Military Connection: Likely Nominee for VA Head: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Bob McDonald

After Eric Shinseki resigned as secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on May 30, the Obama administration has been looking for another strong leader to head the VA. Former USO head Sloan Gibson has been interim secretary for the past month. Many speculators believed that Gibson could have been given the nomination to permanent secretary. But now, it has been reported that President Obama will nominate Robert McDonald.

McDonald is a West Point graduate and a Veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served for five years, reaching the rank of Captain (O-3). During his time spent in the Army, McDonald served in the 82nd Airborne Division, and completed his MBA at the University of Utah.

Upon separating from the Army in 1980, McDonald was hired by consumer industry giant Procter & Gamble (P&G). During his time with P&G, McDonald climbed the executive ladder and gained experience is numerous positions, among them brand manager for Tide, head of  laundry division for Canada and Asia, general manager of Philippines operations, and president of Japan operations and Global Fabric & Home Care. He ultimately became the Chief Executive Officer in 2010,  retiring on June 30, 2013.

Critics of the administration’s choice of McDonald for VA secretary may argue that McDonald’s retirement from P&G was not voluntary. But they should take into consideration thatin today’s cut-throat business world,  keeping the top spot in any company is not a forgone conclusion. The Obama administration was lucky to find a Veteran with so much experience.

After the official nomination, expected on June 30, 2014, McDonald will have to receive approval from Congress before he can assume his role as VA secretary. McDonald has been a steady Republican donor, so many speculate that he will be approved despite his inexperience with government administration.

So, a year to the day from his P&G resignation, Bob McDonald is expected to receive the official nomination from the White House for the VA secretary position. McDonald will have his work cut out for him, as the turmoil from the VA scandal is still lingering. McDonald will be expected to produce significantly improved wait times and expedience of care within the VA healthcare system.

For the sake of our Veterans and their families, we at Military Connection hope that McDonald will be successful.

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: Likely Nominee for VA Head: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Don’t Tread on Me, First Navy Jack: By Joe Silva

Don't Tread on Me

The U.S. Navy is a fighting force that honors many traditions. It used to be that approaching ships would discharge their cannons to render themselves helpless as a show of respect and friendship to senior ships and shore batteries. Today, American warships still render gun salutes as a sign of respect. The Navy also connects with its revolutionary roots by flying the First Navy Jack.

A jack is the flag flown from the bow of a naval vessel. For many years, the Jack of the United States was a blue flag with five-pointed white stars, representing each state of the United States.

The First Navy Jack, often called the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag is a flag that has thirteen alternating red and white horizontal stripes, and a fully extended rattlesnake with the words “DON’T TREAD ON ME” displayed bellow the snake. The jack pays homage to the fighting spirit of America’s Navy. The stripes represent the original thirteen colonies, and the rattlesnake, indigenous to the Americas, was a symbol of the American resistance to British rule. The words offer a warning that like the rattlesnake, America’s Navy is not to be trifled with.

While there is little evidence that the snake and the motto flew on Continental Navy ships during the Revolutionary War, they absolutely flew jacks with the thirteen red and white stripes. The First Navy Jack, as it looks today, was most likely not  flown officially until 1976, to celebrate America’s bicentennial. Then, the Don’t Tread On Me jacks flew on U.S. Navy ships for one year.

But as a Navy order, all U.S. Navy warships began flying the First Navy Jack both in port and while underway, beginning September 11, 2002. The change in jacks was intended to inspire American sailors, and to remind foreign enemies that they will get bit if they attempt to tread on the American way of life.

As part of the Navy, the U.S. Navy SEALS wear the First Navy Jack as patches on their uniforms. As of September 2013, the Navy expanded the usage of the “Don’t Tread on Me” patch to allow SEALs to wear their patches, now a SEAL tradition, while in the United States, as opposed to just while deployed or in pre-deployment training.

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: Don’t Tread on Me, First Navy Jack: By Joe Silva

Military Connection: LA Mayor Vows 10K Veteran Jobs: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

10K Strong Inititiative

Recently, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the launch of a multi-agency program designed to assist Veterans. The L.A. area is home to approximately 330,000 Veterans. Veterans in Los Angeles have experienced a decline in employment prospects, with the local Veteran unemployment rate  up to 15%. The mayor’s plan pledges to secure 10,000 jobs for Veterans by 2017.

The plan is called the 10,000 Strong Initiative. It involves over 100 major employers including the Walt Disney Company, Dream Works, Bank of America, Health Net, Verizon, USC, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Coca-Cola.

Under the plan, the city of Los Angeles will commit $9 million over the next five years. The money will go to connecting Veterans with sustainable employment. The mayor wants the initiative to ensure that Veterans will account for at least 10% of those being served at L.A.’s new workforce development centers, which are set to open in July.

“Our troops are finally returning home,” Mayor Garcetti said at the launch of the 10,000 Strong Initiative. “They need more than a smile and a hug. They need housing. They need jobs. They need full integration back into civilian life.”

Mayor Garcetti might know a thing or two about service members. He is a lieutenant (O-3) in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

Garcetti’s 10,000 Strong Initiative is also being supported by several government agencies, including the LAPD and the LAFD, Los Angeles County, Metro, and the Department of Water and Power.

The 10,000 Strong Initiative is a good plan that if correctly executed, could have a major impact on the Veteran community of Los Angeles. While 15% of local Veterans are unemployed, there are countless more who are underemployed. Veterans deserve the chance to earn a sustainable income. They deserve meaningful employment and not just jobs. The idea that 10,000 Los Angeles area Veterans are being given the chance to provide for their families through this initiative should appeal to anyone who feels that we need to take care of those who have served.

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: LA Mayor Vows 10K Veteran Jobs: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Pentagon Names New Commanders: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie GregoryPentagonOn June 24, 2014 the Pentagon announced three nominations for major positions around the globe. Army General John Campbell has been nominated for head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Navy Admiral Bill Gortney has been nominated to take over command of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and also head up the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Army Lt. General Joseph Votel has been nominated to take the reins of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

Gen. Campbell, the son of an Air Force Senior Master Sgt.,  put on his fourth star in March of 2013. Gen. Campbell has been serving as the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff  since 2011. Gen. Campbell already has combat experience as  commander of the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. As the new head of ISAF, Gen. Campbell will be in command of 9,800 U.S. forces and as many as 4,000 NATO forces. He will be responsible for maintaining targeted counter-terrorism missions, and training Afghan forces. Gen. Campbell will be replacing Marine General Joseph Dunford, who will become the next commandant of the Marine Corps.

Adm. Gortney has combat experience as a naval aviator. Adm. Gortney has served as commander of a carrier strike group, as well as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet. The later is responsible for all U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, and portions of the Indian Ocean. Many have speculated that Adm. Gortney was on track to become the Chief of Naval Operations, which is the most senior officer in the Navy. While taking dual leadership roles as commander of both NORTHCOM and NORAD is a step up for the admiral, it may affect his chances for an eventual CNO nod. Admiral Gortney will be replacing Army General Charles Jacoby.

Lt. Gen. Votel will be promoted to 4-star General, and will take over as commander of USSOCOM. Gen. Votel will be replacing Navy Admiral William McRaven, who is retiring. Gen. Votel is currently the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, where he also succeeded Adm. McRaven in 2011.

Military congratulates these officers on their  prestigious appointments, and thanks them for their service.

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: Pentagon Names New Commanders: By Debbie Gregory

 

Military Connection: Army Pink Slip: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Army pinkslip

After more than a decade of bulking up its ranks, the long awaited drawdown of the U.S. military becomes a reality this week for officers serving in the Army. This week approximately 1,100 captains (O-3) and 500 majors (0-4) will be notified that they will be involuntarily separated from the Army.

As planned, the Army’s officer separation and early retirement boards convened their review of 19,000 active duty officers to make their selections. This week approximately 1,600 active duty officers, most of whom likely have combat- command experience, will be asked to leave the Army.

At the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army boasted around 570,000 soldiers, and has trimmed down to about 510,000 over the last few years. The current round of cuts, which included the notification of 500 enlisted soldiers selected early this year for separation, are intended to slim the Army’s ranks to a force of 490,000. For this to happen, many more active duty soldiers will be asked to involuntary separate.

But eventually,  the Army could get even smaller. Many members of Congress want to reduce the standing Army to a force size of 450,000. Due to budget cuts and the wind-down of  the war, this may  come to pass.

The 1,100 captains and 500 majors who are getting their notices this week will not be immediately pink-slipped. They will have until April 1, 2015 to get their finances in order and prepare for their civilian lives.

Military Connection would like to thank all members of the U.S. military for their service, and hopes that when it is time for them to transition out of the military they will take advantage of the information and resources available at www.militaryconnection.com.

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: Army Pink Slip: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veterans at Risk: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie GregoryU.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a burn-pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province

Attention service members and Veterans who:

  • Served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Desert Shield or Desert Storm
  • Were stationed in Djibouti after September 11, 2001
  • Served in Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990

You may have been exposed to fumes and particles that could lead to serious health concerns. Toxins from crushed and burned metals, fumes from garbage burned in open pits or bacteria that may have been inhaled with dust during tours of service,  putting you at serious risk.

For example, at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, an estimated  240 tons of garbage,  including metals, Styrofoam, rubber and medical waste were burned in an open burn pit daily, located only a mile away from where American service members were living.

Exposure to airborne particles can lead to foreign pollutants entering into the nose and throat, and potentially being inhaled deep into the lungs. Toxins in the lungs,   including soil, dust, metals, chemicals and acids have led to respiratory problems and other major health concerns, and can potentially be fatal.

In February, 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opened a Burn Pit Registry to anyone who believes that they may have been exposed to burn pit toxins  during tours at the aforementioned locations. After signing up for the registry, Veterans may request a free medical exam.

The registry is part of the VA’s action plan to develop a standard screening and evaluation of service members and Veterans with respiratory complaints after deployment, in order to improve care for Veterans.

The staff at Military Connection urges every service member and Veteran who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti and Southwest Asia during the eligible time periods to make sure that they were not exposed to airborne particles that could endanger their health.

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: Veterans at Risk: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Rap Benefits Military Families: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

ThanksUSA

 

Rachel and Kelsi Okun are among the select group of young Americans that can include founding a non-profit to their list of achievements. In 2005, when they were just 10 and 8 years old, Rachel and Kelsi came up with the idea that would become Treasure Hunt Aiding the Needs of Kids and Spouses of those serving in the United States of America (ThanksUSA).

The main concept behind ThanksUSA came from Rachel and Kelsi’s love for treasure hunts and the need the children saw when their neighbor, Col. Lanier Ward, returned from the war in Iraq wounded from an IED explosion.

The girls came up with the idea to generate questions based on U.S. history, geography, government and laws and create an online treasure hunt. Many individuals and even whole classes participate in the hunts. Each question or clue’s answer is submitted back to the website where the team or individual treasure hunter is provided with the next clue, ultimately leading to prizes donated to the charity. The treasure hunts have been free to participate in, ThanksUSA does ask for donations to be made for the sake of helping military families.

ThanksUSA ran its ninth treasure hunt this year that concluded on May 31st. Since 2006, when ThanksUSA launched, the non-profit organization has raised over $ 9 million. The proceeds go to providing scholarships to military spouses and children. ThanksUSA has provided over 3,300 scholarships so far. And Rachel and Kelsi are not done yet.

This May, the sisters added another mark to their list of achievements when they created a new music genre: Constitution Rap or CONRAP. In the latest Youtube sensation Rachel and Kelsi rap about the Bill of Rights in order to draw attention to ThanksUSA and to raise awareness about the freedoms that American service members fight for.

In an interview with Military Connection, DJ’s Rachel and Kelsi Okun kept it real. They said, inspired by Youtube’s Epic Rap Battles, they wanted to create something outrageous and informative to gain attention for their cause. The four minute rap was written in a single day by Rachel and Kelsi and was reworked for several months. The Okun sisters recruited help from rapper Cazwell to perfect their rhymes and worked with Red Top Records to lay the track down. CONRAP is definitely worth checking out on Youtube.

While their rap careers could take off, these treasure-hunting sisters aren’t putting all of their eggs in one basket. Kelsi just completed her Sophomore year of high school, and recently became an observing member of ThanksUSA’s board, until she turns 18 and can become a full board member. Rachel became a full member of ThanksUSA’s board this spring. She also recently graduated from National Cathedral School and will be attending Yale University in the fall.

Be sure to check out ThanksUSA online, get involved and donate to their cause of reciprocating the sacrifices made by military families by providing scholarships. With your help, ThanksUSA will surpass $10 million raised for the cause.

 

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: Rap Benefits Military Families: By Debbie Gregory

 

Military Connection: New Electronic Medical Records: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Medical records

Get ready for one of the most lucrative opportunities in federal information technology. The Department of Defense is looking to find a firm to manage electronic health records U.S. service members.

After the stream of failures with the Affordable Care Act’s website launch and the criticism that followed, and in the wake of the VA wait-list scandal, the DOD is shopping for a provider to manage an $11 billion information-technology system.

Companies that are expected to vie for the contract include Northrop Grumman Corp, Accenture Plc, Hewlett-Packard Inc., Leidos Holdings Inc., and IBM, who has already announced their plan to partner with Epic Systems Corp in a bid for the contract.

The U.S. military wants to start using a new system to store and share service members’ medical records. This system would facilitate the  sharing of records between the military and the VA when service members separate from their branch of service and become Veterans at large.

Many critics of current Veteran healthcare, including law makers and Veteran advocates, have placed partial blame of the VA backlog on the DOD’s record system, and how the DOD and the VA’s medical tracking systems don’t mesh. Back in May, 2013, the Pentagon announced that it would create a new electronic health-records system. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel vowed to work with the VA to develop a “seamless system” for service members and Veterans.

The DOD is expected to officially post solicitations for the contract in July or August. The contract is expected to carry a ten year commitment.

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: New Electronic Medical Records: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Next Medal of Honor Recipient: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Staff Sgt Pitts

On June 19, President Obama awarded retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military honor. With numerous opportunities for American service members to perform bravely during more than a decade spent at war, heroes who are deserving of the honor are not in short supply. On June 23, the White House announced that another living service member will be receiving the Medal of Honor in July.

In a ceremony scheduled at the White House on  July 21st ,  former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts from Nashua, New Hampshire will become the ninth living Medal of Honor recipient.

Staff Sgt. Pitts is being recognized for his gallantry during the Battle of Wanat while serving as Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. It was Pitts’ second tour in Afghanistan.

On July 13, 2008, approximately 200 Taliban militants attacked a Vehicle Patrol Base near Wanat Village in northeastern Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

According to reports, Pitts was positioned in observation post Top Side, which was separate from the Vehicle Control Base. During the initial onslaught, two paratroopers in the observation post were killed. Pitts and six others were wounded. Pitts received shrapnel wounds in his left arm and in both  legs from a grenade.

Despite his injuries, Pitts fought on, defending observation post Top Side and his fellow paratroopers.

In total, nine U.S. paratroopers were killed, and 27 more were wounded during the Battle of Wanat. The battle has been immersed in controversy as three American officers were approved for reprimands for their response in supplying support to the defenders of Wanat Village. The reprimands were later appealed and dropped. The Battle of Wanat has been referred to as the “Black Hawk Down” of the war in Afghanistan.

Along with being the 9th living Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sgt. Pitts will also be the 16th “Sky Soldier” from the 173rd Airborne Brigade to receive the honor. Sgt. Kyle White was the 15th Sky Soldier to receive the Medal of Honor on May 13th of this year, for his heroics during the Battle of Aranas.

Military Connection congratulates Staff Sgt. Pitts on being named for the nation’s highest military honor, and thanks him for his dedicated service to his country, his unit, and his mission.

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: Next Medal of Honor Recipient: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Should Vets Sue VA Employees? By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Toomey's Bill

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the VA scandal, there is  talk around the capitol that demands VA reform and righting wrongs against Veterans. Several new bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate that negotiate the renovation of the VA healthcare system. At least two bills, one that has been passed in the House and a separate bill that passed in the Senate as an amended House approved bill, call for easier ways for VA leadership to punish and terminate VA employees. But one bill could subject VA employees to a lot more backlash.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has introduced a bill in the Senate that would actually permit Veterans to sue VA employees who have been found to have falsified medical records. The senator said that his measure would be a means of holding the VA employees accountable to Veterans who have not received adequate healthcare.

The bill would entitle Veterans to receive copies of all VA communications, such as emails and memos, as to how employees maintained secret waiting lists. And the Veterans (or their survivors) would be eligible to collect compensation from the VA for any damages caused by delayed medical treatment. The damages awarded to Veterans would not come from taxpayer money, but from the individual VA employee whose misconduct caused the delay.

Toomey’s bill may get lost in the flurry of legislation on the subject of VA reform, including the Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. That bill was co-sponsored by Toomey, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and has already passed in the Senate. It includes measures for firing VA employees, but not suing them.

But the bill does bring up an interesting legal question. Should Veterans be allowed to sue VA employees if they were further injured or delayed returning to work due to VA employee misconduct? If this legislation or a similar one were to pass, where would the ball stop rolling? Could Veterans or the sued VA employees go on to sue the lawmakers who established and maintained the bureaucracy that led to misconduct? Would anyone want to work for the VA? Where would it end?

While it’s true that accountability and repercussions for misconduct are necessary, it might seem that Toomey’s bill would provide more questions than resolutions… for the time being.

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: Should Vets Sue VA Employees? By Debbie Gregory