Veterans and Homelessness

Veterans and Homelessness

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

Homeless.

 

It is really a state that just shouldn’t exist. No human should be without a home – without shelter. Without a place to feel safe.

 

There are, however, certain groups that seem particularly intolerable when paired with the word “homeless.” One of those groups is Veterans.

 

We have all seem the images (like the one feature with this article) of a down trodden man in fatigues – tired, thin and dirty – with a homemade cardboard sign begging for help. Some of them are missing limbs. Some are in wheelchairs. Some struggle with PTSD. All share the common bond of having served our country to return home and live on the streets.

 

By now, we have all heard of the now infamous homeless Veteran and his “benefactors” who conspired to bilk GoFundMe contributors out of hundreds of thousands. Those images of homeless veterans are exactly why the GoFundMe scam was so instantaneously successful. The trio relied on the general public’s sympathetic response to seeing a homeless Vet so willing to turn over his “last” $20 to a stranger.

 

The most heartbreaking part of their tale is the damage it does to Veterans who are homeless and in actual need of assistance. While Homeless Veterans are of the utmost concern across the country, there are some areas in California that are getting federal assistance – to the tune of $5.3 million – to help those Veterans get back on their feet.

 

The federal dollars have been awarded to assorted HUD offices in the Bay Area and Central Valley in California and is expected to help 343 homeless Veterans find permanent housing and support services. Ben Carson, secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban development has been quoted in a statement made October 4, 2018 as saying  “we have few responsibilities greater than making sure those who have sacrificed so much in service to their country have a home they can call their own. The housing vouchers awarded today ensure homeless veterans nationwide have access to affordable housing and the critical support services from the VA.”

 

The voucher funding has been awarded in a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and was made available by the HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program, but it will be the VA facilities that will be evaluating each case to determine the needed level of support. The VA facilities in the area will be expected to report on the length of each homeless experience, the length of time without adequate housing as well as the amount of support that would be necessary to get them into permanent housing. There will be an extensive system of checks and balances before Veterans will be referred for vouchers.

 

Since the joint program launched in 2008, more than 150,000 homeless veterans have been assisted throughout the country. Additionally, more than 93,000 housing and services vouchers have been awarded. Veterans who participate in the voucher program typically rent privately owned residences and use 30% of their income or less to cover that rent each month.

 

The breakdown of funding by housing authority is below:

 

The Santa Clara County Housing Authority – $2.8 million for 140 vouchers

The San Francisco Housing Authority – $343,723 for 21 vouchers

Contra Costa County Housing Authority – $284,891 for 20 vouchers

San Mateo County Housing Authority, Palo Alto-based VA medical facility – $162,949 for 12 vouchers

San Mateo County Housing Authority, San Francisco-based VA medical facility – $67,895 for 5 vouchers

San Joaquin County Housing Authority – $116,648 for 20 vouchers

Stanislaus County Housing Authority – $138,880 for 25 vouchers

Marin County Housing Authority – $76,965 for 5 vouchers

Berkeley Housing Authority – $248,181 for 15 vouchers

Santa Clara County Housing Authority – $2,816,567 for 140 vouchers

Pittsburg Housing Authority – $62,903 for 5 vouchers

City of Alameda Housing Authority – $131,188 for 5 vouchers

Alameda County Housing Authority, VA Northern California Health Care System – $278,986 for 20 vouchers

Alameda County Housing Authority, Palo Alto-based VA medical facility – $209,240 for 15 vouchers

City of Napa Housing Authority – $40,182 for 5 vouchers

Livermore Housing Authority – $75,849 for 5 vouchers

County of Sonoma – $51,983 for 5 vouchers

 

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Eglin Air Force Base in Florida has opened the first Invisible Wounds Center, which will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions and psychological injuries.

“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” said Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Dorothy A. Hogg. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible.”

The center will treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from all branches.

Modeled after the Intrepid Spirit Centers, the Invisible Wounds Center will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof to provide treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion. Conventional and complementary therapies such as art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy and mental health services will be included in treatment.

Following the opening of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in 2010, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund began building Intrepid Spirit Centers to serve as satellite facilities to extend care to the home base of many of the troops suffering the effects of TBI and PTS. Seven centers are already completed and in operation: Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Camp Pendleton, California. Additional Intrepid Spirit Centers are planned in Fort Carson, Colorado and Fort Bliss, Texas.

Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, has confirmed that Eglin Air Force Base has also been selected to receive an Intrepid Spirit Center, which will be the first one at an Air Force installation. The facility has an expected completion date sometime in 2020.

Of Fisher, Hogg said, “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”

Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Prosthetic advances Making soldiers whole

Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

When discussing military deployment, many often think of two scenarios – the best case and the worst case. Less discussed, however, is the event that a soldier will come home missing a piece of him or herself. While nothing can truly undo the experiences of combat and bodily harm, prosthetic advances are improving every day to help make soldiers feel physically complete again.

The road from the first peg legs and hand hooks to the computerized prosthetic leg began nearly 3,000 years ago. From the ancient Egyptians through the middle Ages to present-day conflicts in the Middle East, there has been a constant evolution that has led to the highly individualized fitting and casting of today’s devices.

One company that is still making a difference today got its start back in 1905 when a bilateral amputee in Ohio used Willow wood as the medium to carve his handmade prosthetic limbs. He founded the Ohio Willow Wood company, which is a pioneer in custom-made prosthetic devices for amputees.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has thrown its support into the development of state-of-the-art prosthetic pieces and innovations. Soldiers who have lost their limbs from IEDs and older veterans who have suffered the same outcome from diabetes and vascular disease are now benefiting from those innovations. The longer veterans can stay mobile, the healthier they will be.

The research, innovations and advancements have undoubtedly helped thousands of veterans – but the benefits have reached beyond the military world. While there are countless civilians who have been able to take advantage of the prosthetic device advances, the uncounted number is perhaps the most staggering: the number of military spouses and families that have benefited from their soldier becoming “whole” once again.

Socks of the Brave

socks of the brave

Socks of the Brave

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

When you see the words “Made in the USA,” the co-founders of Socks of the Brave want you to not only think of superior American-made quality, they want you to think of remember the service men and women who sacrifice their personal lives to protect this great country.

Socks have become increasingly more bold, funky and colorful; department stores sporting racks of “fun and fashionable” foot coverings and minimal packages of the standard black and white tube socks of yesteryear. Socks of the Brave capitalized on the change in footwear fashion and combined a love of spirited sock with a pay-it-forward mentality to help our troops. To kick off their sock company, Socks for the Brave sent 150 pairs of their USA-manufactured socks to the Ironhorse Brigade from Fort Hood, TX, a unit preparing for a nine month deployment.

Why socks? Deployed servicemembers spend more hours in their boots than many civilians can even imagine. Have you ever had an uncomfortable sock wedged in your shoe? Now imagine walking on that uncomfortable sock for 18 straight hours. Or possibly even sleeping with that sock! Socks of the Brave makes sure that this often overlooked necessity is of the highest quality.

The Socks of the Brave sales model allows a sock donation for every pair that is purchased. The “buy one-give one” model sends the socks to active military across the globe through third-party charitable groups.

In addition to being American designed and manufactured (by a company in North Carolina), Socks of the Brave works to keep their fixed costs down with “no frills” packaging. As per their website, “with each penny saved, Socks of the Brave is able to spend more on our US Military.”

The Socks of the Brave are currently available in five different camouflage print styles. From ankle socks to knee socks, there are styles available for all feet – both men and women! Right now, the focus is on the camo print design, but they are taking suggestions for future styles and prints and plan to roll out more as popularity increases.

If you should find yourself in need of some new socks, go shopping at https://www.socksofthebrave.com/ and buy some socks for yourself – and a soldier!  

Android Users Can Get Going with VA’s MOVE Weight Loss App

Android Users Can Get Going with VA's MOVE Weight Loss App

 

Android Users Can Get Going with VA’s MOVE Weight Loss App

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Android users can finally take advantage of an app that has long been available to iOS users.

The VA’s MOVE! weight loss app is now available across both device platforms.

MOVE!  is a 19-week weight management app that guides users to achieve success  by monitoring, tracking, and receiving feedback regarding their progress with weight, diet, and exercise goals.

Supported by the VA’s National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the app can be used by itself or in conjunction with treatment and coaching by the VA healthcare team at all VA Medical Centers and many VA Community-based Outpatient Clinics.

MOVE!’s core ideas—encouraging healthy eating behavior, increasing physical activity, and promoting even small weight losses—are easy to follow and based on the latest in nutrition science.

The app offers:

  • Self-Management Guides – providing weight management strategies using videos, worksheets, games, and other tools.
  • Weight, Diet, and Physical Activity Diaries – for progress tracking.
  • Goals and Progress components – for setting physical activity, diet, and weight loss SMART goals while offering summaries and progress reports.
  • How to Solve Problems – resources to overcome barriers.
  • The ability to share your progress and challenge your friends

The Move! website features some success stories that are truly amazing. Challenges aren’t just limited to overcoming obesity and obesity-related diseases. Other challenges address alcohol, cancer, asthma, depression, injuries, PTSD, and thyroid issues.

The MOVE! Program is designed for both men and women, and for Veterans of all ability levels, but only Veterans receiving care from VA can enroll in MOVE! For more information, visit the VA online at www.move.va.gov.

WWII Legend ‘Sgt. Rosie,’ Rosenkrantz Finally Laid to Rest

WWII Legend ‘Sgt. Rosie,’ Rosenkrantz Finally Laid to Rest

 

By Debbie Gregory.

 

After 74 years, Staff Sgt.David “Sgt. Rosie” Rosenkrantz was finally laid to rest just outside of his hometown of Los Angeles.

The 28-year-old legend had been overseas for just three months when he and another paratrooper were mistakenly dropped into an Italian unit. The Italians, 200 of them, surrendered to Rosenkrantz and his fellow soldier.

But on Sept. 28, 1944, just a year after his victory over the Italians, Rosenkrantz was killed by German machine-gun fire during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, a fierce battle recounted in the 1977 film “A Bridge Too Far.”

American troops were unable to recover his body, and Sgt. Rosie was listed as missing for decades.

Inspired by watching Saving Private Ryan, Rosie’s nephew, Dr. Phillip Rosenkrantz began the search for his uncle’s remains.

Canadian, Dutch and American Graves Registration teams had been active in the area when a Canadian team collected remains from the area around Groesbeek and buried them at the Canadian National Cemetery as “unknowns.”

Rosie’s remains were among them.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) disinterred the grave and working with mitochondrial DNA, confirmed the remains Rosie, the son of Russian- Jewish immigrants, the middle child of 11.

At the re-internment in Riverside, CA, more than 30 of Rosenkrantz’s relatives — nieces, nephews, their kids, and their kids — were present. Front and center was Dr. Rosenkrantz.

“My family and I would like to thank all of the people who helped locate our uncle and bring him home to be buried with his four brothers, who were also part of World War II and are buried at Riverside National Cemetery,” said Dr. Rosenkrantz.

Following the playing of “Taps” and the firing of a three-volley salute, the military honor guard folded the flag draped atop Rosenkrantz’s casket and presented it to Dr. Rosenkrantz.

“This is a day I have been hoping for over 20 years,” he said in his eulogy. “We now have some closure.”

Flawed Gold Star Access Bill Ignores Some Surviving Families

Flawed Gold Star Access Bill Ignores Some Surviving Families

 

Flawed Gold Star Access Bill Ignores Some Surviving Families

By Debbie Gregory

On the surface, a proposal making its way through Congress that would create a standard system for families of some fallen troops to access military bases seems like a great way to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Gold Star Family Support and Installation Access Act of 2017 allows installation access so that families can visit gravesites and attend memorial events, as well as accessing other benefits they are eligible to receive.

The act was introduced on October 2, 2017 and passed the House with 89 bipartisan cosponsors.

The problem is who “some fallen troops” excludes: those who are killed in training accidents, those who died by suicide or those who died from a medical emergency outside deployment. It only applies to the families of troops who were killed in combat or by terrorists.

While the surviving spouse and children of any military member killed in service, regardless of where or how they die, are eligible for military survivor benefits, the term “Gold Star” is a specific designation set by law.

Tragic death and loss are a fact of military life, and no matter what the circumstances are, surviving family members should be treated the same.

The Gold Star first made an appearance during World War I after being placed over a service flag’s blue star when a service member was killed in combat. The Gold Star signified the family’s pride in the loved one’s sacrifice rather than the mourning of their personal loss.

In 1947, Congress authorized the military to present a gold star lapel pin to the family members of those killed in action. It was a simple gold star on a purple background with a laurel wreath around the star. Another pin, a gold star with a gold background and four oak sprigs around the star, was authorized in 1973.

 

Lawmaker Accused of Embellishing Military Service

Lawmaker Accused of Embellishing Military Service

Lawmaker Accused of Embellishing Military Service

By Debbie Gregory

Rep. Mike Ritze (R-OK) has been removed from the rolls of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and asked not to use the organization in his biography or literature.

The legislator has been accused of wearing military service decorations that he didn’t earn, including a Purple Heart, by two of his House colleagues — Reps. Kevin McDugle and Josh West.

“I ask that you remove any reference to being a member, honorary or otherwise, from your bio or any other document which suggests that you are a member of DAV,” wrote J. Marc Burgess, DAV’s National Adjutant ,  in a letter to Ritze dated May 7th.

Ritze claimed he was awarded an honorary membership in the group, but Burgess said the group’s constitution prohibits honorary memberships. He went on to say that it was unfortunate that members of the DAV chapter that gave Ritze the membership were not aware of the policies.

At issue was the DAV cover (hat) with a Purple Heart insignia worn by Ritze, implying that he was a member of DAV and had been awarded the medal only given to those who were wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military.

An osteopathic doctor, Ritze joined the Oklahoma National Guard in 1977 and later transferred to the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserve. from the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, Ritze has faced criticism recently from two of his Republican colleagues, Reps. Kevin McDugle and Josh West, both combat veterans, who accused him of wearing military decorations he hasn’t earned, including a Purple Heart.

McDugle served eight years with the U.S. Marines, serving with an infantry unit, special forces unit and airborne forward observer unit, and was also a drill instructor.

West, who served nine years in the Army, was awarded a Purple Heart from a firefight in Iraq in 2003 where he was shot in both legs and the stomach and sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“In my mind, anyone who served in the military is a hero,” McDugle said. “There is no reason to embellish your service in the military.”

Fred Smith – The Marine Who Founded FedEx

Fred Smith – The Marine Who Founded FedEx

Fred Smith – The Marine Who Founded FedEx

 

By Debbie Gregory

The entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset. It’s an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.

Many millennials get their idea of entrepreneurship from watching Shark Tank, giving little thought to the fact that most of the goods and services they enjoy probably sprang from the imagination of an entrepreneur.

Fred Smith is the founder, chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx. In 1962, Smith entered Yale University. While attending Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age. It is said that his professor told him that, in order for him to get a C, the idea had to be feasible.

Following his graduation, Smith served two tours in Vietnam with the Marine Corps, one as an infantry officer and one as a forward air controller. There he witnessed the military’s logistics operations, using flight to move personnel and equipment on a massive scale.

After leaving the military with a few distinguishing medals, including a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Smith bought an aviation company that would grow to be FedEx. He named the company Federal Express because he believed the patriotic meaning associated with the word “federal” suggested an interest in nationwide economic activity.

Federal Express officially began operations on April 17, 1973. That night, 14 small aircraft took off from Memphis and delivered 186 packages to 25 U.S. cities.

Today, FedEx is consistently recognized as one of the most admired brands in the world and one of the best places to work. But like many innovative companies, it started out as an idea championed by a determined person.

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

By Debbie Gregory.

Life after military service can be a smooth transition for some, but for many servicemembers, the struggle is real. That’s why there is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which aims to get servicemembers ready for their next step in their lives, be it education, employment or entrepreneurship.

TAP reform has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill in recent months. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, introduced The Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2018, named for a friend of the congressman’s who committed suicide.

Mulder retired from the Navy in January 2017 after a distinguished twenty-year career as a US Navy SEAL. He was a highly decorated combat veteran with numerous awards throughout multiple overseas deployments. His awards included three Bronze Stars with Valor.

“If we do a better job equipping our servicemen and women on the front end of their transition, we can reduce the number of veterans who struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of intervention,” said Arrington.

The legislation, if passed, would specifically restructure TAP to require servicemembers to choose specific career-oriented tracks that best suit their post-service plans and would require them to take part in one-on-one counseling a year prior to separation.

Furthermore, it would also authorize a five-year pilot program that would provide matching grant funds to community providers that offer wraparound transition services to veterans and transitioning servicemembers.

Finally, the bill would restructure five days of TAP to devote one day for service-specific training, another for employment preparation, two for the service member’s track of choice — either employment, higher education, career and technical training, or entrepreneurship — and the last for a briefing on Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

The bill has support from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The Transition Assistance Program is a joint program administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA).