News

9/11 era veterans (those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq) and the battle of their healthcare has been a long saga and at times a thorn in the side, for those who desperately need help post serving. It should be simple to give those who served healthcare, but it has been a hardship to maneuver. There is, of course, no easy fix. The stresses of choosing to serve our country have been painfully evident for years, and it seems like we are just starting to become more active in advocating for our veterans. In 2014, the suicide rate among veterans was about twenty-two percent higher than among adults who had not served in the military, the VA reported in September. The VA has had persistent problems trying to care for the more than four million service members who have left duty since the start of the U.S.'s 16-year war in Afghanistan. With the number of the veterans so large and the numbers of people available to help significantly smaller, especially since the number of those who are equipped to help in the most needed ways, there is a challenge to emotionally and physically see every veteran. That is when veterans struggle if they are not seen. Due to the aforementioned circumstances, a committee has started to fight for veterans’ healthcare rights as they are entitled to them. While many veterans do indeed receive good mental health care through Veterans Affairs, it's inconsistent across the system, according to the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine-nonprofit institutions that inform public policy. The detailed, 439-page assessment of the VA's mental health services was ordered by Congress in 2013 and completed by a committee of eighteen academics. The academics have worked together for those who are not in the perfect position to speak about those issues. And what they witnessed and heard is something that everyone should be aware of. What was reported that mundane issues like navigating parking for therapy were something that was a stressor for them, if they were dealing with mental illnesses, getting help did seem like an uphill battle as the need was high, yet the support they felt was limited. As stated in the committee’s findings, other factors such as lack of social support, distance, and fear of revealing a mental health issue may discourage veterans from seeking care at all. This is something we should be able to change and with this progress set in place, we should be on target to do so. Breaking down barriers to care will require reaching out to veterans and streamlining application processes, as well as investments in the VA workforce, facilities, and technology, according to the report. Emily Blair, manager of military and veterans policy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit advocacy group, realizes that their goal of giving adequate healthcare to all veterans in three to five years is “an optimistic goal”, but is worth shooting for the stars for.
The Department of Veteran Affairs operates several different programs for those who are either survivors of the military or their families, such as spouse, parent, or child. One of the programs is called My Way Forward. On their official government website, it states that families of veterans or survivors are eligible for benefits regardless of whether their lost loved one was serving or already retired at the time of their death. Benefits available through the Veteran Affairs are varied and considerable, so take the time to become familiar with the programs. You can find more information at http://www.mywayforward.com/government/survivor_benefits/veterans_survivor_benefits/ One of the more notable benefits is funeral services and that is offered to the veteran if their death was from a service-related injury, passed away in a Veteran Affairs facility or were in receipt of compensation or pension. The Veteran affairs cover the burial at a national cemetery which doesn’t cost the family anything. Their headstone is also covered. According to White Oak Crematorium, these benefits can have a range of anywhere between $300 to $2,000 depending on the veteran’s service status at their time of death. You can find more information at http://www.medinacountyveteransserviceoffice.org/info/va-survivor-benefits There are several organizations that give support to the families of the deceased. It is important to realize that while the family and friends may grieve a certain way, survivors of the same incident, may grieve in an entirely different way. These are only a few different organizations that help, but there isn’t one right organization. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is based in Washington, D.C., offers peer support network and grief-counseling referral service, which is an incredible resource. Mothers of fallen soldiers can find support from those who’ve had similar experiences through the American Gold Star Mothers. The Society of Military Widows helps military widows which is very helpful to find a new normal, whatever that may look like for them. If your loved one passed away on active duty as a result of service-connected disabilities or was fully disabled for 10 years prior to their death, you may be eligible for a tax-free monetary benefit. This is due to the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. This is something that families should look into. You may be eligible for financial benefits. The DEA program has been made available to children of veterans who have been injured or passed away during active duty, offering them education and training. Health and educational benefits are also available to family members. This is important to utilize if only needed for a short time. You can find more information at https://www.newsmax.com/fastfeatures/veterans-survivor-benefits/2018/02/01/id/840857/
The U.S. Department of Defense is creating and implementing an initiative to share more about military life to non military personnel.  Amber Smith, the deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for outreach, shares her thoughts on the matter. “... America’s disconnect with its military that there are those who believe that when a person joins the military, that person cannot have a spouse or children or pets.” The initiative is aptly named “This Is Your Military.” The program is designed “to inform and educate the American public on who is serving in the military today,” Smith, at a news conference at the Pentagon earlier. The fact there is such a serious indication of lack knowledge hints at the lack of motivation to really get to know who our military is. “We are working very closely with the services and some of the programs that they have in place that reach all the way to the installation and community level programs that have been successful,” Smith goes on to say. “It has always been in the best interests of DoD (Department of Defense) to engage with the American public,” It is also the best interests of the American public to engage with those who are serving. Only valuable lessons can be learned. In 1995, 40 percent of young adults had a direct connection to a service member or a veteran in their families. Today, it is around 15 percent. The change is staggering as much as it is simply unsurprising. If we invest in the military, we also guide change to where it needs it most in this sector. The numbers are only going to go up if we don’t do something to change. That’s where this initiative comes in to play. There are things you can do to carry the initiation. Write letters, send money, invest in your children’s goals, teach your children about the military and all the different parts that make what our militia what it is. The initiative will add a different theme. The next upcoming theme is We Are Connected. You can find more information, on the initative’s website, which is knowyourmilitary.osd.mil. The hashtag, for use all over social media is #KnowYourMil.
A transitional housing facility it opening up in St. Tammany, Louisiana. There are more than 200,000 veterans in Louisiana; 20,000 are in St. Tammany Parish. Homelessness, unfortunately is on the rise in the area. Army Staff Sgt. John Levis Carroll served for two seperate tours until injuries brought him home. The ramifications of serving and the injuries became a bit much and he ended up homeless. This is not uncommon. As his father states, "My son is a drug addict, but he's also a veteran," said John's father, Mickey Carroll, a Junior Vice Commander of the local VFW. "I don't know where he is, but I hope he's in a place like this." ‘This’ is Camp N.O.R.A., which stands for "No One Rides Alone and it has become a treasured resource among those who need it. Camp N.O.R.A  is situated on seventeen acres in rural Covington aimed at helping homeless veterans get back on their feet, then back out into society on their own. The property used to be Danielle Inn, an orphanage, and then home for pregnant women. The facility can house 14 to 16 veterans, but the company has opted for a short “soft opening” with four veterans. Camp N.O.R.A. is operated by "The Ride of the Brotherhood" organization, which is a non-profit made up of veterans dedicated to helping other veterans through the same struggles they've defeated personally. The organization began as a mission to locate and bring back the remains of American soldiers who fought and died in Vietnam. The program is customizable with veterans staying anywhere from two to six months and it something to behold. There’s an excitement in the air around the camp; it will be a life changing opportunity to change the lives of veterans whose lives were changed for the rest of their lives. Here are some sources for information for those interested. http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/northshore/transitional-facility-for-homeless-veterans-opens-in-st-tammany-1/512653286 http://www.rideofthebrotherhood.org/
In the state of New Jersey, there are joint efforts being made between law officials to share knowledge about the veterans tax exemption benefits that veterans will be eligible for and relieve confusion about the upcoming change. Assemblyman Ryan Peters and fellow 8th District lawmakers Dawn Marie Addiego and Joe Howarth are working with acting Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio on this project. From Burlington County Times’s website this information was made available: (A link will be provided at the end of this article) There are some very clear steps that need to be made for this process: First, veterans need to take is to fill out and return a veterans tax exemption submission form to the Division of Taxation, along with documentation from the military, such as a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty or DD-214. The submission form can be found on the department’s website. It and the certifying documents can be sent to the division by mail, fax or by a secure online upload feature on the website. The exemption is intended to assist New Jersey’s approximately 400,000 veterans. It was part of other tax reductions, including a small sales tax reduction, an enhanced retirement income exemption and an increased earned income tax credit. Those reductions were intended to help make the state more tax-friendly. It was noted that, to assist veterans, the 8th District office has created its own step-by-step directions, which the lawmakers intend to distribute via social media and email. Paul Reuter found about the upcoming changes a few summers’ ago, but it was earlier this year when he realized that there were some veterans that just didn’t know the information he did. “I was at the gym on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and was talking to some other (military) retirees there. Some of them knew about it; some of them didn’t,” Reuter said Monday. “I’ve tried to pass the word around, but a lot of veterans don’t know.” Howarth believes that their effort will benefit the over 30,000 veterans who reside in the nearby Burlington area, but that the Treasury Department could help ensure veterans statewide are aware of the benefit. This change can only bring good and it will be great to see what is next. You can find more information about what you learned in this article here: http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/news/20180129/nj-lawmakers-trying-to-raise-awareness-about-new-veterans-tax-exemption
Veterans have a battle long after the literal battle they are fighting is over. And for some, it never ends. The battle is for recognition for their service in various wars. Take World War II, more than 260,000 Filipinos fought for the United States and most did not return home to their families. It is a tragedy and it’s not the only one these veterans suffered. The tragedy of not being recognized as veterans does take a toll on their families, those who served whom are living. Their sacrifices weren’t broadcasted like other veterans were. Some retribution is happening because this past Saturday, surviving veterans and their families if the veteran in their family was no longer living, , received  Congressional Gold Medals, to honor those who served. This particular civilian award is given to an individual or a group of individuals that have had a significant impact on U.S. culture. To say that Filipinos were misrepresented and disrespected is a vast understatement. This past Saturday, 25 veterans were honored for their service in World War II. “They served their country. They died for their country. So, this is about duty to country worth dying for,” said Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, a Filipino and a retired U.S. Army Officer. And the honor and respect for others, especially in this sector, is important as anything else. If there’s no respect or honor, we have failed people that need it most. It’s important to combine historical significance, respect and honor when talking about veterans, especially those who fought so hard for our country and for the simple recognition. It is unacceptable for this issue to be an issue. History does have a part in the lack of recognition. Congress in 1946 passed a Rescission Act, which in turn, did two things to them. One, it took away their dignity and their honor, by declaring they were not in active duty, thereby they were not entitled to receive their benefits … and it also took away their U.S. nationality, even though they were part of the U.S. as a colony.” This is criminal, if not legally criminal. "Although [President Harry] Truman had to issue the Rescission Act after the war, people do not understand the impact of that on the community because a lot of people lost their citizenship and their benefits ... As (Filipino veterans') families migrated and their children grew older, they didn't have pension. They didn't have a legacy to leave for their children," Christy Poisot said, Region 7 Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project director shares her thoughts on the subject. "It’s important to recognize failure and then make changes to give people what they deserve. We have the opportunity to turn a page and honor, love and respect people for their acts of service, regardless of their nationality or who they are." You can find more information about this issue on the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project at https://www.filvetrep.org/
The author of this article is Jim Perkins who was an active duty Army officer for 11 years and now is sharing his perspective on new and upcoming specialities in the military. The military has so many openings to serve in a lot of different capacities to match the talents and interests of those choosing to serve. But serving isn’t just being a pilot or a sniper or any number of “popular” military careers. The U.S. military’s “tooth-to-tail” ratio,  the number of direct combat forces compared to support personnel, is around 1:5. Vehicle and aircraft machines are, of course, important and extremely integral in the ability to be able to support our country and its citizens but those careers are not the only way to serve our country. Technological advances have provided an opportunity to serve our country. Supportive roles in the military are just as important as more “defined” roles. The steady thread between history of warfare is unwavering support. When not physical support, it is mental support. This has been an active tie since the beginning of warfare, in the earliest of circumstances. As we’ve evolved from bow and arrow to computers doing the majority of technical work for us, we’ve begun to understand that we need to learn how to access improvements, failure and support as well as everything in between. We haven’t done the best job of that as a society. We have used digital technology for the past few decades. We need to cultivate digital experts and offer them space in the military. As Perkins states: “To remain a dominant force in the Information Age, the U.S. military,  all four services must create a corps of software developers in uniform.” And with that, it’s a new age, both concerning the military and the digital age. Information technology is a booming business and had been for years. For the military to capitalize, train people to use the technology to their best advantage for the deca is a smart decision that is long overdue. There are many examples of innovation and how it propelled the modern world to change and adapt to new things. It can, however be challenging while dealing with all the complexities and as Perkins puts it: New technology and weaponry is soon worthless without the requisite maintenance and repair. ... The services must immediately begin identifying, training, and employing software developers across the force.” It’s important to recognize failure when dealing with something that is so overreaching in today’s society. For the sake of future generations, we must take care of the language we speak about such pieces of innovation. You can find more information on this subject at: https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/next-new-military-specialty-software-developers/  
Janna Schaefer is a woman who cares for our military personnel and their families. She realizes the importance of supporting people who supported us in our time of need. Now, it’s time to turn the tables. Although she resides in Durango, Co, Schaefer has had the opportunity to help people in the United States as well as in Nepal and other developing countries around the world. Schaefer is the owner of Healing Touch which is a holistic energy-based practice. She also spends her time working with several nonprofits and support groups located in the Four Corners. \Schaefer wanted to make a difference in families that were in the military and all the ramifications they they dealt with on a daily basis. She knew of the pain and the grueling emotional trauma that existed with serving in the military. Her father served in the military in both the Korean War and World War II. Her husband served in the Gulf War and later passed away. With her heart for those serving and her talents as someone who works with different types of alternative energy therapies, she was a perfect match to help others work through past or current trauma. Her studies of energy therapy was at first limited to reiki but then grew to include Healing Touch, a five-level, reading and writing intensive program that spanned two years.” Schaefer goes on to say “It (Healing Touch) helps balance your system, helps you relax and eases your pain,” she said. “It has been very helpful for people who need cancer support, and those preparing for surgery or coming out of surgery.”Schaefer describes Healing Touch as a “light touch” on the major and minor chakras, or wheels of energy throughout the body, that restores balance in the energy system.“That energy goes to where it needs to be,” she said. “Someone might come in for back pain, but also have an emotional release of something else that is going on.” The Denver Post reports that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that on average, 20 veterans a day completed suicide in 2014.  In addition to that statistic, suicide among military veterans is especially high in the Western U.S. Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico are known to carry the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014. Greg Hopkins, a disabled veteran, is a true believer in Schaefer’s therapy. His 20-year-old son, Finn, is also disabled and sees Schaefer for Healing Touch therapy. Their weekly appointments have helped tremendously.  Finn is like a new person after meeting with her, Hopkins said. “He has been seeing Janna for about a year, and you see the most amazing change in him after,” Hopkins said. “He can think more clearly, stay calmer and focus on things more easily. She works wonders with him.” This is a reason why alternative therapy works seamlessly to provide health to those who need it most. When people work with other people who are marginalized, the original helpers realize that they have so much to give to others who are in pain. And in turn, the original helpers are being helped which create a relationship that carries away from therapy into friendship.
It’s not a secret that the housing market has experienced ups and downs in the recent years and the current economic climate is not helping. Veterans have consistently struggled with finding permanent, suitable housing. The Department of Veteran Affairs is of course aware of this problem but there is no easy, simple solution. Some of the problem is that there isn’t as many available as there should be to remedy the need. And it’s not just the resources but the time component that is also making the need challenging to find an adequate answer. The VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are both working together to find an answer. While the government can’t meet all the needs, there is a gap and some of that gap is being filled by non profits who do have time, passion and in some case, expertise or personal experience in this matter. Veterans, as previously noted, have not taken an easy road to housing. It isn’t their fault, but it’s not hard to see how the current struggle is something unprecedented. You see, the number of homeless veterans are the highest they have ever been in the last seven years. The government knows this and is trying to lower the number, but situational troubles make the challenges harder to clear, yet there is some measure of progress as there are 46% less veterans unhoused, which is something to celebrate. However, the number of veterans that are currently living on the streets is still high and hard to calculate the exact number. Stephen Peck, the president of U.S. VETS, a nonprofit that provides housing and employment assistance to homeless veterans has much to say about the situation: “It seems to us there is no longer an emphasis and determination to get every veteran off the streets,”. Understanding the challenges the government faces while enduring this crisis is paramount to understanding the issue of homelessness. Peck continues: “There has been a tendency to look for a single fix. .. I think it’s critical that we provide those more intensive services.” The end goal is to effectively eradicate homelessness for veterans and not veterans alike. Veterans are able to receive services that have helped them escape homelessness and these governmental projects have helped shave the numbers but not the entire climate. At a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing Jan. 17, VA Secretary David Shulkin reiterated that  ““We need to do this better,” Shulkin said. “We have to rethink our effort. We need to double down on things that work and come up with a fresh approach here. I’m not satisfied with the progress we’re making.” This is a start that is transforming the problem from the inside out. When you put compassion in your cause, transformation begins. You can find more information at https://taskandpurpose.com/va-obstacles-veteran-homelessness/
This past fall, women across the globe shared their intimate struggle with sexual assault by writing #metoo on various social media platforms to highlight the issue and confirm that they are not alone in this struggle. In the following winter, another hashtag swept across social media platforms. Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globes the night before the hashtag came about had compelled this hashtag to social media. In particular when Winfrey said, "They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers. And farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, and engineering and medicine and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics, and they're our soldiers in the military.” #MeTooMilitary has come to be used by service men and women who were sexually assaulted or harassed while in the military. A report from the Pentagon indicated that 15,000 members of the military reported being sexually assaulted in the year 2016, and only 1 out of 3 people assaulted actually made a report, indicating as many as 45,000 assaults occurred. These social media movements prompted real conversation among both genders that have helped unify women. Nichole Bowen-Crawford is a woman who understands why the hashtag made it’s way on to the internet, but believes that  it may have not be the wisest of options. She, along others as part of the Service Women's Action Network, or SWAN, travelled to Washington for the #MeTooMilitary Stand Down protest outside the Pentagon. You see, Bowen-Crawford states, that when victims are victimized, especially in the military, it often is something of a secret for fear of it being a block to moving up in their career. As unacceptable as this is, it is not an uncommon factor in veterans’ stories. “You know, these are the people who serve our country and risk their lives every day.” And it’s important to honor and respect them and their wishes. You can find more information at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_(hashtag) as well as http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2018/01/22/Female-veterans-want-their-voices-heard-in-the-MeToo-movement/stories/20180118