-Opening, Infographics, Shocking, War and tagged Homelessness, unemployment, Veterans. Bookmark the permalink.

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