Hagel Announces New Plan on Military Sexual Assaults

sexual-trauma

By Debbie Gregory.

Sexual assaults have risen over 35 percent in the last two years, according to a Department of Defense report. The annual report states that an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults in the military in 2012 were unreported. In 2012, only 3,374 were actually reported.

The report came just days after the arrest and removal of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the chief of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program.  Krusinski allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in Arlington, VA.

Sexual assault within the military has been the subject of scandals, studies and congressional hearings. Of the victims who reported their assault, 62 percent said that they suffered personal and professional persecution because they spoke up.  According to a DOD survey, two-thirds of female victims do not report their assaults for fear of reprisals. Reprisal against the victim is the opposite of justice – the opposite of what should happen when a crime is reported. Many victims have two little faith in the military’s justice system to come forward. The survey backs up the retribution thesis for at least some of the non-reporting.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced new plans to combat sexual assault within the DOD report on Tuesday. Secretary Hagel believes strongly that changes must be made within the command structure. He feels that taking the ultimate authority from the military would weaken the system.

The Air Force officer responsible for, of all things, sexual-assault prevention, was arrested and charged with sexual battery. In the past year, two Air Force generals, against the recommendations of their legal advisers, overruled military jury findings and granted clemency to convicted sex offenders.

So what should be done? Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested stripping commanders of their clemency powers. Secretary Hagel has promised to conduct a review of officer accountability.

A bill in the House of Representatives sponsored by Jackie Speier of California would address sexual assault in the military more realistically, by creating an autonomous unit within the Department of Defense. This unit would handle accusations independent of the military chain of command.

Military sexual assaults are appalling. Ending sexual violence against women and men in the military must start now!

TAP GPS Program in Place

tap-gps-program

By Debbie Gregory.

With the implementation of the Defense Department’s revamped Transition Assistance Program (TAP), military members leaving the service should receive better guidance as they navigate the transition.

The search for veteran jobs and veteran friendly schools is made easier with the services now offered through TAP. Aspiring veteran business owners can also seek the help of the office as they move from the uniform to launching their own businesses.

Dr. Susan S. Kelly, principal director of the DOD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, testified before the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel both on the status of the requirements of the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act and the recommendations of the Presidential Veteran Employment Initiative Task Force for the redesigned TAP. Both have placed veteran jobs, veteran schools and help with Post 9/11 GI Bill issues at the top of their agendas.

“[The DOD] and its partners have fundamentally redesigned TAP, making the needs of today’s service members and their families a top priority,” Kelly said, adding that the redesigned program encompasses the requirements of the VOW Act, in addition to recommendations from the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force.

The new TAP, now in its second phase of use, is known as the DOD Transition Assistance Program: Goals, Plans and Success, or TAP GPS. TAP GPS is the cornerstone of the DOD’s transition efforts and a collaborative partnership among the Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor and Education departments, the Small Business Administration and the Office of Personnel management.

Kelly told the group that the overall goal is to prepare service members who are heading into the civilian sector, as they search for education and employment opportunities that are veteran friendly. She went on to say that the core of the redesigned TAP establishes the new career readiness standards, extends the transition preparation through the entire span of service members’ careers, and provides counseling to develop their individual transition plan.

TAP will be part of the Military Life Cycle Transition model that will be in place by the end of fiscal year 2014. That program aims to “empower service members to make informed career decisions and take responsibility for advancing their personal goals”, Kelly said.

First Lady Announced Certification Plan for High Tech Veteran Jobs

joining-forces

By Debbie Gregory.

A new program announced by First Lady Michelle Obama will allow thousands of soldiers to leave the military with more than battlefield experience. They will have the chance to earn certifications in high-paying technology careers – before they enter the civilian sector.

Mrs. Obama unveiled the new Information Technology Training and Certification Partnership to put thousands of service members to work in high tech jobs for veterans. The new partnership will provide up to 161,000 service members the chance to earn certifications and complete credentialing programs before ever stepping out of uniform.

The program is expected to garner more than 1.8 million veteran jobs by 2020, with average salaries of more than $81,000, according to a White House fact sheet

Mrs. Obama said that too often, men and women in uniform come home to find that the training and experience they’ve received in the military doesn’t count toward civilian employment, “or they discover that the credits they’ve earned in military courses don’t transfer when they enroll in college, so they’re turned away from jobs that they’re more than qualified to do.”

The program is just one of several initiatives set forth by Mrs. Obama and her husband to boost the number of veteran jobs available across the nation.

President Barack Obama has partnered with the manufacturing sector to facilitate service members receiving high-demand advanced manufacturing certifications as they transition into veteran technical jobs . It also ties in with the recently developed DOD Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, and the first lady’s February challenge to the country’s governors; take executive or legislative action for service members to get the credentials they need to transition to the civilian labor market by the end of 2015.

“We’re here today … not just for our veterans and our military families, but for our economy and for the future of our country,” Mrs. Obama told members of four roundtables who will work to streamline the credentialing program.

Members of the roundtables represented the Defense Department and the military services, the private sector, industry trade associations, unions, educational institutions, state legislatures, veterans’ service organizations and state licensing boards.

Mrs. Obama emphasized that changing laws is just the beginning, noting that “even the best laws in the world won’t make a difference until companies are actually making those job offers, schools are accepting those credits, and our veterans and military spouses are actually collecting those paychecks that they need to take care of their families.”

Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught – A Champion of Change

brig-gen-vaught

By Debbie Gregory.

More than 200 years ago, when the American colonies declared independence from the British throne, women were on the front lines to defend the infant nation. Since then, women have served in every conflict the U.S. has been involved in around the world – as nurses, military police, aviators, generals and more. Nearly 2.5 million women have taken their place in the ranks, both on and off the battlefield. They have lived and died for their nation. Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught , USAF (Ret.), thought it was time that their sacrifices and strength were recognized on the national stage.

In 1995, Vaught spearheaded a campaign to raise more than $20 million to construct the Women’s Memorial at the gateway of Arlington National Cemetery.

The 4.2-acre site features a 30-foot high, curved retaining wall at the entrance, and a reflecting pool in front of the curved gateway. Inside, the memorial is lit by sunlight streaming through a glass roof, etched with quotations by and about women who have served in uniform. The shadows of their words drift down and settle onto the gallery below.

A 33,000 sq. ft. education center located inside the memorial is home to artifacts from women veterans. There is a 196-seat theater and a computerized register where visitors can read the stories of the more than 250,000 women who have registered and shared their tales of war and national pride.

It was fitting that Vaught led the charge for the memorial. As one of the most highly decorated military women in the U.S., she broke many of the barriers, and was personally responsible for career improvements for women in the military.

After she earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Illinois, Vaught enlisted in the Air Force in 1957 and rose through the ranks as she served in Europe, Vietnam and at various locations in the U.S.

In 1966, she was the first woman to deploy with a strategic air command bombardment wing on an operational deployment. In 1972, she was the first female Air Force officer to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. In 1980, she was the first woman promoted to brigadier general in the comptroller career field. And in 1982, she was appointed Commander of the U.S. military Entrance Processing Command in Illinois, geographically the largest command in the military.

Now retired after a 29-year military career, Vaught is President of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. The organization continues to collect the histories of women who have served their nation. They offer the only place where these stories can be stored, honored and celebrated.

Stacy Pearsall – A Champion of Change

stacy-pearsall

By Debbie Gregory.

Stacy L. Pearsall’s official job in the Air Force was photographer. On the frontlines in Iraq, Stacy fired on enemy combatants, dragged a wounded soldier to safety during a firefight, and suffered combat related injuries. During her three combat tours, she earned the Bronze Star Medal and Commendation with Valor for heroic actions under fire.

Stacy fought side by side with her male counterparts. She has been used as an example in the fight to open combat jobs to women. Officials, supporters say, don’t need to decide to put women in the fight because they are already there. And Pearsall, they say, is proof that women can handle the job.

Now, out of the military, Pearsall continues to fight, but for the rights of disabled veterans. At Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, Pearsall plays a pivotal role in changing and implementing new policy regarding veteran’s healthcare. She spends much of her time speaking with women combat veterans, guiding them through the often complicated process so that they can receive care through the VA and non-profit organizations.

“After being wounded in combat, I struggled to find my place in the world,” Stacy said. “It was my fellow veterans who lifted me up and I owe them a debt of gratitude. So long as I can, I will exhaust every resource possible to ensure America’s veterans get the care they need, the help they deserve and the thanks that’s owed them.”

Pearsall also serves as a spokeswoman and advocate for Veterans Affairs, Defense Centers of Excellence, IAVA, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Independence Fund, and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program..  Through her membership at the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign War and the Disabled American Veterans organizations, Pearsall gathers donated clothes and shower items for homeless veterans, and makes frequent in-patient visits to hospital-bound veterans.

Pearsall serves on the PTSD Advisory Council for the Foundation for Art & Healing in Massachusetts. The organization recognizes the power of the creative process to heal the mind and the body, and give individuals a way to cope with illness. The group’s mission is to expand awareness of the links between art and healing, and bring more research and opportunities into the community.

Closer to home in South Carolina, Pearsall supports Wounded Nature Working Veterans, a non-profit that specializes in cleaning hard-to-reach beach areas and estuaries. The company specifically aims to hire veterans looking to re-enter the workforce.

Pearsall makes it a point to work with organizations that support veterans. “I don’t operate alone,” she said. “It really takes a village, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with some of the most caring, giving men and women through the many organizations I volunteer for.”

Pearsall owns and operates the Charleston Center for Photography in South Carolina, and also operates her own non-profit, the Veterans Portrait Project. She photographs veterans and preserves their stories through still photos, audio recordings, video and written story-telling.

Hiring Veterans Slowly Increasing

hire-a-vet

By Debbie Gregory.

The bad news is that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, Veteran jobs were scarce in 2012, with the jobless rate for Post 9/11 Veterans at 9.9 percent, above the nation’s overall unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. The good news: there are jobs for veterans and Veteran employment is on the rise. The unemployment rate has dropped 2.2 percentage points from 2011 to 2012, while that national rate dipped only 0.8 percent. Experts say that veteran employment is a priority not just for the government but for companies as well.

“There’s been a concerted effort to hire veterans, both by the government and by a host of major corporations,” said J.P. Tremblay, Deputy Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. California gives preference points to veterans on civil service tests, and veteran jobs are available through the federal government in the form of contracting set-asides for veterans. Businesses that hire veterans are eligible for tax breaks.

In local markets, jobs for Veterans have been pushed to the top of many city and county agendas.

Around the nation, government-funded, one-stop employment centers provide unprecedented services for former soldiers. In many places, veterans go to the head of the line and receive job listings 24 hours before they are released to the general public. While the outlook for veteran employment is bright, the future could mean a difficult climb for many veterans in a shaky job market.

Experts expect more than a million soldiers to leave the military in the next five years. While many of those individuals will return to school with the help of expanded G.I. Bill benefits, hundreds of thousands of military men and women are expected to begin their job search almost immediately.

To inspire corporations to consider creating jobs for Veterans, in August 2011 President Obama announced expanded tax credits for private companies who hired former military members. He challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 Veterans and military spouses by December, 2013. “Think about how many Veterans have led their comrades on life-and-death missions by the time they were 25 years old,” Obama told service members and business executives in a speech at the Washington Navy Yard. “That’s the kind of responsibility and experience that any business in America should want to take advantage of.”

The President’s words have resonated with the private sector. In the past two years, scores of major companies have launched high-profile recruitment campaigns including Disney, Wal-Mart and JPMorgan Chase.

Many corporations say they want to hire veterans not to polish a corporate image, but for the attributes they bring to the job. “We get guys with radar and sonar experience,” said Philip Stenson, an executive at Santa Ana’s R.A. Industries, which manufactures oil drilling equipment. “They’re disciplined, they show up on time and they take orders well.”

MilitaryConnection.com is the Go To Site for Veteran jobs, with many resources such as a Virtual Job Fair, a Job Board, salary calculator, resume tips, and much more.

Cyber Warrior Act of 2013

cybersecurity

By Debbie Gregory.

More and more, we have become reliant on our cyber technology. Because of our dependence on the internet, it has never been more important to maintain the security of the World Wide Web. To that end, U.S. Representative Allyson Swartz (D-PA) has proposed House of Representatives Bill 1640, the Cyber Warrior Act of 2013. This bipartisan bill, if passed, will inaugurate the Cyber and Computer Network Incident Response Teams (CCNIRT), appropriately named “Cyber Guards”, as an offshoot of the National Guard. The bill will place cyber-teams statewide, as well as in the District of Colombia.

The bipartisan Cyber Warrior Act of 2013 was also introduced by Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY), Richard Hanna (R-NY), William Enyart (D-IL), and Steve Palazzo (R-MS). The bill is related to bipartisan Senate Bill S. 658, introduced in March, 2013.

“The threat of cyber-attacks is one of the most significant challenges facing our nation’s economy, security, and way of life,” explained Rep. Swartz.

The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) announced its support for the Cyber Warrior Act of 2013. NGAUS President Gus Hargett said, “The teams would rely primarily on part-time soldiers and airmen who already work as cyber-experts in the private sector.” Hargett further stated that this would enable the U.S. Military to utilize, at minimal cost, the highly-specialized talent that the NGAUS cannot afford to pay for full-time.

The cyber-security teams will consist of both active duty and traditional rotation National Guard members, with technological experience to protect our national cyber defenses. These teams will also be activated by the Secretary of Defense or state governors to train state and local law enforcement, plus other cyber responders, creating a cohesive interaction with the highly-skilled federal agencies.

Cyber security incidents at the federal level have more than doubled since 2006, escalating the need to implement new measures. Funding for the cyber security mission will be allotted from the NGAUS’ active duty budget.

The Secretary of Defense will oversee the Cyber Warrior Act of 2013, answering to Congress for the success of the CCNIRT teams.

VA Halts Bonuses

bonus-briefcase

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has opted to temporarily suspend the issuing of bonuses to high-level administrators who supervise disability claims. The withheld “gift for performance” creates an incentive for top executives to expedite the significant backlog of unprocessed claims.

During 2011, pending disability claims in wait-mode escalated from 200,000 to almost 500,000. The VA claims department is critiqued as inefficient by Veterans’ organizations, Congress, and the public. As the scrutinized, massive delays increased during the past three years, Congress appealed to President Obama to intercede.

Representative Jeff Miller, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, stated, “How does the [Veteran Affairs] department expect to turn things around when it is rewarding employees and managers for falling behind?”

Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the V.A., said, “We remain confident that VBA senior executives are dedicated to our nation’s Veterans, and they will continue to lead our drive toward the VA goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015.” Taylor further explained that by not issuing bonuses, the money saved would be capital applied to the effort of decreasing the backlog.

The amount of the bonuses to the Veteran’s Benefits Administration officials was reported by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Their findings showed that senior administrators were collectively paid $2.8 million in bonus funds for the fiscal year 2011. The highest payments, $23,091, were received by three staff employees.

The policy of the Veterans Administration is to pay bonuses to Senior Executive Service employees, including non-political workers. In June 2011, the Office of Personnel Management placed new limits on the performance gifts. The Department of Veteran Affairs restrictions were reflected in the 25 percent decrease in total executive expenditures that year.

Rep. Miller expressed pleasure that the bonuses have been suspended, saying, “One can only wonder what effect this sort of policy may have had if the VA had instituted this years ago.”

VA Celebrates National Nurses Week

nurse-week

By Debbie Gregory.

To celebrate the contributions made by those who aid the sick and wounded, May 6th through May 12th is National Nurses Week. The 2013 theme chosen by the American Nurses Association is “Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care”.

There are 80,000 diversified nurses working for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Globally, this is one of the largest staffs employed to administer health care to Veterans. The VA nurses provide quality, empathetic care for their patients, while utilizing their innovative skills.

The VA offers the most expansive clinical training available, providing innovative care to patients. The VA provides educational opportunities in undergraduate and graduate programs at a myriad colleges and universities. These highly-trained VA nursing teams are comprised of registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), nursing assistants, and intermediate care technicians.

The VA nurses work in medical fields such as primary care, ambulatory care, acute care and extended care. Many VA nurses provide holistic health related care in outpatient clinics and home-based primary care programs, as well as community living centers. The nursing units play a significant role in emergency preparedness, emergency planning, emergency response, and recovery.

Nurses can be found working in surgical operations, intensive care units, organ transplant units, and dialysis units. They also provide care to spinal cord injury cases, blind rehabilitation and specialty cases such as diabetes. The specialized fields of nursing include geriatrics, hospice, domiciliary, oncology, and psychiatric units. Nurses are providing hands-on care, helping Veterans to recover, readjust and adapt.

Another arena where nurses are valuable assets to the VA is in the research field. Nurse researchers work to promote and adapt the latest innovative technological advances. These researchers offer inclusion of evidence into practice, providing excellent care for Veterans.

Professional VA nurses support and promote the VA’s mission of providing the highest quality medical attention. The latest, most innovative and technologically advanced health care is provided to Veteran patients and their families.

As a nation, we can all appreciate the value of nurses, especially those who work within the VA system. These nurses impact the lives of those who have served our country. Nurses make it their lives work to assist us when we need help the most, relieving our pain and suffering. Florence Nightingale’s birthday falls on May 12th, making this week particularly significant to the nursing profession.

Military and VA healthcare is world-class.   If you are transitioning from the military and want to explore civilian and government healthcare jobs, please register on the Military Connection Job Board and upload your resume today.  Here is a link:  https://militaryconnection.com/jobs/

To all the VA and Military Nurses – We honor, celebrate, and salute you!

Air Force In Midst of Sex Scandals

sexual-assault-picket

By Debbie Gregory.

In recent months, the Air Force has been plagued by numerous sexual assault scandals. Most recently, it was revealed that its Chief of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office was arrested for drunkenly groping a woman. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested and charged with sexual battery for allegedly grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman he did not know. The woman called the police, resulting in Krusinski’s arrest.

This comes on the heels of Staff Sgt. Emily Allen’s guilty plea to having sex with a male airman in 2012, pursuing a sexual relationship with another male trainee, and having unprofessional social relationships with two female students. Generally, during the recruiting and basic training processes, personal relations between recruiters and potential recruits/trainees are prohibited. The integrity and leadership of the faculty and staff in basic military training must not be compromised by personal relationships with trainees.

Staff Sgt. Allen is the first female training instructor to have pleaded guilty to having sex with male and female students.  She is among more than 100 instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland charged in the current sex training scandal, and could face court-martial.

More than two-dozen Air Force training sergeants have been investigated in improper sexual activities. Airmen convicted of sexual offense face lifelong consequences. There is also the probability that if convicted, an airman will carry the label of “registered sex offender”.  Airmen convicted of sexual assault at a court-martial are required to register in the state where they live, work or attend school.

Safe, secure learning environments are critical to young soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Last year, former Secretary of Defense Panetta directed Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, Director of the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, to review assault prevention and response training by officers and senior noncommissioned officers before they assume unit command or senior enlisted positions.

Krusinski has been charged with sexual battery, and has been removed from his job for the duration of the investigation. Allen has been sentenced to 30 days of hard labor, and her rank reduced to Airman First Class.

All this is in the wake of the outrage caused when Lt. General Craig A. Franklin overturned the sexual-assault conviction and approved clemency for F-16 fighter pilot Lt. Colonel James Wilkerson.  It seems that the Air Force in particular has been the center of military sexual assault issues.  If you want to read more on Lt. General Franklin’s action – go to https://militaryconnection.com/?p=1437