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Daren Welker is an Iraq War veteran has for some years reared ducks which help him to relax and deal with his PTSD condition. The ducks are reared at his own compound at home in West Lafayette, Ohio. Over the years the young veteran has faced a lot of challenges and was even barred from rearing the ducks in his compound. Many veterans in the country are dealing with PTSD and many of the medical doctors handling these cases encourage any form of non-medical therapies that can help their patients deal with their conditions. Welker, who stays in Ohio, Columbus had defied the local authorities and law and had kept pet ducks. His argument was that the ducks were helping him deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Welker woes seem to have ended at last. West Lafayette Village Council members had voted on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, to grant a variance which allows Welker to keep pet ducks. The ducks he says play a very important role in helping him relieve his post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. This was according to a news report that was released by the Coshocton Tribune. The Coshocton Tribune reported that the West Lafayette Village Council earlier this week had granted Darin Welker a variance to an ordinance that prohibited farm animals in the village, which is about 80 miles (128 kilometers) the east of Columbus. Welker, who had been convicted in 2014 of a misdemeanor for violating the ban on farm animals, still kept his ducks despite everything. A state appeal was issued and the court later upheld his conviction, however the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. Welker argued in court that indeed his six ducks have been therapeutic. Welker, who had served in Iraq with the Army and was medically discharged from the Ohio National Guard.  According to a statement released by his doctors, the ducks were found to have indeed helped the veteran to deal with his condition. When asked about the recent decision made by the council, Welker declined to comment on the decision.  
The anticipated federal funding cuts will force the housing for veterans who are homeless at the two of Wisconsin's three veterans' homes by the end of the year. This is according to a statement released by the officials. Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Daniel Zimmerman wrote a letter to the veteran advocacy groups earlier last week warning them of the changes. The Wisconsin American Legion also sent the letter to several news outlets on Thursday. The letter stated that the federal funding has been removed for the Veteran Housing and Recovery Programs at King and Union Grove, which is scheduled to end in the month of September. However the funding for the program at the Chippewa Falls veterans' home will still be continued but  on a conditional basis. The letter offered no explanation as to why this is so and why the changes are being implemented. Zimmerman stated in the letter that the WDVA will still continue to provide funds for the programs up to December if need arises, however, it will not be feasible for them to use state money beyond the month of December. Still, this was also not explained. Due to this, King and Union Grove has issued a statement that it will no longer be accepting new homeless vets and will immediately start transitioning the 19 vets in the King program and the 28 in the Union Grove program to new housing. This will be done with help from veteran advocacy groups and other nonprofit partners. Zimmerman said in an effort to offer compensation for the loss of the programs, his department will focus on expanding the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program from 49 to 65 counties. Under the new program, case managers will be tasked with finding stable housing, food, clothing, furniture and other amenities for the homeless veterans.  The Wisconsin American Legion had issued a news release asking the legislators to save the Union Grove and King housing programs. The chapter's commander, Laurel Clewell, described the WDVA's plan to help the soon-to-be-displaced veterans a "half-baked" plan. He commented that the solution to the problem is not making the veterans homeless. WDVA spokeswoman Carla Vigue wrote an email stating that the agency was shocked to hear about the funding cut and has not received any official explanation yet from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs despite several inquiries being made.
A disabled Navy veteran from the South of Philadelphia will be moving into a new state and a new home. A home, he has never seen until last Monday. The house which is located in Mullica Hill has been technologically equipped with 40 features which are meant to assist Timothy Birckhead in a rare medical condition that made him leave the military service. The ABC Network Television filmed the whole event and the hosts from their TV show “The View” were present to greet Birckhead and also interview him. The national nonprofit organization Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) awarded the specially equipped custom home to Birckhead. The organization has done the same for other seriously injured and medically disabled veterans since 2004. Birckhead who is currently bound to a wheelchair was very grateful and said that at last he has the opportunity to do many things even take a shower on his own. The 34-year-old U.S. Navy veteran suffers from hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies (HNPP). This condition is medically known to affect the sensory and motor nerves in the limbs. Just a few days before the reveal Birckhead admitted to the Courier-Post that he felt like a waiting for Christmas. Birckhead had been given the freedom to pick anywhere in the United States to live, however, he opted for Mullica Hill because the area has open spaces. Birckhead had been living with his mother Gloria and brother Walter in the South of Philadelphia in their row home. Birckhead's mother who is a retired Philadelphia school teacher, plans to move to the Mullica Hill home so that she can take care for her son. Birckhead currently needs assistance in doing every basic thing and he is considered to be 100 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Birckhead has a 12-year-old daughter who lives with her mother. The new home has widened doorways and the hallways are spacious enough for wheelchair access. The shower has a roll while the kitchen has amenities like the pull-down shelving and the lowered countertops, making it easier for him to reach things. Contributions made by donors, corporate partners and in-kind supporters made it possible for the housing agency to build a dream home for Birckhead. While Home Depot did the furnishing of the house. Kristi Galanek, who is the HFOT spokeswoman said that they are glad that they could award Timothy, with his new home. The special adaptations of the new home will make the daily living situation easier for Birckhead, hence giving him more time to spend with his family and also pursue his goals  
Zachary Hearn, who is the deputy director of claims for The American Legion’s National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, had testified on the VA's processing of Gulf War Illness claims during a joint hearing that took place on Capitol Hill on the 13th of July. Hearn said that the Gulf War Illness claims are very complicated.  Many veterans are forced to tread on murky waters so that they can access service connection for many Gulf War-related, undiagnosed illnesses. While the undiagnosed illness is what exactly sounds – a collection of symptoms which cannot be medically explained and defined. Veterans who often seek treatment for these symptoms, have to undergo treatment for many years, and will probably have multiple diagnoses before the VA acknowledge that the symptoms are very related to the undiagnosed illness. This whole scenario is very frustrating for veterans and was confirmed by a recent (U.S. Government Accountability Office) GAO report. The VA department on the other hand has overwhelmingly denied the allegations. Although the VA had previously acknowledged the continuous frustration associated with the Gulf War Illness, Hearn noted that the recent GAO report showed that only about 10 percent of VA’s medical examiners had successfully completed an optional course which is related to the Gulf War Illness. The many examinations are currently being done by the private-sector contractors. It’s a great concern if the VA has not been providing mandatory training to its staff regarding Gulf War Illness, then what are the requirements, which are being used to gauge the effectiveness of the contracted examiners? Currently the American Legion has more than 3,000 accredited service officers who are located throughout the nation. Hearn praised the dedicated individuals and described them as the lifeblood for staff in Washington. The service officers provide necessary feedback regarding issues our veterans face regularly. The recently released GAO report and the findings made by the Legion’s findings, paint what can be described as a bleak picture of the development and adjudication of Gulf War-related claims. According to Hearn most of the medical providers are given optional training, out of the total number only 10 percent do participate. Apart from that the Veterans Benefits Administration personnel have been complaining over the years of lack of enough training on the Gulf War Illness. Hearn noted that indeed it’s very clear that it’s very crucial for improvements to be made ASAP. He also said that the American Legion is more than willing and ready to help the VA department in working toward achieving these goals.        
During several award ceremonies that are to be held across the country in the month July, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends on honoring the exemplary facilities, the employees and the civilian providers working to address Veteran homelessness.   This is a new move, different from the usual looking for those who are not delivering, more like always looking for the bad and never appreciating the good. In a statement that was released by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin, earlier this week, the strong VA community has made tremendous efforts in dealing with the Veteran homelessness. So far the success of the projects has been supported the hard work, innovation and dedication of thousands of VA employees and civilian partners.  The Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Service for Homeless Veterans appreciated the top achievers in the following three categories: The VA Employees Julie E. Irwin, Homeless Care line manager, Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 2 (Bronx, N.Y.) Michael Wehrer, supervisor, Homeless Care Team, Erie VA Medical Center (Erie, Penn.) Kristen Weese, program manager, Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, Western New York Health Care System (Buffalo, N.Y.) The VA Organizations Domiciliary Service — VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, Calif. Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, New Orleans Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, Albany. The Community Organizations John E. Ratka, executive director, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, Haverhill, Mass. Family Endeavors, Fayetteville, N.C. Ivory Mathews, executive director, The Greenville Housing Authority, Greenville, N.C. Team AMVETS, Garden Grove, Calif. Project Community Connections, Inc., Atlanta Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program, Richmond, Va.  
After a few years, American Legion Post 326 in Austin, Texas, they have managed to offer college scholarships worth $44,000 to almost two dozen of honorably discharged veterans. The Veterans Scholarship Program was initiated in 2013, and the first scholarships were two worth $2,000, were awarded veterans who were attending Texas State University in San Marcos. The additional unintended benefit of the scholarship program is that it has offered the post a good opportunity to create an avenue for The American Legion to meet and interact with new generation of veterans. This has resulted in many of the beneficiaries joining the post. One of the scholarship beneficiaries is Rebecca Larson, who is currently working on her doctorate in astronomy. After serving for six years in the Air Force, Larson left the force to join her family in San Jose, Calif. She used this chance to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship with a minor in studio art using her GI Bill. Two years down the line her family moved to them and she had to transfer to the University of Texas. The only challenge was that she could not transfer her credits to the university's business school and was forced to change her major to astronomy (only to realize that the course required two years of prerequisite physics.) Her determination to finish her degree made her to look for alternative funding sources and stumbled upon the Onion Creek post and it’s Veterans Scholarship Program.  Larson was lucky and was awarded a scholarship in 2015, which she accepted at a post dinner. It was her first experience with any veterans’ organization. Larson is just one example of the beneficiaries of the scholarship. Many young veterans have now a chance to continue with their studies and hence increase their chances of getting employed in the private sector. The VA department has encouraged such programs since they offer immediate solution to the school funding challenges faced by many veterans who decide to go back to school and pursue professional careers, and also creating a long term solutions to other programs that always arise when a veteran cannot be able to earn his income.
Charles E. Schmidt (an American Legion National Commander) will be joining his fellow Vietnam War veterans during the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital's 8th annual “Run to Home Base” fundraiser to be held on the 15th of July, at Boston’s legendary Fenway Park. The Vietnam veterans will be honored during a ceremony, before starting the Red Sox game against the New York Yankees. Proceeds that will be got from the 9k run and 5k walk, will benefit the Home Base program. This is a program initiated by the Red Sox Foundation and it’s dedicated to healing invisible wounds for post-9/11 veterans and their families through clinical care, wellness, education and research. The Run to Home Base will hold a pre-game ceremony to honor Vietnam veterans at 7:15 am. Schmidt, (who is a retired Air Force veteran), served in Vietnam 50 years ago. In his speech Schmidt said he will always be grateful and whenever he gets an opportunity he will thank the men and women who served in the military. He will always be there to welcome the veterans back home. Apart from that he said he will constantly advocate for the rights of the veterans, he also thanked American Legion for the continuous support that they have offered to the veterans. It’s about serving the people who served us. Vietnam War veterans will also have the opportunity to share their personal experiences with a film crew from the 2017 Vietnam Veteran Oral History Project. The crew has also scheduled some interviews with the veterans that will be done at the Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall from 17th July to 21st July. The objective of this historical project is to utilize the footage and use it as a tool to have records of the event, and will be kept on file. The file will be later shared with the Library of Congress Veterans History project. Participants will be given a complimentary footage of their interview. To take part in the History Project, you can contact Andrew Ringlee at andrew.j.ringlee.civ@mail.mil or call (515) 441-1519. Information about the Run to Home Base can be found at www.runtohomebase.org. Although the pre-game ceremony for the Red Sox game is already filled to capacity, Vietnam veterans who wish to participate can be placed on a waiting list by emailing redsoxfoundation@redsox.com or calling (617) 226-6012.
Last Monday 40 House lawmakers gave their consent , support and  signed onto a letter, which criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for the slow reimbursements to the private-sector doctors, which according to them are harming their veteran constituents’ credit reports. Currently there are thousands of veterans who have enrolled in the Veterans Choice Program. The programs gives the veterans (patients) to seek for external medical services which is financed by the VA department. According to the letter, late payments by the Department has seen the medical bills of the VA patients being sent to debt collectors.  When a timely payment is not made, according to the letter. The situation so far “has generated negative consequences for the veterans’ financial standing, through no fault of their own,” the letter reads. “[T]he long-term damage to credit scores could be severe. At a minimum, this increases the costs of credit and could make it more difficult, if not impossible, for veterans to secure credit for life essentials such as a car or housing.” Issues with disbursing payments to the non-VA medical care providers has been a longtime plague in the VA department ever since the Veterans Choice Program was created back in 2014. From the year the program began to the 18th of May this year, the VA department has received many calls (the exact number being 57,228 calls) from veterans seeking help after the VA’s delayed payments affected their credit reports, the letter states. When consulted the VA officials, said that what might have contributed to the problem would be the short implementation period given for the program. Congress had given the VA department only 90 days to implement the plan. In what might be described as a weak attempt to streamline the reimbursements to the concerned private doctors, Congress joined forces with the VA Secretary David Shulkin. They went ahead and passed a legislation earlier on this year that made the VA the primary payer under the Veterans Choice Program, instead of soliciting services from third-party contractors to clear the debts. Even when those changes were made, according to the letter, the problem has not yet been addressed and solved. It is still remain concerned with the negative credit reporting is continuing. The letter was sent to Shulkin and the team was led by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., and Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas.
After retiring U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Bullock had a difficult time taking care of simple everyday tasks in his home, this is after he lost both his right arm and right leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan back in 2013. Simple tasks like moving from his wheel chair to the bathroom was difficult not to mention his home was not designed to accommodate a wheelchair so navigating thorough some of the doors was even more difficult. On the 28th of June this year, the Gary Sinise Foundation decided to hold a dedication of a specially adapted, three-bedroom smart home that was specifically built for Bullock, his wife, Jessica, and their son, Aidan. The charity was established by Gary Sinise, who is an actor, and is best known for his portrayal of Lt. Dan in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump". The foundation donates such homes to wounded veterans through its R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment). Bullock who has to wear a prosthetic leg still needs to use a wheelchair at home. His new crib is fully equipped with "smart pads" on the walls, which allow Bullock to control the security system and lights.  All of the kitchen appliances in the house can be easily and safely accessed from a wheelchair. The shower is very spacious with enough room for Bullock to wheel in and transfer using a bench and handles. Representatives of the program's donors — including the Marcus Foundation Inc., the Home Depot Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, and Larry and Phyllis Castrale — were among those present during the dedication ceremony. Present also in the ceremony were a number of building partners who had donated materials. Bullock and his twin brother had enlisted in the Army together after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He served for two tours in Iraq, and after he trained for the U.S. Army Special Forces, he was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2013. One month later, Bullock ran over an IUD while driving an ATV on routine patrol. He lost his right arm above the elbow and his right leg above the knee and underwent a total of 30 surgeries. Bullock, who is an award-winning bodybuilder, has garnered over 60,000 followers on Instagram. He noted that his favorite room in the whole house is the gym facility. Bullock also said that he is currently searching for commercial property and plans on opening a gym in Southern Illinois.      
Most of the veterans in the country know of only the basic health care and education benefits that are available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): which are Tricare and the GI Bill.­­­ Indeed these two benefits alone can be considered to be substantial, however there are other numerous programs that help offer many more benefits to the veterans and their families. This undiscovered benefits are also available within the health care and education programs. Just like the two major benefits, these benefits are meant to improve the lives of the veterans and at the same time ease their financial burden of medical care or other expenses. Here are the 10 veterans benefits most veterans don’t know exist:   The Long-term Care: it’s known to be expensive, however most of the time you will find it necessary. Even though, through the Aid and Attendance program, majority of the veterans qualify to get financial support that is meant to cover expenses of nursing homes, assisted living programs and other long-term care options. Aging couples (both veterans) can receive even up to $25,020 annually, the amount caters for a large portion of the long-term care costs. While the surviving spouses of the veterans qualify to receiving as much as $13,560 annually. The Caregiver Support: If any one volunteers to look after an ailing Veteran at home, the VA Department provides a caregiver support program. The program does not entail monetary support to the volunteers but then they offer a free support line together with a caregiver support coordinator to assist the caregiver navigate military benefits and the stress of care giving. The Death Benefits: when a veteran passes on, the remaining family members have few unique benefits that are made available to them. The family can request for a U.S. flag to be draped over the casket of the deceased and a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved ones service to the country. Apart from that the Department of Veterans Affairs also offers free headstones or grave markers. The Certification Programs: Apart from getting credits that the veteran can use to get a college degree, the GI Bill provides up to $2,000 financial support to cover the educational cost or any other vocational training programs that a veteran might decide to take part in. It’s the best benefit for veterans who want to change careers or pick a career that doesn’t need college qualification. The Transferring GI Bill Credits: the unused credits through the GI Bill might be transferred to the living spouses and dependents of the veterans. There are some service limits that are required in order to transfer the benefits. The Free Tax Preparation: the veterans and their family members have access to free tax preparation services. These services can be accessed through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices on the military bases. The individuals working in the offices will have expertise in working with the complicated nature of military-related tax issues. The Life Insurance: getting the common life insurance is a big challenge to many veterans, especially those who have injuries that they got during their time of service. However, through the Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program, veterans can qualify for a life insurance cover up to $400,000. The program also has very competitive premium rates. The Mortgage Help: the other challenging issue that affect like 90% of the veterans in the country is paying their mortgage payments. Well veterans can check if they are eligible for repayment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The options that are available for help are: special repayment plans, loan forbearance and loan modification programs. The other benefits are available for veterans who have VA loans and for the homeless veterans. The VA Foreclosures: the VA department keeps a recorded list of homes that are serviced by VA loans and have gone into foreclosures. Veterans can look up at the list of the VA acquired properties and then buy the houses at a discounted rate. Well you don’t need to be a veteran to check the properties however all properties qualify for VA financing. The American Corporate Partners: this program connects veterans to the top companies hence improve their networking. This helps the veterans in securing jobs after their time of service, especially in the private industry. The veterans can also receive mentorship sessions and additional career development services.