Military Connection: U.S. Army Mourns 3 Fallen: By Debbie Gregory

3 Fallen soldiersWhile the focus of military/Veteran minded Americans has been on VA reform, Military budget cuts and Veterans transitioning back into civilian life, it is important to remember that while war continues, the lives of those who serve are still in peril. The ongoing loss of American lives serves to remind us of this fact.

On Thursday, July 24, 2014, two U.S. Army soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Additionally, another soldier died stateside from an illness linked to his deployment in Afghanistan.

The three deceased soldiers have been identified as:

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Prange, 30, from Hickam, Nebraska

Pfc. Keith Williams, 19, from Visalia, California

Pfc. Donnell Hamilton, 20, from Kenosha, Wisconsin

Staff Sgt. Prange and Pfc. Williams died in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, as the result of an explosion from an improvised explosive device. Both soldiers were members of the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colo.

Pfc. Hamilton died at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he was being treated for an illness that he contracted during his deployment to the Ghanzi province with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas.

U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan are scheduled to conclude at the end of this year. However, the Commander-in-chief has said that as many as 10,000 U.S. soldiers could remain in Afghanistan if a security agreement between the two nations is made.

The families, friends and comrades of these fallen soldiers have our deepest sympathy.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and 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: U.S. Army Mourns 3 Fallen:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Hats off to W.NV’s Student Vet. Club: By Joe Silva

Veteran RobbedIt is always maddening to hear stories in the news about cowardly criminals targeting the elderly. The stories can be even more aggravating for Veterans when they hear that the victim was one of their own.

WWII Veteran James Sorrentino is 101 years old. He served in the Army Air Corps and Air Force. On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, 2014, Sorrentino was the victim of a home invasion robbery and physical attack committed by two gutless thieves. It has been reported that the thieves only came away with Sorrentino’s wristwatch, a pocket knife and his wallet, which contained about $30. The news hits you right in the gut!

But the story did not end with the attack and robbery. The two spineless cowards, Robert Hernandez and Jordan Burkhart, have both been arrested for their crime and pleaded guilty in a district court this week. Both men face sentencing on August 26th in Carson City.

Along with justice being served, the ending gets even better for victim Sorrentino. Earlier this month, he was surprised with a check for $1,000 from members of the Western Nevada College’s Student Veterans Club. The club raised the money through a June poker benefit. The younger Veterans wanted to show their very senior rolemodel that the community stands behind him.

We at Military Connection thank James Sorrentino for his service, and offer our heartfelt apologies for the terrible crime committed against him. We would also like to recognize Western Nevada College’s Student Veterans Club and their thoughtfulness and willingness to act when they saw a need. They made a difference in another Veteran’s life, proving that patriotism, camaraderie and honor don’t stop once you take off your uniform.

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: 101 year old Veteran Robbed: By Joe Silva

Military Connection: New VA Sec. Confirmed: By Debbie Gregory

VA SecOn July 29, 2014, the Senate unanimously confirmed Robert McDonald as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

By a vote of 97-0, the Senate approved President Obama’s nomination to head the VA. McDonald is tasked with the duty of repairing the integrity, efficiency and reputation of the VA.

McDonald takes over for Acting-Secretary Sloan Gibson, who has been temporarily running the VA since Gen. Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30th. The VA has been inundated by criticism in regards to the long wait-times for Veterans to receive healthcare, and the substantiated reports of employees conspiring to cover up the wait-times.

Hailing from Cincinnati, 61 year old McDonald is the former CEO of Procter &amp,amp,amp,amp, Gamble. As VA Secretary, he will be expected to address the short-cummings and  outright failures of the department. McDonald vowed to transform the VA, and said that improving Veterans’ access to healthcare will be a top priority for him.

Lawmakers, Veterans and Veteran advocates have all stated their agreement that McDonald faces a colossal task as VA Secretary. Not only will Sec. McDonald be expected to create transparency and accountability within the VA system, but he also faces the scores of other uphill battles that the VA is fighting.

The VA is still working to eliminate homelessness among Veterans, and to decrease its lengthy claims backlog. McDonald may receive aid for these bouts in the form of an estimated $17 billion VA reform bill that is expected to pass in Congress this week.

But even after Congress passes a bill, be it this summer ****or**** in the fall, McDonald is inheriting a VA that is coping with an intolerably high Veteran suicide rate, as well as scores of claims from wounded Veterans, including PTSD and those coping with sexual assaults.

McDonald has reported his plan to include improving communication within the VA, which includes more than 300,000 employees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As part of this plan, McDonald said that he will host frequent video conferences with employees, and travel to field offices around the country.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and 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 VA Sec. Confirmed:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Concussion Coach App: By Debbie Gregory

Concussion CoachEach year, thousands of military service members are treated for concussions and traumatic brain injuries. These injuries occur can occur in both combat and training environments. But brain injuries are not limited to members of the armed forces, they are also an issue for thousands of civilians as well.

Brain injuries can happen anywhere, and during nearly any activity. It is for this reason that Micaela Cornis-Pop of McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center headed a team that developed a mobile app for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The app, called Concussion Coach, is currently available for iPads and iPods, and is expected to be available on the Android platform soon.

The VA-sponsored mobile app was developed by rehabilitation services and the National Center for PTSD at the VA. Concussion Coach supports self-management of symptoms related to concussion.

The app is intended to provide education about concussion, and provide a self-assessment designed to identify symptoms that are often associated with a concussion. These questions are meant to ascertain whether you are dizzy, have issues with balance, have a headache after a collision, etc. Concussion Coach also offers its users a number of tools that can be helpful when problems occur. The app also contains a section that assists the user manage their concussion symptoms.

Concussion Coach also guides its users to additional resources and support. The app provides links to trusted internet websites that contain further information on concussion, links to resources at the VA, and information on how to find professional care for your concussion symptoms.

The design of the app was shaped through asking Veterans what they would want to see in an app of this nature. Although it was created by the VA for the betterment of Veterans, Concussion Coach is available to the public, who can also benefit from it. Cornis-Pop foresees parents using Concussion Coach, including its self- assessment and support features, in the unfortunate event that their children get injured.

“It can be used by anybody with the understanding that this does not diagnose ***or*** manage traumatic brain injury. It is a helpful tool to have in discussing with a specialized provider” Cornis-Pop said.

Concussion Coach is available to the public as an iPad ***or*** iPhone app. You can download the complimentary app at the app store.

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: Concussion Coach App: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Medication Alert: By Debbie Gregory

Eliminating Homelessness Among Homeless VeteransIn most cases, anyone with a medical complaint is prescribed medication in an attempt to manage their symptoms. The results of a recent survey revealed that one third of Veterans polled said that they are on at least ten different medications.Hundreds of thousands of Veterans have been prescribed opiates for pain.

There are thousands of Veterans who have turned to self-medicating, using illegal drugs and alcohol, in an attempt to manage their pain and PTSD symptoms. There are also Veterans who overmedicate, using more of their prescribed medications than directed by their doctors.

It has been estimated that service members and Veterans are prescribed narcotic painkillers three times more often than civilians. But despite their pain and PTSD symptoms, an increasing number of Veterans are choosing to stop taking their medications.

While some Veterans admit that using illegal drugs, alcohol and prescription medications do affect their symptoms, there are others who have come to the realization that they are just trading one condition (pain) for another (substance dependency).  Unfortunately, the latter feel that they are better off without their prescribed medications.

Patients should never go against their doctors’ orders, especially when it comes to medications. Taking too many can be just as dangerous as taking too few. It is strongly recommended that Veterans take their prescribed medication, as directed, and only stop taking it after consulting their doctor.

With that being said, if Veterans feel that they don’t like the way that their medications make them feel, they should bring the subject up to their health care providers, and try to have their meds changed **or** even eliminated.

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 Medication Alert: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Loans Boost Housing Market: By Debbie Gregory

Va loansThe nation’s struggling housing market could be seeing improvement, thanks to military Veterans. Approximately 2.8 million Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans may be able to take advantage of VA mortgages and special discounts in order to achieve home ownership. VA home loans are already nearing a twenty year high.

There are currently over 2 million VA loans, with total balances reaching over $370 billion. Despite popular belief, the VA doesn’t loan money to Veterans. VA loans are actually loans from private lenders that are secured through the VA. The federal government reduces the risk for lenders by covering up to 25 percent of the loan amount if the loan is defaulted on. These loans have already accounted for 8.1% of mortgages made in the first quarter of 2014. This number is up from 6.9% in 2013.

In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, into law.  The law included benefits for military Veterans such as college tuition assistance, Veteran mortgages, business loans and unemployment benefits. VA mortgage benefits are available to active duty service members, reservists, Veterans, as well as their surviving spouses.

More and more active-duty service members and younger Veterans are using their VA mortgage benefits to buy homes. This may be because the cost to rent is getting more expensive, and the risks of homeownership now seem less dangerous.

Service members and Veterans are also using additional resources in their real estate ventures. Homes for Heroes provides additional savings to service members and Veterans by offering rebates, discounts and other exclusive deals. By using a Homes for Heroes affiliate for your real estate business, you enjoy significant savings while contributing resources for the operation and management of the Homes for Heroes Foundation. The foundation is a 501 (c) 3 that provides ***or*** coordinates financial assistance and housing resources to our Nation’s Heroes such as Military personnel, police/peace officers, firefighters and first responders in need.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp,amp, 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: VA Loans Boost Housing Market: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Commissary Cuts Postponed 1yr: By Debbie Gregory

CommissaryAs the economy struggles to rebound,  there are many government programs that will need to be trimmed down *****or***** eliminated completely. The defense department’s budget is not exempted from the reductions, and neither are the programs that affect the members of the DOD and their families.

But military families recently dodged a bullet, after the Senate budget panel voted to restore $200 million in cuts from commissaries.

Base commissaries are essentially supermarkets. The program is run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), which falls under the DOD. Commissaries sell basic food and household goods, most of which can also be found at the Base Exchange (which is more like a Wal-Mart). Commissaries are different from exchanges in that  they try to offer the same products to service members and military families, no matter where they are in the world, at a subsidized price.

While civilians who are unfamiliar with commissaries may see the program as a handout, most military families see commissaries as part of their income, and one of the benefits that caused them to jointhe military. Service members don’t make much in the way of base pay. In order to make ends meet, most military families rely on the other military benefits, including Base Allowance for Housing (BAH), subsidized on-base gas stations, military banking centers, base exchanges and commissaries. The DeCA estimates that the average military family saves more than $4,000 per year by shopping at the commissary.

It takes an estimated $1.4 billion each year to operate 178 commissaries located within the U.S. and the additional 67 commissaries located overseas. Last year, there were talks of eliminating commissaries completely. The Senate budget panel recently voted on whether *****or***** not to cut $200 million from the program, which the DeCA estimates would have cost military families approximately $1,500 per year in higher prices.

The commissary has not been saved for good. The panel only agreed to put off cuts for one year.

Civilians might question why service members don’t just do their shopping in town. But service members and their families sacrifice so much, and in reality, earn so little, that these benefits are not perks, they are necessities. Saving money by shopping at the commissary helps military familiesafford a better life… one that they have truly sacrificed for and deserve.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp, 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: Commissary Cuts Postponed 1yr: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Next VA Sec Addresses Congress: By Debbie Gregory

mcdonald

Robert McDonald, President Obama’s nominee to be the permanent secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) addressed Congress on July 22, 2014. During his meeting with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the future head of the VA vowed to transform the department, agreeing that systematic failures in transparency, accountability, integrity, and patient access to healthcare must be addressed.

“The seriousness of the moment demands urgent action,” McDonald told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “There is a lot of work to do to transform the department and it will not be easy, but it is essential and can be achieved.”

McDonald is perfectly positioned to address these issues.  The former CEO of Procter &amp,amp,amp,amp, Gambleis an Army Veteran, and his father served in the Army Air Corps.  McDonald’s father-in-law was prisoner of war during WWII. McDonald also shared that he has a relative who was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and receives care from the VA, and his nephew is in the Air Force, currently deployed in the Middle East. Due to his own Veteran status and the care that his family members receive from the VA, McDonald would be vested in the quality and timeliness of the department he would be entrusted with overseeing.

If confirmed, McDonald plans to implement a Veteran-first vision for the department. His plan includes frequent video conferences with VA employees, and extensive travel to field offices around the country.

Sources say that McDonald’s confirmation is all but assured, as lawmakers from both parties have voiced their approval for McDonald’s nomination.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp,amp, 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 VA Sec Addresses Congress: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Iowa to Open Veterans Court: By Debbie Gregory

veteran court

District Judge Jeffrey Poulson is leading the effort to establish a Veterans Treatment Court in Woodbury County, Iowa.

The first Veterans Court was started in Buffalo, New York in 2008. Since then, more and more state and county legal systems are seeing an increasing amount of Veterans mustering through their courtrooms.

Over a decade spent fighting two wars has produced a large population of combat Veterans who fought for their country in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Veterans survived their deployments, only to come home to rampant unemployment and underemployment. Many of them have been ill-equipped to succeed on the home front. Discouraged, and often times dealing with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress, many Veterans have turned to substance abuse. Abusing drugs and alcohol is often the cause of many Veteran arrests.

Judge Poulson, like many other judges across the U.S., is convinced that Veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law need help of a different sort, something other than a jail ***or*** prison sentence. Other county judges, after seeing similar scenarios in cases concerning scores of Veterans, want to find a way to help Veterans and their communities by offering alternative solutions. That is why Veteran courts are springing up all over the nation.

Judges presiding over Veteran courts have the ability to order mentorship, counseling, and treatment programs in lieu of jail time. They also have the ability to expunge criminal records for Veterans who cooperate while on the program. Of course, Veterans who fail to comply with the program will end up spending time behind bars.

Woodbury County’s Veterans Court is expected to utilize a system that matches each offender with a Veteran mentor. Poulson envisions mentorship pairs that share similar military experiences. Mentors are not intended to be counselors for the offenders, but rather someone to whom they can go to for advice and guidance.

Judge Poulson hopes that the Woodbury County Veterans Court will be operational by January 1, 2015.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp, 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: Iowa to Open Veterans Court: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: 11 More Army SHARP Centers: By Debbie Gregory

Sharp_logoBefore 2013, the U.S. Army didn’t have any sexual assault response centers. Soon, there will twelve.

In July, 2013, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Center opened at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Washington. The center was the first of its kind for the Army, *****or***** any branch of the U.S. Military for that matter.

The SHARP Center consolidates legal, medical, mental health, advocacy and education services in one location. Previously, victims would have to go to different offices on base for each of these services, often having to revisit the traumatic experiences while speaking with advocates at each stop.

The one-stop SHARP Center is intended to make it easier for soldiers who have been victims of sexual assault to report misconduct, and seek any assistance that they need. Soldiers can go to the center to report a sexual assault, especially important if they don’t want to go through their units. Since misconduct can often stem from members of their unit’s leadership and involve parties that are familiar with each other, having to go through their own unit makes reporting the misconduct more stressful.

Soldiers and officers in leadership and command positions can also use the SHARP center to better serve their soldiers who have reported a sexual assault. Staff at the center provides them with information regarding the process of a case, and can help them to better understand what their soldier is going through.

The Army has announced plans to replicate the SHARP Center model at 11 other posts.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp, 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: 11 More Army SHARP Centers: By Debbie Gregory