Millions In Military Foreclosure Settlements

foreclosure

By Debbie Gregory.

From 2006 through 2010, more than 300 military servicemembers were served foreclosure notices. As a result, in addition to the stress of serving our country, they had the added stress of possibly losing their homes while they were on active duty.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), is a federal law that provides protections for military members as they enter active duty. SCRA covers issues such as rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosure, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments.

In 2011, the Justice Department settled with BAC Home Loans Servicing LP, a subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation, and Saxon Mortgage Servicing Inc., a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley. After obtaining a settlement to compensate 142 military members for wrongful foreclosures, the Justice Department continued their investigation.  Bank of America handed over information regarding additional foreclosures made between mid-2009 and 2010. The result was an additional 155 servicemembers that had been impacted. BOA and Morgan Stanley settled with a payout of $36.8 million. Under the second settlement, Saxon Mortgage Services Inc. is in the process of paying out some $2.5 million to 19 servicemembers whose homes were unlawfully foreclosed upon between 2006 and 2010.  Each of the 300+ military families will receive $116,785.

Borrowers receiving payment under this settlement may receive an additional payment under a settlement between Bank of America and federal banking regulators–the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System–if the foreclosure occurred in 2009 or 2010.

Clearly, this is a success story for these servicemembers, but there are potentially hundreds or thousands of additional servicemembers who were also impacted by illegal foreclosures.  The Justice Department is overseeing audits of other large mortgage servicers, like Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally.

If you think you might be covered under this act and would like to have your SCRA case reviewed by the Justice Department, you must first seek the assistance of your military legal assistance office. If that office cannot resolve the complaint, the complaint may be forwarded to the Justice Department, who will review the matter to determine whether action is appropriate.

Veterans Education Residency Legislation

post-911-gi-bill

By Debbie Gregory.

One of the most highly regarded perks given for military service is the opportunity to get a great education on Uncle Sam. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill that pays for a Veteran’s education is an earned benefit, promised in the contractual agreement, signed upon enlistment. While the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill is a great benefit, many servicemembers find that it falls short when out of state tuition fees are applied.  The House Subcommittee on Veteran’s Affairs for Economic Opportunity recently met to determine the fate of Bill H.R. 357, the G.I. Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013.

H.R. 357 would allow eligible Veteran schools that issue Post G.I. education benefits to appropriate in-state tuition rates for student Veterans, despite residency status. The Veteran’s education will be charged the same rate of fees that is required for in-state residents. The bipartisan legislative bill was introduced by Chairman Jeff Miller, and ranking member Mike Michaud.

The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill is the largest investment in Veteran education benefits since World War II. The bill pays the full cost of an undergraduate education at any public college or university.

Veterans who serve 90 aggregate days of active service after September 10, 2001, qualify for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Also qualified are those who serve post 9/11 for at least 30 consecutive days of active duty, and receive a discharge for disability.

The Student Veterans of America (SVA) is a non-profit coalition of more than 750 student Veteran organizations on college campuses globally. SVA Executive Director of Michael Dakduk said, “The Post G.I. Bill pays the highest in-state tuition and fees. Due to military obligations, many veterans are unable to establish in-state residency for the purposes of enrolling at a public university or college.” For now, those attending a private school or a public school as a non-resident out-of-state student may benefit from the Yellow Ribbon Program, which could reimburse the difference.

The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill Veteran’s Educational Benefits provide up to 36 months of veteran education benefits that are payable for 15 years following the individual’s release from active duty. H.R. 357 will amend Title 38 of the United States Code, resulting in the Veteran’s education being charged the same rate of fees that is required for in-state residents.

The Veteran’s Education benefits of in-state tuition are contingent on the passage of H.R. 357. Contact Congress and the Senate in a show of support for this bill.

Champions of Change : Dawn Halfaker

army-cpt-dawn-halfaker

By Debbie Gregory.

Military police officer, Army Cpt. Dawn Halfaker was on a three-hour patrol in Iraq, searching for enemy combatants. Near the end of the night, her unit found them – when they drove headfirst into an ambush.

Halfaker, who was in the first vehicle, was hit squarely with a rocket-propelled grenade. The blast severely injured both her and one of her squad leaders. The last thing she remembers of her tour in Iraq is being loaded into a helicopter.

When she awoke she thought she was still on the battlefield. Family and doctors at her bedside had to explain that she was safe, in the hospital and left without one of her arms.

For Halfaker, a 2001 West Point graduate, she lost more than her arm. She lost a career that she loved and worked for.

“I took that all in and looked over and started to understand the severity of the situation. I was in a lot of pain. I really thought my life was over,” she said. “I had a hard time accepting everything they were telling me. I lost my arm, but losing my career was what I felt I had to recover from.”

As Halfaker recovered and began searching for a place in the workforce where she fit, she realized quickly that neither politics nor defense contracting was a good match.

Instead, she created her own company, Halfaker and Associates, and works with civilian and military partners to address national security services such as information technology, program management and acquisition, logistics and infrastructure, among other services. Halfaker serves as chief executive officer.

Before launching her enterprise, Halfaker served as a military liaison to the House Armed Services Committee and advised the committee chair on key Department of Defense legislation and issues. She also worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, specializing in technical consulting for the Defense Sciences Offices.

In the community, Halfaker is a member of several Veteran Service Organizations and is currently President of the Board of Directors for the Wounded Warrior Project. The project aims to create direct programs and services to meet the varied needs of the nation’s wounded service members.

It is a mission that Halfaker doesn’t just believe in, but that she supports through her words, actions and deeds.

“Wounded Warrior Project brings a lot of support to the table,” she said. “They really inspire our wounded war fighters, motivating people to reach new goals. The people at WWP help you figure things out when your whole life has suddenly changed and you’re dealing with your losses.”

Halfaker also spends time working with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Committee for OIF/OEF soldiers and families to improve VA policies and care for veterans who were severely injured in combat and is actively serving on the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee for Veterans Employer Training and Employer Outreach and the Department of Veteran Affairs Readjustment Committee. She is also a member of the Advisory Board for Humana Military Health Systems, ThanksUSA and Paradox Sports.

Women Veteran Hotline

women-vet-salute

By Debbie Gregory.

The Veteran’s Administration launched new Women Veterans Hotline: 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-829-6636).  This number connects Women Veterans, their families and caregivers to a nationwide call center that responds to questions concerning health care, benefits, services and V.A. resources.

The VA is providing highly-trained telephone agents as part of a program designed to reach more Women Veterans. These VA agents provide accessibility in a private, dignified and sensitive climate that deals with gender-specific issues.
The Veterans Administration recognizes the unique needs of women Veterans.  Over 334,000 women Veterans used VA healthcare in 2012.  The number of women Veterans utilizing VA healthcare has grown from 160,000 back in 2000.  It is interesting that even with number of women veterans that use VA healthcare increasing; only six percent of the total patient population at the VA is women.  This is often due to a lack of knowledge,

The VA provides comprehensive primary care for women Veterans as well as offering services for obstetrics-gynecology, caregiver support, crisis intervention, mental health services.  They also provide emergency and specialty care for homeless women Veterans.  Some of the other services provide disability compensation, home loans, and employment assistance.

According to Irene Trowell-Harris, the Director of the Veteran Administration’s Center for Women Veterans, “Many women who served don’t self-identify as Veterans, therefore they don’t think they qualify for V.A. benefits. We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions, so we can serve more Women Veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.”

The Call Center 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-6636has a 30-day tracking policy on all transfers and referrals to ensure beneficiaries receive the services they need and don’t become waylaid by the system.

Women Veterans may retrieve information, or apply for benefits online at www.eBenefits.va.gov and conduct their health care needs at www.MyHealtheVet.va.gov

Women Veterans have served and often under challenging circumstances.  The VA is working to address their special needs.

Dental Diseases From Military Service

military-dental

By Debbie Gregory.

The VA assumes that certain diseases can be related to a Veteran’s qualifying military service. They are called “presumptive diseases.” For example, World War II veterans suffered from the effects of malaria. Many Viet Nam veterans have increased rates of cancer, as well as nerve, digestive, skin and respiratory disorders through their exposure to Agent Orange.

Sgt. Steve White, Spc. Stevie Chebahtah and Spc. Brad Gotschall served together in Mosul, Iraq.  All three soldiers had good oral health before going on active duty in Iraq. Their dental problems began when they returned to the United States. Their symptoms were all the same: their teeth became gray, then their teeth weakened, and finally they began to break. Although they are receiving compensation from the VA for other disabilities, the VA will not compensate them for their dental problems

Infectious diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoan parasites are among the most common and widespread health risk of drinking water. People are introduced to these microorganisms through contaminated drinking water, water drops, aerosols and washing or bathing. Initially, the soldiers thought that the drinking water in Iraq may have caused their problems. Spc. Chebahtah said she often had to drink water purchased from Iraqis when out on patrol. The VA has rejected bottled water as the source of the oral health problems. Byron Harris, an investigative reporter for WFAA News, recently interviewed soldiers who have also  experienced dental deterioration since serving in Iraq. Harris has been trying to find the source of oral health problems plaguing U.S. soldiers returning from the war in Iraq.

Dr. Terry Rees, a periodontist at Baylor College of Dentistry interviewed Brad Gotschall. Dr. Rees suspects the oral disintegration is related to serving in Iraq, but he has no idea of what the origin might be. Dr. Rees, a military veteran with 27 years of service, says that many of the stresses soldiers face in combat can lead to oral deterioration.

The problem for these veterans is that the VA doesn’t pay for dental care unless a soldier is 100 percent disabled. That means soldiers have to pay huge dental bills without any government help. One non-profit that is stepping up to the plate is Rebuilding America’s Warriors (R.A.W). Founded in 2007 by Maggie Lockridge, R.A.W is dedicated to providing reconstructive surgeries to American war veterans who have recently been wounded and/or disfigured while on active duty. To date, R.A.W has been able to enlist the help of a dozen dentists nationwide who are helping vets. One of R.A.W.’s volunteer dentists, Dr. Richard Beadle, said, “We’ve all heard stories about doctors doing things for vets, … So it’s my time to do a little something.”

Spc. Gotschall has received dental care through the R.A.W. foundation.  “My message to the government would be to please go back and re-address this problem,” said Lockridge. Hopefully, the VA will re-consider their stance on this health issue, which will only get worse as more and more of our nation’s finest return home.

Navy Seal Imposter Arrested

navy-seals-quote

By Debbie Gregory.

Who is the real William Burley? It appears that he is a phony Navy SEAL and felon.  The truth came out when he was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy for driving with expired vehicle tags in San Bernardino, California. Burley has a history of impersonating a Navy SEAL and cheating people out of money.

William Burley has claimed to be a Navy SEAL and a member of law enforcement for several years. He really is a convicted felon in Rhode Island.  Burley served two years of a 10-year sentence in Rhode Island for conspiracy to commit robbery in 2006.

When the sheriff’s deputy stopped Burley, he found firearms, body armor and other law enforcement identifications. The deputy arrested Burley on suspicion of being a felon and for having a firearm in his vehicle. After the arrest, the San Bernardino Probation Department office obtained a search warrant for Burley’s Yucaipa, California home and found more weapons and body armor.

Retired Navy Seal Don Shipley has been on to Burley for some time. Mr. Shipley is a former SEAL entrusted with a database that shows SEAL training graduates. He has been aware of imposter William Burley and has tried to take him down. In a YouTube video that was uploaded in October, 2012, Shipley exposed William James Burley as a phony.

Mr. Shipley receives forty or more requests daily to verify if someone is a truly a Navy SEAL.  They usually turn out to be impostors.

An imposter is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often to attain financial gain or social advantages. Imposture syndrome describes a situation where someone feels like an imposter or fraud because they believe their own accomplishments fall short of those around them.

William James Burley now faces possible prison time. He has a long history of impersonating a Navy SEAL and cheating people. If he is convicted in California he will be doing time for illegally possessing firearms. He still will have to face the Rhode Island authorities.

The real Navy SEALS work hard to keep our nation safe and are truly heroes.  Often, they don’t reveal to their friends and family, the work that they do. It is truly offensive to have anyone, especially someone like Burley, pretend to be part of this elite force. “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”.

We want to know what you think.

Gender Related PTSD

men-women

By Debbie Gregory.

Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs are initiating studies into the complexities of post-traumatic stress disorder and how it differentiates between genders.

According to Dr. Sonja Batten, the V.A.’s Deputy Chief Consultant for Specialty Mental Health, women are twice as likely as men to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. But, she says, “Among recent returnees seeking care at the Veterans Administration,  PTSD rates among Veteran men and Veteran women  are the same.” Dr. Batten further explains, “Statistics such as these suggest the need to better understand the role of gender in PTSD, particularly as it may impact our Veterans seeking care.”

A recent Veteran Administration study examined how men and women learn to fear. Dr. Sabra Inslicht, who is involved in the study, is a staff psychologist at the San Francisco Medical Center, and also Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Her work on the subject was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

In her study, Dr. Inslicht and her team of researchers enlisted 18 males and 13 females, all diagnosed with PTSD. Electrodes were attached to the palms of each participant’s hands. The research staff was then able to detect and measure criteria in each subject’s physiological response to visual stimuli of computer-generated images. Following specific generated images, the test subject was issued a minor electrical shock. Eventually, the test subject associated the particular images with a gradual, unpleasant discomfort. “They learned to anticipate the impending shock,” Dr. Inslicht remarked. “They learned the danger cues. We call this ‘fear conditioning.”’

“We discovered that women responded more strongly to the visual cues than men, when they saw a particular image that they knew was going to be followed by an electric shock,” said Dr. Inslicht. “This suggests that women conditioned more robustly than men. In our future work, we’d like to get a better understanding as to why these differences may occur.”

According to Dr. Inslicht, this fight or flight response can sometimes persist, even in non-threatening circumstances. “When you’re unable to turn it off in safe situations, the stress becomes prolonged. This can cause wear and tear on both the mind and the body,” she said. “When this heightened reactivity starts to negatively impact your daily life, we worry about post-traumatic stress.”

Dr. Insicht went on to say, “Fear extinction occurs when you are gradually exposed to the previous learned danger cues, such as crowds, and you gradually learn to realize that the cue will not be followed by a potentially stressful, traumatic event. Since fear-extinction learning is significant for recovery from PTSD, a deeper understanding of this process could alter our strategy for how we treat PTSD in Veteran men and Veteran women.”

Researchers are cognizant that this is a new field of study with much to learn concerning fear and extinction mechanisms and their relationship to PTSD, especially for Veterans.

Navy, Marine Corps Attack Alcohol Binge-Drinking

military-drinking

By Debbie Gregory.

Binge drinking is a problem everywhere, and the Armed Forces are no exception. The U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps are distributing alcohol detection devices (breathalyzers) to combat out-of-control binge drinking.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the “21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative” aimed at deglamorizing, treating and tracking alcohol consumption. According to the Navy Department, “Sailors who drink excessively, or late into the night, then report to duty under the influence of alcohol, place themselves, their shipmates, and our equipment at risk.” San Diego County Naval Air Forces, submarine, and Camp Pendleton recently received the first hand-held breathalyzers.

Besides affecting job performance, drinking also carries health risks, such as cirrhosis of the liver. Drinking also contributes to life-threatening situations such as domestic violence, drunk driving, sexual assaults, and increased suicidal tendencies.

This step-up to control the problems that a night of binging can produce looks to reduce hangovers, poor job performance, family stress and arrests. Additionally, it can potentially prevent fatal errors that occur while training or operating dangerous equipment.

Off-duty intoxication is also under fire, as the Navy and Marine Corps implement strict alcohol detection measures, hoping to improve the health, safety, and performance of all “at sea” service personnel.

Binge-drinking is an addictive habit that leads to chronic failure. Contributing to the abuse of alcohol are factors such as stress, frequent deployments, military downsizing, and personal life situations.

While many use alcohol as a short-term fix to calm emotions, numb anxiety, or alleviate insomnia, in truth it acerbates the problem. According to retired Marine master sergeant, John Veneziano, hung-over service members are “not able to fly that plane, pull that trigger, fix that aircraft, and drive that vehicle.” Alcohol consumption initiates a long-term problem. Veneziano directs Camp Pendleton’s consolidated substance abuse counseling center.

Through an awareness campaign, service members are learning that after a night of binging, sleep, a shower and shave do not prepare them to be 100% for duty. Reformulating thinking patterns and educating the service members regarding the benefits of nutrition might prevent or provide a renewed concept on health. Additionally, being in the best physical condition might help eliminate some alcohol issues. A healthy body and mind can cope with situations more effectively than one suffering from the ravages of alcohol-ravaged.

What is your point of view on the Navy and Marines new tactical intervention on alcohol-related binge drinking?

Columnist Says “Most Veterans Did Nothing Heroic”

By Debbie Gregory.

A military funeral is a memorial that our nation provides to those who have served our nation when they pass away.  It is the very least we can do for men and women who have make so many sacrifices. This final farewell to comrades is steeped in tradition with a ceremony with a flag-draped casket.  The flag is folded and presented to the family of the deceased service member or Veteran.  This ceremony is usually performed by an Honor Guard detail of not less than two members of the Armed Forces.  The ceremony is concluded with the playing TAPS.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist  Bill McClellan published a very controversial column. One wonder’s if  McClellan’s motive was to create controversy?   McClellan states in his column that only those who have died in battle deserve military burial honors.  He attempts to justify his position by bringing up the precarious financial health of state and federal governments.   McClellan goes so far as to state that “Most Veterans Did Nothing Heroic”.  He goes on to say that they served and that’s all.  He feels it is more than enough to provide a Veteran and their spouse burial plots and headstones at national cemeteries.

We strongly disagree with McClellan and his ill-conceived position on military funerals.

military-funeral

We live in a nation where less than one percent of our population steps up and serves in the military.  Service members place themselves in harm’s way.  They literally write the people of the United States a blank check up to and including their lives.   It doesn’t matter if they died in battle, died of Agent Orange, died from PTSD even decades later, or died of suicide, or died from a non-service related condition or anything else.  This is a benefit that Veterans have they earned.  It should not be taken away under any circumstances after they have done their duty.  Doing so would be breaking a sacred covenant with our Veterans.

Veterans of all eras have gone to war and left their homes and loved ones to defend this nation.  Veterans have allowed us to live in a nation that is safe and where we can prosper.     We are able to live the lives we do in the greatest nation in the world because of the sacrifices of so many who have served in our armed forces and worn our nation’s uniform.

We invite you to send us your comments and opinion on this issue.

New Device Can Detect Battlefield TBI’s

By Debbie Gregory.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a disruption of brain function resulting from a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury. Unfortunately, Traumatic Brain Injuries often occurs on the battlefield and is one of the main wounds of war injuring our troops.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed an increased awareness on TBI. It has been difficult to obtain an accurate rate and severity of deployment related TBIs that our service members are experiencing. As such, there is a critical need to develop a rapid method to diagnose TBI on the battlefield.

Now there is a device that can detect TBI in the battlefield.  The Infrascanner Model 2000 was developed based on a prior model with specifications of the US Marine Corps and in partnership with the US Navy.  This Infrascanner Model 2000 unit is a small, portable hand held device that includes a sensor and a cradle.  The sensor includes an eye safe NIR diode laser and optical detector. The detector signal is digitized and analyzed by a single board computer in the sensor. The 2000 model is held against the patient’s head in eight pre-determined locations. The device’s optical detector is able to differentiate between circulating blood and pooled blood such as a hematoma.

infrascanner-model-2000

Due to the challenges of war, TBI, it has been extremely difficult to get a handle on the rate of TBIs experienced during a deployment.  It is also hard to determine the severity of these TBIs or the incidence of multiple TBIs that our service members are experiencing.  This is because there is not an easy method to   determine if the brain has occurred.

Along with its obvious military applications, the Infrascanner Model 2000 is also intended for use by civilians in fields such as sports. Each year, an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States, and 10 million people worldwide, seek medical treatment for head trauma. Intracranial hematomas resulting from a traumatic brain injury are life-threatening.  This condition has been reported as the primary injury in 40 percent of patients with severe head injury. The rate of successful treatment improves with a timely diagnosis and intervention.

The FDA approved Infrascanner 2000 in 2011. It functions as a triage measure in order to diagnose the need for immediate intervention before proper hospital care is dispensed. It takes approximately two minutes for each rapid CT screening session. When minutes count, providing a timely and accurate diagnosis to our service members on the battlefield will save lives.   This is just another example of leading edge military medicine.