By National Commander Michael D. Helm The government rationale for the latest round of defense cuts is sequestration. I prefer to call it abdication. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, politicians often accused one another of having a “pre-9/11 mentality.” Yet now, with the Executive Branch controlled by the Democrats and the Legislative Branch controlled by the Republicans, we are cutting our military to pre-World War II levels. As the national commander of The American Legion, I have been visiting U.S. military bases around the globe. Just last month a three-star general asked me ‘what’s it going to take for people to wake-up, Paris burning?’ And this was before ISIS inspired terrorist attacks in three continents on a single day. In addition to ISIS and al Qaeda, nations such as Russia, North Korea, Iran and China have all engaged in provocative and threatening acts. In fact, the Washington Times reported that China recently test-fired a new submarine-launched missile with the capability of inflicting nuclear strikes against all 50 states. Lest you think that China is simply an economic threat, consider that its state run newspaper published in 2013 that a nuclear JL-2 missile strike on the western United States would kill 5 million to 12 million people. The American Legion is committed to keeping America safe. A strong national defense is one of the pillars upon which our organization was founded. Yet, the 2016 defense budget is projected to be 31 percent less than it was in 2010. The Army plans to cut an additional 40,000 troops. These cuts are irresponsible and they are dangerous. Unless Congress spares the military from another sequestration round, annual training will again be slashed. While we cannot definitively blame sequestration for the deaths of servicemembers, I cannot help but recall a military investigation that revealed that a 2013 training accident at a Nevada mortar range was caused by human error and inadequate training. It cost 7 U.S. Marines their lives and wounded several others. Then there are the personnel costs associated with these budget cuts. While a strong argument can be made that a military draft would lighten the burden from the less than one percent of the brave Americans who are already defending our freedom, a strong all-volunteer force would be more cost-effective. Yet military members are noticing the chipping away of their pay and benefits that has been occurring at an alarming rate over the years. In 2009, a Military Times survey indicated that 91 percent of military members rated their quality of life as “good” or “excellent.” In 2014, only 56 percent felt that way. Moreover, 70 percent now predict that the quality of life for servicemembers will decline. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said that the military must make the services attractive to young people. He has plenty of work to do. In order to make military service a viable option to this tech-savvy generation, he can begin by shelving a recommendation of The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission which would eventually eliminate the current pension system for those who make a career of the military. While it has become fashionable to compare private sector 401-k plans to what our military retirees receive, let’s dispel the myth that the pension system is somehow overly generous. Unlike private sector careerists, those who spend 20 years or more in the military have been required to change duty stations every two or three years, frequently separate from their families, risk life and limb in combat zones, rigorously train in brutal conditions, uproot their children from schools and friends, interrupt careers of their working spouses, and subject themselves to a military justice system that can imprison them for disrespecting their boss. If you compensate military service in the same manner as the private sector, don’t be surprised when the best and brightest choose the private sector. Just as importantly, we should not allow our national and elected leaders to pit personnel costs and benefits against weapons modernization and training. We can and must do both. We owe it to every man and woman in uniform that we will never send them in harm’s way without the resources to win. Our nation deserves it and our Constitution requires it. - See more at: http://www.legion.org/pressrelease/229078/our-government%E2%80%99s-number-one-responsibility#sthash.iOSfchHJ.dpuf
Some 250 veterans from throughout the region attended Stand Down 2015 last Friday in Lowell, calling attention to the issue of homelessness among veterans and providing supplies and services to the veterans . The event was hosted by the City of Lowell, the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center in Haverhill and the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (the Bedford VA). Stand Downs are collaborative events held nationally, coordinated between the VA and community-based homeless service providers, said Robert Cook, public affairs officer for the Bedford VA. The Stand Down began with a ceremony on the steps of Lowell Memorial Auditorium, featuring the University of Massachusetts ROTC color guard and the Lowell High School Singers performing the National Anthem. Lowell Mayor Rodney Elliot commended the Bedford VA, city officials and the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center for hosting the Stand Down in Lowell, and encouraged the nation to make veterans its highest priority. “We should want to serve our veterans after they have done so much for us,” Elliot said. Bedford VA Hospital Director Christine Croteau reminded those in attendance that homeless and at-risk veterans do not fit any stereotype and are often the people we would least suspect of being affected by those issues. “Stand Down represents one of many ways Bedford VA wants to serve our veterans better than they have ever been served before,” said Croteau. John Ratka, executive director of the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center of Haverhill, and his staff greeted veterans at registration, provided breakfast and lunch and organized and distributed donations of clothing and supplies. They also supplied supportive services for veterans and families through case management on site. Veterans also received shelter referrals, health screenings and VA and Social Security benefits counseling. Bedford VA buses later transported interested veterans to the Bedford VA campus to participate in specialized workshops and to camp overnight, followed by breakfast to start Day 2 of the Stand Down.
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) - A convoy of military vehicles and veterans will travel through the Upstate on Wednesday and Thursday on a coast-to-coast tour. The tour is part of the Spirit of ’45 celebration, marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the 95th anniversary of the U.S. Army's 1920 Transcontinental Motor Convoy route. Eighty military vehicles and a bus load of veterans will cross into South Carolina Wednesday morning and travel through the state along U.S. 29. The Military Vehicle Preservation Association vehicles are following the same route as the 1920 convoy. The convoy will stop for lunch at the WestGate Mall around noon. Spartanburg police will escort the vehicles through the city. Local veterans groups will also provide escorts and line the highway to show their support as the convoy passes through communities across Spartanburg, Greenville and Anderson Counties. Greer officials said all crossroads will be blocked off as the convoy passes through that city around 2 p.m. The convoy will stop for the night in Anderson and then continue along U.S. 29 into Georgia on Thursday. The cross country trip, dubbed “America’s Longest Veteran’s Day Parade” began in Virginia on Sept. 19 and will end in San Diego, CA on Oct. 18. Click here to read more about the Spirit of ’45 celebration, the coast-to-coast convoy, and the stops the group will be making along their journey.
BRAZIL, Ind. (Sept. 23, 2015)-- Adam Jay Perkins II, 8, has a birthday request that might be a little different than wishes of other boys his age. The Van Buren Elementary second grader is asking all of his friends to skip the presents and give a gift to veterans. "My mom asked me if I wanted to do a charity and I said, 'Yes,'" he said. "She said, 'Do you want to do Disabled American Veterans?' I said, 'Yes, my dad's a veteran.'" His father, Adam Jay Perkins, is a disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Not only do the Perkins' share the same name, but nearly the same birthday. The father was born on September 11 and the son on September 10. Outside of his friends and family, Adam is extending the invitation to everyone to donate to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization. DAV is a veterans advocacy and assistance group dedicated to empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. "We accomplish this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America's injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life," DAV's website states. If you'd like to help fulfill his wish, checks or money orders can be sent to: DAV, 2439 W 16th St, Indianapolis, IN 46222. Please note in the memo line on check or money order, "Adam Jay Perkins II," so that he is recognized for the donation. To learn more click here.
Rosa Moore struggled to put into words the importance of her visit to Washington, D.C. She had served as an Army supply clerk during World War II, and now she was celebrating that service in her nation’s capital. Rosa was part of a historic trip to Washington, D.C., for 140 female veterans. The women, ranging in age from 28 to 96, composed the first all-female Honor Flight. “I'm just so excited I can't talk. It was more than I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed being here,” Rosa told ABC News. AP Sources: Marines Seek to Keep Combat Jobs Closed to Women How the Army Is Responding to the Female Rangers' Critics Inside Army Ranger School With First Female Soldiers The Honor Flight Network and its regional hubs help veterans visit their respective war memorials in Washington, D.C., at no cost to them. Until now, no local Honor Flight had ever included more than five female veterans. “It's like being born back again in the Marine Corps. It's fantastic,” said Henny Steinriede, who served in Vietnam. “I didn't expect that it could be so wonderful.” The Honor Flight trip included 70 women who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars both overseas and stateside. They were medics, combat nurses and interpreters, among many other roles. The senior women were accompanied by 70 “guardian” veterans who are more recent service members. The whole group was honored with a special tour of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, where they met with Secretary for Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. “Events like today are the reason we come to work. It's the reason we do what we do for veterans,” McDonald told ABC News. “To get to talk to a veteran who was responsible or at least helped with breaking the Nazi code during World War II? Who knows? We could all be speaking German if she hadn't done that job. So I mean this is what we live for.” McDonald said he hoped this all-female Honor Flight would be the first of many. The historic trip took place as the military debates the role of women in combat positions. The results of a Marine Corps study released earlier this month found male units significantly out-performed gender-integrated ones. That study led the Marines to recommend last week that some combat jobs remain off limits to women, a position at odds with the other military services that are expected to recommend opening all combat positions to women. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will have until the end of the year to decide whether women should continue to be barred from some combat units. To learn more click here.
FREMONT — A former congressman who is biking and walking from Michigan to Washington D.C. stopped in Fremont on Wednesday on his trip to help support veterans and ask their state representatives to improve their health benefits. Kerry Bentivolio, 64, of Milford, Mich., who served his country during conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq, decided to make the 570-mile trip to Washington in hopes of waking up the American people and Congress to the urgent needs of veterans in the country. “I saw it firsthand when I was in the service. A fellow soldier died in a stateside military medical holding unit I was in and nobody noticed for four days,” Bentivolio said. “More than 300,000 American military veterans likely died while waiting for healthcare, and nearly twice as many are still waiting, according to a new Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general report.” Bentivolio, who served as congressman from 2013 through January 2015, said talking about the issue has not gotten the veterans any closer to getting the aid they need. It is time for action, he said. “We have a lot of World War II veterans who are dying at 80 or 90 years old, but we have Vietnam veterans who can’t make it past 70 years old. We have Marines that were stationed in Camp LaJune in the ’50s and ’60s and they found out all that water was contaminated,” Bentivolio said. “Congress said they were going to take care of these guys but they’re not.” While at home in Michigan, Bentivolio said he realized he could not sit at home and do nothing while veterans were not given an opportunity to receive the care they need. “I started walking, and next thing I know I’m 21 miles from home and I said ‘I will walk to Washington (D.C.),’” he said. While on the trip to D.C., which Bentivolio said he hopes to reach in 30 days, he is talking to people he meets along the way and urging them to speak to their congressmen and women to spark change. “Hopefully we’re going to have a lot of people gather and it’s is going to snowball,” Bentivolio said. In Fremont on his sixth day of travel, Bentivolio said he tries to walk between 15 and 20 miles and bike another 25 to 30. Heading east, Bentivolio will pass through Clyde and Norwalk before heading for the Akron area, where he will meet with Rolling Thunder, an advocacy group for prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action. “I’ve just went 120 miles so a lot of that aggression has drained from my body. Every day in the morning, I wake up angry as hell because we’re more worried about 80,000 refugees coming from the Middle East and all these illegal aliens and we’re going to take care of them and give them food stamps,” Bentivolio said. “We can’t even take care of veterans who served our country. I’m just fed up.” Bentivolio wants to put his former House colleagues to task by asking for solutions to help veterans. “Everybody’s lives matter. We have to put our priorities right. Take care of the veterans and soldiers. If you can’t do that, don’t bother asking us to serve anymore,” Bentivolio said. More soldiers are dying from self-inflicted (wounds) or suicide than on the battlefield. It’s time to kick butt and take names.” Donations can be made to Bentivolio’s walk at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information, head to justiceforveterans.com. To learn more click here.
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced the awarding of up to $8 million in grants to eligible recipients with experience managing largescale adaptive sports programs for disabled Veterans and disabled Servicemembers of the Armed Forces. The grant recipients may use these funds for planning, developing, managing and implementing adaptive sports programs. The VA is awarding the Grants to national governing bodies, which prepare high-level athletes for Paralympic competition; Veterans service organizations; city and regional municipalities; and other community groups to provide a wide range of adaptive sports opportunities for eligible Veterans and Servicemembers. The Grants will support sports ranging from rowing, cycling and skiing to golf, fly fishing and equestrian sports. “Adaptive sports help Veterans heal both physically and emotionally,” said Secretary McDonald. “We are proud to partner with organizations nationwide to provide these rehabilitative opportunities for America’s Veterans.” VA will distribute the grants to 89 national, regional and community programs serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Approximately 10,000 Veterans and Servicemembers are expected to benefit. Information about the awardees and details of the program may be found at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.
After serving seven years in the Army in the logistics field, Matthew Lloyd attended school, cared for family members and set a goal of finding a stable job that would lead to financial security and benefits for him and his son. He reached out to his Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Counselor for assistance and was referred to Tim Snyder, a Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program specialist at IowaWORKS. DVOP assists veterans with service-connected disabilities, to develop interview skills and build resumes. The Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service provides resources for veterans, transitioning service members and program providers at more than 2,500 American Job Centers, such as IowaWORKS, nationwide. Over the next several months, they worked on re-writing his resume to focus on the leadership skills he had developed in the Army and his diverse experience. They also used tools available at One-Stop programs such as IowaWORKS—including computer-based courses on dressing for success, interview techniques, etiquette and writing a federal job resume. Lloyd has obtained the National Career Readiness Certificate. “The courses and guidance from the staff at IowaWORKS really helped me to develop confidence in my job skills,” Lloyd said. When a job opportunity became available with the Burlington, Iowa, Social Security Office, Lloyd was one of several veterans who applied. About six weeks after beginning the interview process, he was offered a position as a Social Security Administration Service Representative and is celebrating his first anniversary on the job, Sept. 8. “I really like the position. You are working with different clients each day and you are making a difference for them. I enjoy knowing that I am helping people,” Lloyd said. “I assist customers on the phone, those who walk in and even answer mail from people.” Lloyd says the staff at IowaWORKS and the Veterans Administration Vocational Rehabilitation office really worked as a team to prepare him for this job opportunity. “They helped me to see that the experience I had working in the Army prepared me for a diverse environment working with our customers at the Social Security Administration,” Lloyd said. “Most importantly they helped me find ways to cope with my disability and helped me improve my job skills.” Having a permanent job with employee benefits such as medical insurance has made a difference for this veteran and his son. “I am helping people each day and that is a great feeling,” Lloyd said. Learn more about services available to veterans. Editor’s note: The “DOL Working for You” series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here. Rhonda Burke is a public affairs specialist for the department in Chicago.
It’s no secret that it can be tough for transitioning service members and veterans to convert the skills they learned in the military into civilian credentials. From newspaper editorials to late night comedians, the nation has looked at the challenge facing an Army medic who wants to become a civilian paramedic and said, “This is wrong! Something must be done!” What’s more, it’s also tough for veterans and military spouses to use the civilian credentials they’ve earned in one state when they move to another. In the 21st century, such parochial challenges are aggravating and cry out for resolution. So why aren’t they solved already? Here’s the reality: occupational licensing, credentialing and certifications have long been the jurisdiction of the states and their various licensing, credentialing, and certification boards. These boards oversee professions in a self-regulating manner, and between states there is little uniformity in the qualifications and in how they are divided between boards. One state may have 30 boards, while another may have 300. This is where we come in. The Labor Department, using the authority granted to us by Congress in the 2011 VOW Act, has been working with states to recognize skills gained during military service, and also to harmonize qualifications among states to assist military and veteran families as they move to other states. Specifically, the VOW Act of 2011 required us to carry out a demonstration project on credentialing to help service members transition seamlessly from active duty to civilian employment. Our project, carried out through a contract with the National Governors’ Association, is designed to the engage governors of six states in accelerating credentialing and licensing for veterans, and to reduce or eliminate barriers to credentials, certifications or licenses for veterans in those states. It also involves exploring accelerated career pathways for service members and veterans in certain high-demand civilian occupations. We hope that other states will be able to apply the lessons learned and best practices that are developed through this project. Additionally, under the VOW Act, we funded a study of the equivalencies between the skills of 68 military occupational specialties that covered 57 percent of all enlisted service members and the qualifications required for related civilian jobs. As a result, we were able to create a more robust military-to-civilian skills crosswalk for those 68 occupations. The Labor Department will continue to do our part to identify and lift up best practices for states and to promote better understanding military training by civilian employers. And it is even more important for states − who ultimately hold the power to create their licensing, credentialing and certification boards − to push those boards to adopt these best practices so that no veteran, transitioning service member or military spouse is left in a position where a missing piece of paper is keeping them from using their skills to earn a living and to contribute to the nation’s economy. As Secretary Perez has said, “America works best when we field a full team.” Our veterans have the skills and the desire to play; it’s up to the rest of us to make sure they are in the game. Terry Gerton is the deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
According to a report in the Journal Gazzettee (AP), Indiana has a large number of veterans who are returning home as the Army thins its ranks and winds down overseas engagements, placing more demand on a network of veterans' services that is already stretched thin.Unfortunately for Hoosiers coming home, local veterans' advocates says Indiana lags far behind other states when it comes to getting services to those in need.And as the number of veterans grows, so too will the need for services that help them make the transition back to civilian life, in areas from job training to medical care and counseling.A 2014 report by the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs found the state was deficient in 21 ways both large and small that hamper the delivery of services.Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki ultimately resigned, and Frost says the Army is making strides to take care of returning soldiers.James Brown, Pence's director of the state office of veterans' affairs, disputed Bauerle's criticism.Since taking office, he said, Pence backed a measure to certify county veterans' workers, which allows them to file claims on veterans' behalf.Bauerle pointed to the report, written by an outside evaluator, which found the state VA office does little outreach, delivers inconsistent service, has a workflow "heavily based on the movement of paper" and faces "barriers to efficiently serving the veteran population statewide."