Military Connection: Vets Win USERRA Case: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

UnitedPilots

With a $6.15 million settlement in the class action lawsuit against United Airlines, Veterans claimed a Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) victory in court. The suit claimed that the airline didn’t properly compensate its pilots who were called to active military service.

Under USERRA, current and former members of the U.S. uniformed services cannot be denied any of the following by their employers due to their service: initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, and any benefit in employment.

An estimated 1,160 United Airlines pilots were deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010. During their deployments, the airline was obligated, under their contracts with the pilots, to make contributions to their retirement accounts based on the previous 12 contributions. But the lawsuit alleged that the airline only made contributions that were based on the minimum number of flight hours needed to contribute, which was a smaller amount.

Spokane, Washington attorneys Matthew Crotty, Thomas Jarrard, and Robert W. Mitchell took the case on behalf of the pilots. The three attorneys are all military Veterans, and are very familiar with USERRA law.

The amount awarded is among the largest civil settlements of its kind. U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez, who signed off on the settlement, believes the case should serve as the archetype for similar cases in the future.

Service members, Veterans National Guardsmen, and Reservists have employment protection und USERRA law. If you serve or have served in uniform and you think that you may have been discriminated against because of your service, then you should research your rights under USERRA.

Check out this resource on the Department of Labor’s website, the USERRA Advisor.The USERRA Advisor was developed by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). It includes links to more detailed information, such as links to regulatory text, publications and organizations. Additional information is also available from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Vets Win USERRA Case: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: ENLIST Act: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

ENLIST Act

Recently, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that he would block any attempt to bring the ENLIST Act to the floor as an amendment to an upcoming Defense spending bill. It was believed that the legislation, popular among Democrats, was going to be introduced by Jeff Denham (R-CA.)

The ENLIST Act was introduced by Rep. Denham in June of 2013. If passed, the bill would allow illegal immigrants who entered the United States before age 15 to join the U.S. military. After serving and receiving an Honorable Discharge, they would become legal permanent residents, eligible to apply for citizenship.

Under current law, there are already provisions that provide pathways to citizenship through honorable military service. But under the current law, only immigrants who lawfully entered the country are eligible.

Many who oppose the ENLIST Act believe that it rewards illegal entry into the country, and will only lead to more widespread illegal immigration. Opponents of the act also claim that those who enter and remain in the country illegally do so through dishonesty, and they do not want dishonest service members in the ranks of their military with access to military installations and weapons.

Senate Majority Leader Richard Durban has stated that he would continue to fight for legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to gain citizenship through military service.

“If you are willing to sign up in our military and risk your life for America, you should be given that opportunity,” Sen. Durbin said.

Current House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeonstated his opposition to including the ENLIST Act to the House’s National Defense Authorization Act. McKeon said that he was open to discussion to the legislation, just not on the defense bill. McKeon said it should be presented on the House floor as a stand-alone bill.

Senate Democrats, led by Durban, are debating on whether to add the ENLIST Act to the Senate’s annual defense authorization act.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: ENLIST Act: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Shinseki Resigns: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

 

Shinseki Resigns

On the morning of Friday May 30, 2014 Eric Shinseki resigned as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Shinseki met with President Obama prior to the announcement. During the 45 minute meeting with the president, Shinseki tendered his resignation, saying that he did not want his remaining in office to serve as a distraction to improving the VA healthcare system for Veterans.

The VA healthcare system has come under fire over the past several weeks, as accusations of wrongful deaths, long wait times for treatment and VA cover-ups have flooded the media. Over 100 lawmakers in the capitol called for Shinseki’s resignation, stating that Veterans deserve better. Many of these lawmakers also voted for a lower cost of living increase for retired Veterans.

In a press conference shortly after 11:00 am EDT, President Obama announced Shinseki’s resignation. The president said that it was with “considerable regret” that he accepted Shinseki’s resignation. He also said that despite all of the complaints and accusations against the VA, Shinseki is “a good man” who has done much to improve conditions for Veterans.

Under Shinseki’s five year tenure as  secretary of the VA, more than 2 million new Veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system. Additionally, more than 1 million Veterans enrolled in college using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA claims process moved to an online system, more claims have been made available to Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and the VA has made significant improvements with understanding, treating, and educating the public about PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

When the news regarding misconduct in the Phoenix VA facility broke, Shinseki told the media that he would not resign, and that he believed the misconduct was an isolated incident. After results of his own investigation substantiated claims that misconduct was more widespread through-out the VA healthcare system, Shinseki apologized to Veterans, and took personal responsibility for the entire VA.

“I was too trusting of some,” Shinseki said at an earlier press conference. “I can’t explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our healthcare facilities. This is something I have rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform.’’

“I will not defend it because it is indefensible. But I can take responsibility for it, and I do,” Shinseki said. “Given the facts I now know, I apologize as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs.’’

President Obama announced that Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson will take over as acting Secretary until a permanent secretary is appointed. Gibson is a Veteran of the Army, where he was an Airborne and Ranger qualified Infantry officer. Gibson was the former President and CEO of the USO.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Shinseki Resigns: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Lesbian Widow Prevails: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Staff Sgt. Tracy Dice

Losing a loved one is probably the hardest thing most people will ever experience. Losing a loved one due to their military service is particularly heartbreaking. No matter what your background is, a parent still lost a child, a sibling still lost a sibling, a friend still lost a friend, and a spouse still lost a spouse. Regardless of your ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation… a loss is still a loss, no matter what kind of military family it happens to.

For years, the lesbian widow of a fallen soldier had been denied the same benefits as heterosexual survivors. National Guard Veteran Tracy Dice Johnson is the widow of North Carolina National Guardsman and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran Sgt. Donna Johnson, who was killed in Afghanistan in October, 2012. The two were legally married, but because the state of North Carolina does not recognize same sex marriage, the widowed Johnson had been told that she most likely would not receive her survivor benefits from the VA.

The VA never officially denied Johnson’s claim. She had applied for the benefit twice and had been repeatedly told that her request was under review.

On May 17th, at the American Military Partner Association’s National Gala Dinner, Johnson was honored by AMPA. During her address at the gathering, Johnson told the crowd that the VA had recently informed her that they will retroactively recognize her widow status, thereby granting her the survivor benefits she is entitled to. The benefits include access to VA loans, money for schooling, a monthly payment of up to $1,200. The announcement was met with thunderous applause at the gala.

Johnson thanked AMPA, and members of the group who were like family to her in her time of mourning.

Johnson is not the first gay or lesbian widowed spouse to receive survivor benefits. The Pentagon is implementing programs that will attempt to ensure that service members of all creeds, colors, ethnicities and orientations have access to the full benefits they are entitled to under law.

For more information on VA Survivor Benefits, visit www.va.gov.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Lesbian Widow Prevails: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Colleges Choices for Veterans: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

veteran schools

Veterans who are looking to use their education benefits hear a lot about which schools are the best. Many schools have the reputation as all around good academic school, or their notoriety make come from a featured degree program, such as a business degree or nursing program. Publications may say that certain schools are better for Veteran students than others. But are those claims true? How are Veterans supposed to decipher all of the conflicting information about where they should go to school?

There isn’t one single institution that should be universally recognized as being “the best” school for Veterans. In fact, Veterans need to take several components into consideration before deciding on a school.

The first thing to consider is what degree program they want to pursue. If a Veteran student is going for an associate’s degree, they may be better off enrolling in the community college closest to them, unless they have other options within a reasonable distance.

For a baccalaureate (bachelor’s) degree program, Veteran students should have an idea of the major or majors that they want to study, or at least have it narrowed down. If they don’t, they might want to consider a semester or two at a community college. Once a major is selected, start shopping around colleges that have degree programs in that major.

Researching can begin by looking at the school’s website. Look up the degree or major, and it should show what the school offers. Not every degree program is the same from school to school, even if they are the same degree in the same subject. If the school’s degree program meets all requirements, it should be added to the list of prospective schools.

Once Veteran students have a list of three or four schools, other criteria can be added to the selection process:

  • Location: Is commuting to or living on this campus feasible?
  • Price: Is the school’s tuition within the student’s benefit? If it’s out of the student’s state of residence, does it charge out-of-state fees?
  • Duration: Does the degree program at the school fit into the eligibility timeline of the GI Bill benefit?
  • Veteran friendly: Does the school have a Veteran Center for their Veteran students?

 

A lot of this information can also be obtained on the VA website, using the GI Bill Comparison Tool. Just enter the school and Veteran students can see how their tuition measures up, and if the school has programs to compensate for higher tuitions. The tool also provides numbers of how many Veterans are currently attending the school using their benefits.

Educations should not use a one size-fits all mentality. Veterans may find schools that have established reputations for serving Veterans well. But that still doesn’t mean that they are the best school for them and their academic needs. All of the components need to be considered before deciding to enroll at a school.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Veteran Colleges: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: CA Vets Lost Property: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

unclaimed property

Men and women who serve in the U.S. military often experience routine relocations. Military families frequently move across the country and around the globe, from one base or installation to another, throughout the course of the service member’s military career. Through all the hustle and bustle of these long distance moves, it is astonishingly common that valuable items and money get left behind in bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, and as utility or security deposits.

Recently, after cross referencing files through their databases, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) has affirmed that the State of California is currently in possession of over $36 million in unclaimed property that CalVet has confirmed belongs to more than 95,000 Veterans.

Unclaimed property includes cash or assets abandoned in bank accounts, terminated insurance policies, forgotten utility deposits, stocks and bonds, and precious valuables or collector’s items found abandoned in safe deposit boxes.

In 1959, California passed its Unclaimed Property Law in order to protect consumers by prohibiting businesses from retaining unclaimed property. Under the law, businesses, including banks, cannot use the unclaimed property as income, lose it through mergers or bankruptcies, or draw the unclaimed property down through fees and charges. When a business loses contact with the unclaimed property’s owner for three years, the businesses are required to turn over the abandoned or unclaimed property to the state of California until the owner or heir can be found, and the property can be claimed.

On May 22, 2014, California State Controller John Chiang and CalVet Secretary Peter J. Gravett announced the findings that resulted from their partnership.

The CalVet/State Controller’s office partnership found approximately 95,305 Veterans who may have unclaimed property at the Controller’s Office, waiting to be claimed.  According to the data, the Veterans have more than $36.3 million in unclaimed property, with an average value of approximately $300 per claim.

Gravett said that CalVet will be sending letters over the next several months directly to Veterans, notifying them of the unclaimed property program. The notices will include instructions as to how Veterans can claim their property.

Veterans should also be made aware of the new eClaim feature in the Unclaimed Property program, which allows unclaimed property owners to claim single-owner accounts, worth up to $500, online. More than 18 million accounts are eligible to be claimed through eClaim, and property owners can expect to receive payments within 14 days.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: CA Vets Lost Property: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Military Pay Raise? By Debbie Gregory

Pay raise

On May 22, 2014, the House passed the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 385-98. The measure would authorize the Defense Department to spend more than $600 billion for FY2015, which should result in a 1.8% pay increase for service members.

The 1.8% pay increase is not explicitly stated as part of the legislation. But the bill was not amended to exclude the automatic 2015 cost of living adjustment,which was calculated at 1.8%. Last fall, the president requested that the yearly military pay increase be limited to 1% , and the same for civilian government employees. The approval of the bill as it currently stands voices the House’s sentiment that the military should receive the 1.8% pay increase.

However, the president could still adjust the pay to 1%, citing fiscal concerns or a national emergency. But let’s hope, for the sake of our men in women in uniform that it doesn’t come to that, and they get the full cost of living adjustment.

The $600 billion plus, approved by the National Defense Authorization Act, also included a base budget for the Pentagon of $495.8 billion and an Overseas Contingency Operations budget of $79.4 billion.

Also approved as part of the bill is the forming of a commission to study and advise the restructuring of the Army, including resizing, negotiating an active to reserve ratio, forming policies and future missions. The bill also protected several weapons programs, while prohibiting the settling of a permanent military instillation in Afghanistan.

Now that the House is finished with its 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, the baton is tossed across the Capitol to the Senate. The Senate Armed Services Committee is currently working on its version of the bill. The bill probably won’t reach the Senate floor until next fall. Then a House-Senate conference committee will work together to create a final version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Military Pay Raise? By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Bill to Stop Military Suicides: By Debbie Gregory

Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act

Every year, there are hundreds of suicides across all branches of the U.S. military. In 2013, there were 441 suicides between all active and reserve components. The year before there was 483 suicides. These numbers do not count the number of failed suicide attempts, nor do they include the number of suicides by Veterans, which may be as high as 22 each day.

The Defense Department and the brass in every branch of service have taken military suicides very seriously, and have been extremely active in updating policies that will promote the prevention and detection of suicidal behaviors among their ranks.

Last month, the DOD announced that while military suicides among active duty members are down, reservists suicides have spiked considerably.

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly introduced the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act. Sen. Donnelly’s legislation would require active duty and reservist service members to get an annual in-person mental health assessment, in hopes to prevent others from taking their own lives. In addition to the mental-health screenings, Donnelly wants an annual report from the Pentagon to the Armed Services committees detailing the screenings and what care or follow-up was recommended. The Defense Department would also have to submit a report on how to improve its response on mental-health issues. And a committee to improve mental-health services for National Guard and reserve troops would be formed with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sen. Donnelly named his legislation after a young man from his state.Jacob Sexton was a 21 year old member of the Army National Guard who shot and killed himself inside an Indiana movie theater in 2009, during his two week leave from Afghanistan.

Military Connection advises anyone who is thinking about suicide or know someone who has to seek help immediately. Active duty service members should tell their direct leadership or command counselor. Veterans are urged to utilize the Veterans Crisis Line, either online, by calling 1 (800) 273- 8255 [1] or by texting 838255.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Bill to Stop Military Suicides: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Work Experience Bill: By Debbie Gregory

work exp

On May 9, 2014, Rep. Suzan DelBene from Washington state’s 1st District introduced new legislation that will promote skills training for U.S. military service members and Veterans who are re-entering civilian employment.

The House bill is being dubbed the Manufacturing Jobs for Veterans Act. If approved, the legislation would draw $50 million in grants from the Department of Labor over five years in order to create and expand programs that promote on the job training, apprenticeships, and even licensing and certification programs through employers and state and local agencies.

The congresswoman says that it is our responsibility, as a nation, to provide ways for those who have served and risked their lives in war to sustain themselves and their families when their service is complete.

“The Manufacturing Jobs for Veterans Act will help our nation’s returning heroes find long-term employment, and encourage our manufacturers to tap into one of the most skilled workforces available – America’s Veterans,” Rep. DelBene said.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 there were more than 720,000 out of work Veterans. The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans was consistently near or above 9% for the entire year. Though many can blame a stagnant job market and a suffering economy, the non-Veteran unemployment rate was 7.4% for Americans in the same age range.

Rep. DelBene, like many other Americans, recognizes that Veterans represent a largely untapped resource, ripe with skilled, able-bodied workers, many of whom have training and experience in skills that can translate to civilian jobs.

Currently, there as many as 600,000 vacant jobs in the manufacturing industry, requiring capable workers with proper training and certifications. Many of the nation’s  manufacturers have reported difficulties in finding skilled workers to fill their open positions.

The Manufacturing Jobs for Veterans Act would open the door for Veterans to gain the skills and certifications needed to man these open positions, killing two birds with one stone. Veterans with the right skills and mindsets will be granted access to training needed to find employment and provide for their families.

MilitaryConnection.com encourages Veterans to contact their congressman and demand that they are supporting legislation that has their best interests in mind.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Veteran Work Experience Bill: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: More Army Cuts: By Debbie Gregory

Army Cuts

The U.S. Army is under orders by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to trim the active duty force down to between 450,000 and 420,000 soldiers by 2019.

According to the Army’s latest numbers, as of April 1, 2014, there were 519,786 active duty personnel. In accordance with Hagel’s orders, each branch of service devised a plan of waypoints to reach their goal. To meet their next waypoint, the Army will have to separate 30,000 soldiers from active duty over the next year and a half.

The Army already began reducing its force size in 2012. From 2012, until the end of fiscal year 2013, the Army’s numbers trimmed from 550,000 to 530,000. And from 2013 to 2014, the Army separated another 10,000+ personnel to reach its current size.

The waypoints indicate that the Army will finish fiscal year 2014 on September 30th with approximately 510,000 soldiers. But due to budget constraints, Army leadership needs to reduce their forces down to 490,000 by the end of fiscal year 2015. In order to meet that level, the branch will need to reduce its active-duty ranks by around 20,000 soldiers in 2015.

To help current soldiers survive through the drawdown, the Army has reduced its recruiting and re-enlistment campaigns, and have offered early separations to those with little time left on their enlistments. The Army has also implemented strict enforcement of its performance and conduct standards.

The Army has also offered selective early retirement for officers and enlisted with more than 16 years of service, and reduction-in-force boards for officers and senior enlisted who are in currently over-manned fields. The Army does not plan to offer early separation incentives for members who are not retiring.

The Army expects at least 15% of the reduction to come through involuntary separations. Involuntary separations are mainly generated through Qualitative Service Program boards that determine which NCO’s and officers were selected out of the service.

Military Connection advises all Army personnel who may be affected by the force reduction to make sure that they have a plan for returning to civilian life. Whether it is going back to school using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, starting a new career, or starting your own business, www.militaryconnection.com is a valuable conduit to resources, tools and benefits that help Veterans succeed.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: More Army Cuts: By Debbie Gregory