Veterans Able to Attend Ivy League Schools

By Debbie Gregory.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Veterans, who want to pursue a law career, now have the opportunity to attend a large number of elite law schools in the country for free.  NYU law student and Iraq veteran, Garen Marshall  has lobbied NYC to increase their veteran education benefits.

Military veterans who served following the 9/11 terrorist attacks can attend Veteran friendly colleges without having to pay anything for their Veteran education.  Veterans can use their Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits.  These Veteran education benefits are capped at the highest rate to attend an in state college or university.  Often the tuition at private colleges, especially Ivy league schools, exceeds this rate. Now many law schools are becoming Yellow Ribbon Schools so that Veterans can attend the best of the best.

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Schools like Stanford Law School, New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School are matching the government Yellow Ribbon program.   The Yellow Ribbon program is a part of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 and provides veteran education benefits to military veterans who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The Yellow Ribbon program provides those veterans who qualify additional money to supplement benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill.   Institutions of higher learning that voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the Veterans Administration choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. The VA will match that amount and issue payment directly to the institution.  This program enables many Veterans to attend private schools and use their Veteran education benefits.

Our veterans have earned the right to an education. Law school is not for everyone.  The Yellow Ribbon program provides many career path options for Veterans in all types of areas with top private colleges and universities for Veterans.  This program can be used for Veteran Distance Education for online degreed programs for Veterans.

Most veterans understand leadership. They have the organizational skills, discipline, can achieve goals and complete missions while working under stress.   By using their Veteran education benefits with the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program, they can do anything and prepare themselves for any field.  Veterans can become lawyers, doctors or pursue careers in any area of their choice.

Veteran Healthcare on the Streets

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By Debbie Gregory.

Homeless veterans are now receiving healthcare assistance by VA doctors. The Veterans Administration has a new program. VA doctors are taking it to the streets.

Many homeless veterans are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments. Veterans are 50% more likely to become homeless than the average American. Homeless veterans account for nearly 20% of the homeless population living on the streets and in shelters in Los Angeles.  The Veterans Administration states that they are making slow but measurable progress toward eliminating homelessness among veterans by 2014.

A new VA program is sending teams of healthcare providers to the streets to provide homeless veterans with the same healthcare they would receive at a VA medical center. The idea is to help veterans overcome barriers to obtaining good healthcare services.

Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team (HPACT), which focuses on the primary healthcare needs of homeless Veterans in coordination with housing programs.  This program is up and running in over thirty sites with another eight sites in the stages of development  and  planning.  The HPACT is built at the intersection between two successful healthcare models, the Healthcare for the Homeless Primary Care Clinics and the Patient-Centered Medical Home.

Often both the physical and mental illnesses of Veterans are not being treated. Sometimes a Veteran might  need help to register for supplemental programs such as food stamps.  The long-term goal is to create a VA healthcare team with one primary care provider and one mental health provider to provide services for Veterans who are homeless.

The VA’s new Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams (HPACT) are modeled after both of these successful interventions, and tailored to the needs of homeless Veterans.  This is accomplished by creating a hub in order for homeless Veterans to access housing and stabilization services that have recently been developed and expanded across the VA system.  In addition, the HPACT program has a robust evaluation component so that the intervention can be assessed for quality and cost-effectiveness. It is expected that the evaluation will show that participating Veterans will have a marked decrease in utilization of expensive healthcare crisis services such as emergency department visits and inpatient admissions that are avoidable.

Dr. Thomas O’Toole is the Medical Director of the Providence clinic as well as the Medical Director of the national HPACT program. Dr.  O’Toole believes that the intersection of chronic pain and addiction can often be an underlying issue that can lead to failure of permanent supportive housing for Veterans.

This new program has doctors out in the streets to evaluate and provide healthcare for homeless veterans. The healthcare delivery system is taking another innovative step forward to be Veteran-centric in its service model. Over the next two years, this sensible, cost-effective system of care (HPACT) promises to significantly contributing toward achieving the goal of ending homelessness among Veterans by 2015.

Military Connection is excited about this program because it will provide much needed healthcare for Veterans who are not able to come to the VA.   Physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and social workers will be in the trenches to bring healthcare services to our homeless Veterans.

President Obama Presents Posthumous Medal of Honor Award

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By Debbie Gregory.

In a posthumous ceremony honoring a fallen Korean War chaplain, Captain Emil Kapaun, President Obama presented the veteran’s family with one of the military’s highest decorations for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest, served during the Korean conflict June 1950, until his death on May 23, 1951, in a prisoner of war hospital. The previous awards received by Kapaun’s family are the Bronze Star for Valor, plus the Distinguished Service Cross for his honorable self-sacrifices.

Kapaun, as with most chaplains, followed the creed of sacrificing his well-being for that of his men, and embraced the Marine’s mantra… “Leave no man behind!”

Father Kapaun was deployed to Korea with the Eighth Calvary Regimen, in June 1950. He and his fellow soldiers endured heavy, hostile-fire from North Korean enemy attacks. The chaplain maneuvered through artillery and gunfire to assist the wounded, man-down, with aid, and to elicit comfort for the dying.

His troops retreated, but Kapaun remained behind with the incapacitated, unmovable wounded soldiers. He helped implement a peaceful surrender of wounded troops, plus intervened in the execution of wounded Sergeant Herbert Miller, putting his own life in jeopardy, but staying the death-decision.

Kapaun was a POW from November 02, 1950 until he succumbed in a prison hospital from lack of food and adequate medical attention, and passed away on May 23, 1951.

The Roman Catholic Church honors Kapaun with the “Servant of God’” title. The honor of sainthood is under consideration by the church and is promoted and supported by the Diocese of Wichita.

This is the first time a member of the ministry has been honored with the Medal of Honor.  Those who minister to our troops are courageous men and women often serving in the front lines.  They provide comfort and spiritual fortification to those who serve.  We salute all ministers, chaplains, priests, rabbis and other spiritual leaders that are making a significant contribution to the well-being of our troops.

Military Connection features the weekly “Adopt A Chaplain” column.

General Defends Clemency in Sexual Assault Case

Lieutenant General, Craig A. Franklin

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Lt. Col. James Wilkerson

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By Debbie Gregory.

Lieutenant General, Craig A. Franklin is the controversial commander of the Third Air Force in Europe.  He recently overturned a sexual-assault conviction and approved clemency for defendant and F-16 fighter pilot, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson.  Wilkerson is convicted of “the egregious crime of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman”.  The woman, a female civilian contractor, accused Lt. Col. James Wilkerson of sexually assaulting her after a party at his house. Wilkerson and his wife deny the charges, but say the woman stayed at their house that night.

Franklin dispatched a letter on March 12, 2013, decrying his aspersions to the allegations that he overruled the guilty verdict from an all-male jury, as he doubts the accuser’s credibility. Franklin also described Wilkerson as a “doting father and husband” who has been selected for promotion.

The six-page discourse written by Franklin, explains why he took the unusual step of granting clemency to Wilkerson.  Wilkerson was convicted by a jury on charges of abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. Wilkerson was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service, but Franklin overturned the jury’s verdict and dismissed the charges.

Lawmakers, plus advocacy groups are angry at the decision. Critics say that some commanders are reluctant to hold troops accountable for rapacious sex crimes, despite the escalating rise of sexual abuse cases in the armed forces.

Franklin states in his letter that he understands that it is “exceedingly less volatile for the Air Force and for me professionally” to accept the jury verdict. But after a meticulous review of the case, he says, it “would have been an act of cowardice on my part and a breach of my integrity” to uphold the conviction, as he considers the case against Wilkerson a weak argument.   Franklin believes that Wilkerson is more credible that the victim.

Franklin wrote, “The more evidence that I considered, the more concerned I became about the court martial findings in this case. Accordingly, I could not in good conscience let stand the finding of guilty.”

Franklin is not a judicial judge, nor did he participate or observe the November trial at Aviano Air Base in Italy. However, as the senior officer in Wilkerson’s chain of command, he has the authority, under military law, to overrule the conviction for any reason deemed necessary.

Lawmakers are disgruntled by Franklin’s interference with justice. They say he cannot override a court’s decision, nor substitute his aberration for the jury’s judgment.  The lawmakers question why he gave credence to inadmissible trial evidence.

In response to the fallout over this case, Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel proposes changing military law, so that senior commanders will no longer have the authority to overturn convictions. Commanders may still reduce or eliminate sentences, however, provided they submit a written explanation.

Hagel’s proposal is attracting support on Capitol Hill, thus Franklin’s letter appears to have an effect on the disenfranchised, creating momentum among lawmakers.

In a statement, Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) and Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), leaders of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, criticize Frankin for “perpetrating the “blame the victim” culture that inhibits effective prevention, and prosecution of sexual assaults in the military.

Military Sexual Trauma is front and center today instead of being kept quiet.  Many female military service members are sharing their trauma to help others.  Tell us your thoughts about General Franklin overturning this verdict.

Tia Christopher – A Champion For Change

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On Tuesday, March 19th, 2013, the White House honored fourteen women Veterans as “Champions of Change”. One of those champions is Tia Christopher, a proud US Navy Veteran.

In 2001, Ms. Christopher began training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, studying to be a naval cryptologist. Her dream of serving her country was marred when Tia became a victim of military sexual trauma and was raped by a fellow sailor.  As a result of this violent attack, Christopher suffered from PTSD, experiencing intense fear, helplessness and horror. She discovered that it is not easy to report a rape. The DOD reported that in 2011, only 13.5% of survivors reported their assaults.

Christopher has come a long way since she was honorably discharged in 2002, and she is doing what she can to help other victims. In addition to speaking nationally on issues facing women veterans and veterans in transition, Ms. Christopher testified before Congress last year. She has been an advocate for exposing military sexual trauma, and volunteers as a clinician instructor for those working with military survivors.  For the last two years, Congress has been pushing the VA to respond to the special needs of women veterans including dealing with military sexual trauma.

Ms. Christopher is currently serving as the Chief of Staff for the Farmer Veteran Coalition in Davis, California. The Farmer Veteran Coalition mobilizes Veterans to feed America, and they are cultivating a new generation of farmers and food leaders. The Farmer Veteran Coalition also develops viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. Prior to her current post, Christopher served as the first Women Veteran Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares. This position was created to respond to the specific needs of the fastest growing segment of the U.S. Veteran population: women.

Today Tia is doing well, and credits her VA referred female therapist for the progress. Ms. Christopher is the author of “You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are: A Straightforward Transition Manual” written to help Veterans transition from military to civilian life. The Champions of Change program was created as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future Initiative.

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As a tribute to women Veterans, Military Connection will be profiling each of the honorees of the Champions Of Change Award.  These ladies are awesome and we salute them.

Calling All Military Cyber Warriors

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Uncle Sam wants military veteran cyber warriors to counter online security threats. The Defense Department has launched a campaign to find 10,000 Americans to become the next generation of cyber warriors.

There is a quiet war being waged by the soft glow of computer screens, a war where information is the prize and unarmed warriors patrol cyberspace from their office chairs, hunting down malware designed to breach computer networks and exploit sensitive data. The front lines in this war are everywhere and anywhere.

As the skills and sophistication of hackers grow, government agencies and corporate America are competing for military trained computer security specialists and military computer hackers.  They are needed to protect their cyber space from enemies that runs the gamut.  These include well-organized criminal organizations intent on financial gain, teenage computer geeks including those from other nations who are hacking for bragging rights and dedicated attacks from hostile nations trying to harm us.

Cyber security standards are security standards that enable organizations to practice safe security techniques in order to minimize the number of successful cyber security attacks. The Pentagon has announced plans to recruit 4,000 more military veterans to defend our country in cyberspace.   The United States Military is one of the largest users of leading edge technology and security worldwide.

The Defense Department reports an average of six million cyber intrusion attempts against our nation or a day.   The DoD says the demand for skilled military cyber operators has never been higher. To respond to these threats, the Pentagon plans to expand its ranks beyond the 900 cyber warfare operators in U.S. Cyber Command.  Veterans with cyber skills are highly viable for these government jobs.   Many Veteran Job Seekers have both the high technology skills and hold active security clearances.

The Chinese reportedly have been hacking into U.S. infrastructure according to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.  He said that future attacks could plunge the U.S. into chaos, including shutting down power grids, transit systems that control our oil, gas, and water supplies.  Panetta also stated that “A destructive cyber-attack could paralyze the nation”.

Cyber-attacks against our critical infrastructure have escalated.  Hackers are targeting infrastructures systems that control traffic lights, nuclear plants, water treatment plants, large manufacturers, defense contractors and high tech companies. Hackers are also interested in hacking into air traffic control systems.

SANS-Institute, an industry sponsored company, offers information security training programs and operates the Storm Center warning system to detect and analyze cyber threats. SANS is offering a competition called the US Cyber  Challenge.  The Cyber Challenge is focused on recruiting the most talented cyber whizzes.

Our troops and military have protected our nation from harm’s way on the battlefield..  We now need military cyber warriors to protect our valuable infrastructure in cyberspace as Veterans.

Too Fat To Command?

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Colonel Tim Bush was relieved of his command of the 319th Air Base Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.,   The wing’s vice commander, Col. Christopher Mann, will serve as interim Commander until a replacement is chosen.   Colonel Burton was relieved of his command because of his waist size did not meet the fitness requirements.

Service members must meet certain physical criteria.  In addition to meeting the fitness requirements at the end of basic training, most Air Force personnel are required to stay fit and weight and waist size is assessed on a regular basis. Air Force personnel are required to retake the fitness test. Colonel  Bush was fired after failing the “waist measurement” portion of his physical fitness test. “Bush was not relieved for alleged misconduct or wrongdoing,” a statement issued by the Air Mobility Command said.

This decision was made by Major General William Bender, Air Force Expeditionary Center Commander.  Major General Bender oversees administrative control for six wings and two groups within Air Mobility Command, which includes the 319th Air Base Wing.   Colonel Bush is a 25-year Air Force veteran who will request retirement instead of accepting a demotion.

Colonel Timothy Bush is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy where he attained a general engineering degree.  Bush earned a senior pilot rating in 1988. Professionally, he has logged more than 2,100 flying hours in a variety of military aircraft.  He has served in combat and combat support missions in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Bush has also served as a Presidential Advance Agent for Air Force One.

From January to May 2011, Colonel Bush served as the Deputy Director of mobility forces for US. Air Force Central Command from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. His military decorations include the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Tell us what you think.  Do you think Colonel Bush should have retained his command or agree that it was the correct decision to relieve Colonel Bush of his command?  Should someone with Colonel Bush’s excellent background been given additional opportunities to reduce his waist size and become more physically fit?  Should commanders lead by example?  We want to hear what you think on this controversial issue.

Military Healthcare on the Battlefield

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The financial cost of WWI, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars is in the trillions of dollars. The human cost is immeasurable.  As the years passed, our armed forces continued to be killed and wounded. Many service members that died in prior wars could have been saved if today’s military medicine and military healthcare professionals were available to them.

The breakthroughs in combat medicine have made this possible.  Care on the battlefield is better than ever before.  What is happening too is that soldiers are taking care of themselves and one another.   We have some of the best trained medics ever and they are heroes too.  There have been 170 combat medics who have lost their lives and many more have been wounded doing their job of saving the lives of others.

Military medicine including military field surgery and combat casualty care is the treatment of wounded soldiers in or near a combat area. Today’s military medicine is leading edge.  Combat medicine is focused on the “golden hour” involving the immediate infusion of drugs and antibiotics to prevent life-threatening systemic infections from bullets, explosives and shrapnel.  Additionally, steroids are used to minimize spinal cord injuries.  Military medical units are aggressive and mobilize on a major scale focused on this “golden hour” that can make the difference between life and death.  How quickly the wounded warrior can be stabilized medically and surgically determines his or her survival.  Surgical teams are now located closer to combat action.

Troops not only carry tourniquets but also some are built into their uniforms.  This same bandage can be changed to a pressure bandage to stop bleeding.  Bandages that are used are easier to open including the Asherman Chest Seal that includes gauze and a one-way value that lets air out of punctured lungs.  The wounded are moved on converted C-17 planes that are essentially intensive-care units that have nurses and ventilators and most service members arrive at a US military hospital within 72 hours of their wounds.

In the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars we have to thank combat medics medical corpsman, dedicated military physicians, military nurses and other military healthcare professionals for these remarkable strides in saving the lives of our wounded warriors. Our troops that would have perished in yesterday’s wars are returning home in spite of their devastating injuries. Medics and corpsmen are armed with the latest and greatest advances in military medicine technology as they emerge.

Military physicians and military nurses have served in every American war. Lessons have been learned and innovations developed by these military healthcare professionals.  Civilian medicine has benefitted from the wisdom that military healthcare professionals have acquired on the battlefield.