California’s 129th Rescue Wing Achieves Milestone Save


By Debbie Gregory.

The National Coast Guard is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. Since 1790, the National Coast Guard has protected our nation’s maritime interests and environment around the world. The presence and impact of the Coast Guard is local, regional, national and international. These attributes make the National Coast Guard a unique instrument of maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship.

The 129th Rescue Wing is a unit of California Air National Guard. They are stationed at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California. On May 18, 2013, the 129th Rescue Wing reached its millennial milestone. While deployed to Afghanistan, the airmen and pararescuemen of the 129th saved an Afghan national policeman who had sustained a gunshot wound.

The National Coast Guard performs three basic roles, and are further subdivided into eleven statutory missions. They are: Maritime safety, Maritime security and Maritime stewardship.

The eleven statutory missions include homeland security missions and non-homeland security missions.

The homeland security missions protect ports, waterways, and coastal security.  Their missions also include drug interdiction; migrant interdiction; defense readiness; and other law enforcement. Search and Rescue (SAR) is one of the National Coast Guard’s oldest missions.

For over 200 years, the Coast Guard has been the “law of the sea.” Maritime security requires experience and skills – seamanship, diplomacy, legal expertise and combat readiness. The Coast Guard is in the forefront of United States defense.

The Coast Guard is the lead agency protecting America’s seaward frontier against violations of our drug, immigration and fisheries laws, as well as to secure our nation from terrorist threats.

On January 29, 2003, General Richard Myers announced that the Coast Guard would be sending eight cutters to the Persian Gulf.  The National Coast Guard became a part of the Persian Gulf War in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Coast Guard contributions to a wide range of missions, in support of in-theater combatant commanders, aligned with President George W. Bush’s National Security Strategy, which included defending, preserving and extending the peace.

The 129th Rescue Wing is part of an elite force of airmen who are specifically trained and dedicated to perform the mission of personnel recovery. Their motto epitomizes the airmen who serve: “These things we do, that others may live.”

25 percent of military children show symptoms of depression


By Debbie Gregory.

After a decade of war and repeated deployments, a new study is highlighting the affects of a parent’s wartime deployment on young children at home. An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report shows that one in four children of active-duty service members have symptoms of depression. One in three children experience excessive worry, and half of children have trouble sleeping. The report was published in the June issue of the journal, Pediatrics.

“In the past 10 years, more than 2 million children in the U.S. have experienced the emotional and stressful event of being separated from a loved one deployed for active duty,” report co-author Dr. Beth Ellen Davis said in a press release. “Most children cope and adapt quite well, but all children experience a heightened sense of fear and worry during a parent’s deployment.”

AAP experts said during deployments, preschoolers may become anxious and withdrawn. Older children between the ages of 5 and 17 have a greater risk of emotional and behavioral problems when a parent deploys. Extended or repeated deployments can often make the behavior, and the family’s situation, worse.

When children stress and act out, the caregiver at home feels increased stress as well. Experts say that stress can then affect the mental health and well-being of the children they are caring for. The problem can be compounded further when there are other psychological issues in the family, experts noted.

AAP experts said half of all military children are cared for by non-military pediatricians through the course of their parent’s deployment. The AAP stresses the importance of all doctors, even those not located on or near a base, in understanding and recognizing the mental–health needs of military family members who are under the strain of deployment – whether the deployed is a father, husband or extended family member.

It’s important for pediatricians caring for these families to be aware of the family’s situation so that they can guide them appropriately,” Davis said in the release.

Dr. Benjamin Siegel, co-author of the report, said in a news release “By understanding the military family and the stressful experiences of parental wartime deployment, all pediatricians — both active duty and civilian — and other health care providers can be the front line in caring for U.S. military children and their families.”

VA and HUD join forces, spend more to aid homeless vets


By Debbie Gregory.

Officials estimate that on a single night in January, 2012, more than 62,000 veterans spent the night on the street, homeless.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have joined forces on a program that hopes to bring at least 9,000 of those men and women in from the cold.

Public housing agencies in major cities across the country, including Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago and New York, will split $60 million worth of rental assistance vouchers for their homeless veteran populations.

Officials said the program, officially titled HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) will give veterans living on the street a chance to move into public housing and receive clinical services at nearby VA medical centers. Since so many homeless veterans also suffer from long-term health problems, officials hope the program will tackle two issues at once. Every veteran who receives a voucher will also be assigned a case manager who will follow the veteran’s progress and insure that they are receiving referrals for medical treatment.

The program has existed since 2008, and to date, has provided housing for 42,000 veterans. Government reports show that the number of homeless veterans across the nation has dropped by 17.2 percent since 2009. HUD and VA officials hope to build on that progress by increasing programs and funding. The additional $60 million in spending for the HUD-VASH is part of a larger effort to end veteran homelessness by 2015, a goal President Barack Obama and VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced in 2009. In fiscal year 2013, the VA will spend $1.4 billion in specialized homeless programs, and an additional $4.4 billion in health care costs for homeless veterans.

A 2012 report by the VA Office of Inspector General found that the veterans who were more likely to become homeless were younger, had recently served in Iraq or Afghanistan, had experienced military sexual trauma, and had mental or substance abuse disorders or a traumatic brain injury, among other risk factors. VA officials said often veterans experience additional challenges with substance abuse or mental health issues because of the trauma they experienced on the battlefield. Officials have also said the VA is committed to meeting the needs of every veteran, to include health care, housing assistance, job training and education.

Law school clinics may reduce VA backlog on veteran disability benefits


By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran Dustin Allison was badly wounded when the armored vehicle he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device in Iraq. The driver of the armored vehicle was killed. Allison has suffered with the repercussions of the explosion ever since. He has struggled, along with thousands of others, to navigate the Veterans Administration’s benefits claims process.

The Veterans Administration says that 60% of benefit claims filed by veterans take more than 125 days to process. Veterans are saying that it takes longer than that. The VA is requesting $2.6 billion to improve the benefits process. The additional funds are expected to speed-up the process by increasing staff, improving business practices and applying information technology enhancements.

Allison chose to attend business and law school at the College of William & Mary in 2008, and he became one of the school’s first clients for a veteran’s benefits legal clinic its law school was starting.

William & Mary College’s connections to the military date back to its earliest days when George Washington received his first surveyor’s license through the college. After the Revolutionary War, Washington became its first American chancellor. William & Mary Law School prides itself on its long service to the nation. The Veterans Benefits Clinic is another demonstration of William & Mary’s commitment to its community.

The clinic uses law students and faculty members on a pro bono basis to aid veterans having difficulty providing evidence to sustain their claims. The clinic takes on difficult cases such as post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from either warfare or sexual assault.

Congress members see William & Mary as a national model for inexpensively dealing with the Veterans Administration’s benefit backlog.

The director of clinical programs at William & Mary law school is hoping more law schools across the country will follow their example to help ease the Veterans Administration Benefit’s backlog.

U. S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA is urging his fellow senators to work with law schools in their states to create similar legal clinics. He is also prodding VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to help move the process along.  Warner has already contacted 10 law schools, including those at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado and Oregon State.

U. S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have introduced a bill that authorizes the VA to provide additional funding to law school programs that provide legal assistance to veterans.

Hopefully, these law clinics will help veterans with disability backlog issues get through the benefit backlog quickly.

Telemedicine Support Act would expand care options for vets


By Debbie Gregory.

During the past decade, 2.3 million personnel have deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan.  Returning servicemembers and veterans are returning with mental health illnesses sustained in battle. Traumatic Brain Injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are common among servicemembers and veterans returning from battle.

According to the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs,  the number of suicides among returning servicemembers and veterans is growing.  The veteran suicide epidemic is a result of multiple years of war and multiple deployments.  Soldiers tend to pride themselves on their ability to care for and be cared for by their brothers in arms. It is a bond that is hard to replicate. When a buddy dies in battle, there is always the feeling of guilt in soldiers who survived.

Adding to the increase is a combination of factors. First, there is a shortage of mental health care professionals to deal with the added need for their services. Secondly, many veterans choose not to seek professional support in order to avoid the stigma often associated with mental health illness. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is prevented from offering services unless both the physician and patient are located in a federally owned facility in the same state, which often prevents veterans from accessing the care they need in a timely fashion.

Congress has introduced the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2013, or VETS Act.  The VETS Act amends United States Code, Chapter 17 of title 38 provides licensure of health care professionals of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide treatment via telemedicine.

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers, and can improve access to medical services that would often not be available on a consistent basis in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations.

The VETS Act will help the VA to provide better solutions and assistance to servicemembers and veterans suffering from mental health issues.

New initiative from the Small Business Administration benefits veterans


By Debbie Gregory.

The Small Business Administration (SBA)  is stepping up to provide veterans financing for both new veteran-owned small businesses and the expansion of existing businesses. The SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative program will provide loans totaling $475 million over the life of the program. More than 120 banks across the United States will be helping to deliver on the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative.

At a ceremony to announce the national SBA Veterans Pledge Initiative, Small Business Administration Director Karen Mills challenged banks to increase SBA-backed loans to small business owners who are veterans.

KeyBank, a regional bank headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is pledging to increase SBA Loans to veteran-owned small businesses. KeyBank,  the 19th largest bank in the United States,  is pledging to increase SBA-backed loans to small business owners who are veterans.

If you are a veteran or service-disabled veteran in need of veteran financing, the SBA has resources to help you start and/or grow your small business. From creating a business plan to finding your first customer, they’re here to help you succeed.

The SBA “Operation Boots to Business” program is partnered with the Veterans Pledge Initiative. Operation Boots to Business trains veterans in business entrepreneurship.  In 2012, KeyBank made 52 loans totaling $21 million to veterans financing small business loans.

The SBA stands behind veterans in search of small business loans. Instead of offering its own business loan guaranty program, the Department of Veterans Affairs currently cites the SBA loan program as a helpful resource for veterans seeking to expand or start a new small business. The Department of Veterans Affairs is dedicated to assisting veteran entrepreneurs, and guarantees SBA Business loans.

If you are looking to start or expand an existing business and need veteran financing, the new SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative improves your chances of obtaining a veteran finance loan. SBA partner banks will increase their lending to veterans by five percent each year, for the next five years. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and TD Bank are among those who have taken the pledge.

Chaplains Support Aid Workers


By Debbie Gregory.

Once again, our National Guard is hard at work supporting local agencies in the clean-up of the devastating tornado that rocked Moore, Oklahoma. Oklahoma National Guard soldiers and airmen, as well as a group of military chaplains, are on scene to help the people of Moore deal with losses of life and property.

Soldiers and airmen are supporting local agencies and others who have answered the call to help, including volunteers and first responders, all working diligently to serve the community.

The area called “tornado alley” is aptly named. The Midwest region is no stranger to dealing with severe weather. Heavy snow and ice cover the ground in the winter, and the spring and summer months see thunderstorms and deadly tornados.

The recent string of storms that have swept the towns of Newcastle, Moore, Oklahoma City, and Shawnee have caused devastation, resulting in hundreds of displaced families and numerous deaths.

Chaplains were on hand to provide help to the physically drained and spiritually shaken residents. The chaplains are also providing spiritual assistance to the National Guard personnel who are helping with the relief effort in Moore.

A team of five chaplains is working in shifts, traveling between check-points and meeting with Guard personnel throughout the disaster zone, to speak with them about the horrific sights on the ground.

Chaplain (Captain) Jeremy Dunn battalion for the 700th Support Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade and Chaplain (Captain) David Jordan, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry, 45th IBCT are working as a ministry of presence.

Jordan and others move from location to location, meeting with a mix of Army and Air National Guard personnel. Their jobs include meeting with Airmen and Soldiers, breaking the ice, and getting them to open up and speak about their feelings.

We all deal with tragedy differently. The chaplain’s duty is to help those who are suffering, physically or spiritually, find peace. Many of the Airmen and Guardsmen are from the devastated areas, or have friends and family from the area.

Specialist James Kimball, an Army National Guard Soldier, grew up in Moore, and his family still lives there. He was grateful that the chaplains came to the area to make sure that everyone was okay. The chaplains listen to the servicemembers’ concerns about the disaster, and help them cope.