Military Connection: New Hi-tech Job Program: By Debbie Gregory

Biden RevealsAt the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) annual national convention in St. Louis, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the White House will be launching a new high-tech job training campaign that will include training and placement programs specifically for Veterans.

In the July 21st statement, Biden said that the initial phase of the program will target communities with high rates of Veterans unemployment. The intention is to rapidly retrain these Veterans to work in high-demand programming and technology trades.

The initiative comes after a months-long study on ways to ensure that all Americans have access to high-skill job training. As part of that study, researchers believe there will be approximately 1.4 million technology jobs that will need to be filled by American businesses over the next five years.

The U.S. issues nearly 500,000 work visas each year to immigrants who come to this country to work in high-tech fields, earning $70,000 and up. The White House’s plan is to prepare Americans to fill those positions. The vice president told the convention that Veterans will be among the leaders of the new highly skilled American work force.

“Nobody views this as a favor to veterans. I view this as a favor to American businesses,” Biden said. “Our veterans are the best employees our businesses could ever ask for.”

We are still waiting for the official announcement about the White House’s high-tech job training initiative, and the program’s eventual launch schedule.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp,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: New Hi-tech Job Program: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: No Help for Vets with TBI? By Debbie Gregory

TBI AL extension

As the August recess quickly approaches, Veterans are still waiting for Congress to take action on renewing an important piece of legislation allowing Veterans with traumatic brain injuries to receive treatment in assisted living facilities.

More than twelve years of war on two fronts has resulted in a whole generation of Americans who have sustained traumatic brain injuries. Many Veteran advocates, and even members of Congress, believe that the government has a responsibility to support the recovery of wounded Veterans and help all Veterans transition back to civilian life when their service is complete.

The current pilot program that provides assisted living care for Veterans with traumatic brain injuries is currently set to expire on September 30th, unless Congress acts to renew it.

There is pending legislation in the Senate that would extend the program for three years, at a cost of $46 million. But lawmakers in both houses are currently preoccupied with trying to reach an agreement on reforming the hot-ticket Veterans healthcare system. Along with drawing Congress’s attention away from the program’s legislation, the VA reform bill is expected to cost over $40 billion per year, so it may be taking the funding from the assisted living program as well.

The program, which began in 2008 was intended to generate more effective rehabilitation methods for Veterans suffering from a traumatic brain injury.

Many leading Veteran advocacy groups are demanding that Congress needs to find both the time and the resources to extend the assisted living program.

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: No Help for Vets with TBI? By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Nixes Cancer Claim: By Debbie Gregory

VA denies claim

By Debbie Gregory

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rejected a request made by Veteran advocates and select members of Congress to list specific ailments as presumptive conditions for Desert Storm Veterans. These ailments included lung cancer, brain cancer and migraine headaches. The VA findings revealed that they could not prove high rates of these afflictions among Gulf War I Veterans are connected to military service.

If a Veteran is diagnosed with a presumptive condition, the VA is required to assume that the condition is service-connected. This means the affected Veteran would be entitled to medical and/or disability benefits through the VA.

Veteran advocacy groups claim that during their deployments to Iraq and Kuwait in the early 1990’s, service members’ exposure to Sarin gas and burning oil fields have resulted in the Veterans contracting these ailments.

Officials from the VA countered by claiming that the number of brain cancer deaths for Desert Storm Veterans exposed to Sarin gas was too minimal to be considered conclusive. The VA also claimed that the rate of lung cancer deaths is inconclusive, because the research that substantiated the claim did not account for how many of the service members used tobacco products.

Veterans of the Gulf War I-era currently have presumptive status for chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and gastrointestinal disorders. Additionally, there is presumptive status  for undiagnosed illnesses that include weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders and sleep disturbances.

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: VA Nixes Cancer Claim: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: What to know about PTSD: By Debbie Gregory

another ptsd

By Debbie Gregory

Post-traumatic stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have come to the forefront of public awareness.  But the symptoms are not new.  Previous generations used to call these maladies shell-shock, battle fatigue and soldier’s heart.  But what many people may not realize is that PTSD is not exclusive to members of the military who have experience combat.

In fact, despite the heightened awareness of PTSD, especially as it pertains to the military and Veteran communities, here are some lesser known facts that people should be aware of:

Experiencing a traumatic event, including combat, does not guarantee that someone will have PTSD: Very often, the way that one reacts to the traumatic event can determine whether or not they will contract PTSD. Keeping calm during the event is the best way to prevent PTSD symptoms.

Traumatic events are more likely to occur in your neighborhood, than while deployed: Experiencing and witnessing  events such as physical violence, car accidents, the sudden or violent death of a loved-one, robbery, or sexual assault can result in PTSD.

You are more likely to experience PTSD symptoms following a sexual assault than any other type of traumatic event: There is an elevated level of helplessness and loss that is often associated with sexual assault. Sexual assault victims have a higher rate of PTSD than combat Veterans.

PTSD sufferers often experience additional symptoms, such as depression or other mental health ailments: It is not a coincidence that PTSD sufferers also suffer from depression; both ailments are often triggered by specific events.

Suffering from PTSD does not mean you’re “crazy”: This is one of the most important points that the public needs to know, especially the sufferers themselves.

PTSD does not cause someone to be violent: While violence can be a by-product of a fight-or-flight feeling, many PTSD suffers will seek safety over resulting to violence. It is very important for PTSD sufferers to have a place of refuge.

Immediately treating PTSD can prevent symptoms from spilling into other parts of your life: It is strongly recommended that you seek medical attention when any PTSD symptoms are present following a traumatic event.

Treatment can help, no matter how long it’s been since your trauma: Don’t wait one, five or twenty years to seek help for PTSD symptoms. But if you have put off seeking treatment, it is never too late.

With treatment, it is possible to achieve a full recovery from PTSD: Treatment has proven to effectively alleviate PTSD symptoms. Still, the biggest obstacle between PTSD sufferers and treatment is their own fear of shame.

There is no shame in seeking help: Seeking help for PTSD is not a sign of weakness. It is imperative to a PTSD sufferer’s health and to the betterment of their families that they seek the care they need.

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: What to know about PTSD: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: How The VBA is Improving: By Debbie Gregory

VBA improving

By Debbie Gregory

On Monday, July 14, 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has finalized its one millionth disability claim in fiscal year 2014. This marks the fourth year in a row that the VA has exceeded one million completed claims for Veterans by the end of the fiscal year.

The VBA has reduced the claims backlog by more than 55 % since March, 2013, when the claims backlog was at its peak at 611,000 backlogged claims. At the same time, the VBA has been improving the accuracy of rating decisions. The VA’s national “claim-level” accuracy rate is currently 91%, up from 83% in 2011.

The accuracy rate of claims processed is extremely important. Rating decisions often determine eligibility (and non-eligibility) for other VA benefits and services. Claims data gets tracked and managed in other categories on the VA’s Monday Morning Workload Report.

The VBA has taken the following actions to improve both the efficiency and the accuracy of non-rating claim decisions:

Hiring Temporary Employees: The VBA is hiring 200 temporary employees who will undergo specialized training to process the less complex non-rating claims and work actions.

National Call Center Initiative: Effective July 14, 2014, employees at the National Call Centers in St. Louis and Phoenix are also processing dependency claims. The initiative will soon be expanded to all VBA call centers.

Online Dependency Claims: The VBA developed a new rules-based processing system (RBPS) to automate dependency claims. Self-service features in RBPS have enabled more than 75,000 Veterans to add or change the status of their dependents online. At least 50% of the dependency claims filed using RBPS are automatically processed and paid in one to two days.

Dependency Claims Contract: The VA awarded a contract for assistance in entering data from paper-based dependency claims into VA’s electronic rules-based processing system. The contract calls for 40,000 dependency claims to be processed per month when operating at full capacity.

Burial Claims: Effective July 7, 2014, a new regulation allows automatic payment of the one-time burial allowance to a Veteran’s spouse, without requiring the surviving spouse to apply for the benefit.  An estimated 62,000 surviving spouses will now receive timely burial benefits each year.

Up-front Income Verification for Pension: A data sharing initiative with the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service allows the VBA to verify the income of pension applicants before awarding benefits, and eliminates the annual income reporting requirement for pension beneficiaries.

Drill Pay Adjustments: The VBA is working to streamline and automate the drill pay offset process through an upfront agreement with National Guard and Reserve members. Veterans cannot legally receive VA benefits and drill pay concurrently.

Since 2011, the VBA has been profoundly restyling the way that it provides benefits to Veterans and military families. As part of this transformation, the VBA has been streamlining their processes in order to bring benefits and services more efficiently.

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: How The VBA is Improving: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Changes/Cuts for Air Force: By Debbie Gregory

Air force cuts

By Debbie Gregory

With a struggling economy and more than a decade of heightened defense budgets to support two wars, the U.S. military is already in a  period of transition that will see  budget cut and forced downsizing. No branch of the military is exempted from this reality.

Most recently, the Air Force announced that it will be reducing its ranks and implementing a new numbered Air Force to oversee intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

On July 14, 2014, Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James announced that a total of 3,459 positions will be eliminated in an attempt to save $1.6 billion over the next five years. These cuts come one year after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered each of the four DOD services to reduce their headquarters staff by twenty percent.

“We are aggressively pursuing these cuts within the first year, rather than spread them out over five years as allowed by DOD,” Secretary James said. “It’s better for airmen because it provides them predictability and allows us to re-stabilize our workforce sooner. It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs.”

The Air Force Management Headquarters Review is intent on deactivating and realigning organizations at headquarters and major commands. The Air force cannot yet announce who will be let go.  The staff members have not even been notified yet. But it has been reported that the largest cuts, 742 positions, will be made at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, followed by 734 at the Pentagon.

The biggest change coming to the branch is the creation of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, which will handle installation support. Currently, installation support is handled at each major command. The new headquarters will have a staff of 350.

The Air Force will also be merging the duties of some staff from the operations, plans and requirements (A3/5) and strategic plans and programs (A8) into a new operations office. Current programming functions in the strategic plans and programs office will fall under the Air Force’s financial management organization.

Also, for the first time since 2009, the service will create a new numbered Air Force. The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency will now be known as the 25th Air Force. The 25th Air Force will oversee all training and operations of ISR air craft and be aligned under Air Combat Command. Its headquarters will be at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

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: Changes/Cuts for Air Force: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Ancient Remedy For Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Yoga

By Debbie Gregory

 

Newly-transitioning Veterans, used to the physical rigors of military life,  need to find ways in which to keep in shape after they separate from the service. It doesn’t matter if they are wounded warriors, suffering from TBI or PTSD, or consider themselves healthy and at 100%,  Veterans struggle to keep both physically and mentally fit. Once they become civilians again, Veterans from all demographics can easily put on weight, suffer from depression, or see a noticeable drop in their holistic health.

Veterans can and should seek to maintain the same level of physical fitness they have maintained throughout their service in order to feel good about themselves. But unfortunately, due to injury, age and more often than not, added extra weight, they might be unable to work out in the same manner they did when they were in uniform. Many Veterans are now turning to yoga, and are seeing great results in their physical and mental health.

While the word “yoga” can take on religious, spiritual and historical meanings, yoga, as a practice of affecting one’s body and mind through stretching, resistance exercises and controlled breathing, has helped countless people enrich their holistic well-being. And many generations of Veterans have begun using yoga to improve their physical and mental health.

Some Veterans who are unfamiliar with yoga may feel apprehensive about taking up the practice. But from their first very first session, Veterans are bound to recognize several poses from their military calisthenics regiments.

The regular practice of yoga has been proven to increase flexibility, improve joint health, alleviate back-pain, lower blood pressure, aid in weight-loss and promotes fitness. There are also claims that practicing yoga helps improve concentration, combats depression and has aided Veterans with PTSD to feel less anxious and feel more at ease.

Several initiatives have been started by different non-profit organizations, Veteran advocates and yoga enthusiasts to offer free or discounted  lessons to Veterans. YogaForVets.org, ConnectedWarriors.org, and GiveBackYoga.org are among the websites that support the practicing for Veterans. These sites offer resources and information about how Veterans can use yoga to improve and maintain 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: Ancient Remedy For Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New VA Actions! By Debbie Gregory

VA action

By Debbie Gregory

On Tuesday July 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced new actions that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will be taking to ensure the integrity and accuracy of its claims systems and processes. The VA has announced the following actions:

  • The VA will assemble an expert team to determine possible scenarios where an individual might find a way around the VA’s current system and decide if further controls are needed.
  • The VA will conduct a facility and desk audit of mail and documentation at all 56 regional offices. The purpose of the audit will be to ensure records management compliance, including the proper control, storage, and maintenance of claim mail and other benefit-related documents is being utilized.
  • The VBA’s quality program will apply for ISO 9001 certification, which would provide additional validation and quality assurance of the VBA’s data.
  • When any individual VA employee is found to have worked around the standard claims process, the VA will immediately notify the Office of Inspector General.
  • The VA will also continue to make performance data on benefits available through its Monday Morning Workload Reports every week.

The VA’s under-secretary for benefits, Allison Hickey, detailed the actions before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“The Veterans Benefits Administration takes seriously its commitment to providing timely, accurate benefits, and maintaining the integrity of our systems and processes,” Hickey said. “We have many checks and balances in our systems and data, and we are working to add even more as we improve delivery of earned benefits.”

On July 14th, the VBA announced that it had completed its one millionth disability claim in fiscal year 2014. The VBA is on track to complete more than 1.3 million claims this year. If the numbers hold, nearly 200,000 more Veterans will receive decisions on their disability claims than did in fiscal year 2013. This is the fifth year in a row that the VBA has completed over one million disability claims.

The VBA has reduced the claims backlog by more than 55%, from its peak of 611,000 in March, 2013. Veterans with pending claims have been waiting an average of 128 fewer days for a decision on their claim. At the same time, the accuracy of the VBA’s rating decisions continues to improve. The national accuracy rate is currently at 91%.

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 VA Actions! By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Healthcare Idea for Vets: By Debbie Gregory

UAB and Joining Forces

By Debbie Gregory

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has recently allied with Joining Forces to implement the Have You Ever Served in the Military?” campaign at UAB.

“Have You Ever Served in the Military?” is an awareness campaign that was designed by the American Academy of Nursing in an effort to improve health care for Veterans. The campaign encourages healthcare providers to ask their patients about their military background in an attempt to identify possible health factors or illnesses related to military service. This includes exposures, ailments, injuries and concerns that are unique to military Veterans.

The “Have You Ever Served in the Military?” campaign was implemented to directly ally with the  Joining Forces initiative. Joining Forces is a national initiative, spearheaded by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, that aims to engage all divisions of society to provide our nation’s service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.

The data collected should provide more specific resources for Veterans.  Additionally,  the program is expected to facilitate future opportunities for collaboration between UAB Medicine and the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

UAB Hospital staff will obtain a military health history if a patient affirms he or she is current or former military. The “Have You Ever Served in the Military?” campaign is being implemented at UAB Hospital by Cheri Plasters, a University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing graduate who works in  the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at UAB hospital.

“By recognizing our servicemen and women, we can improve their quality of life and overall health outcomes,” Plasters said. “That is why this initiative is so important. A military health history is at the core of planning the care of veterans.”

UAB’s School of Medicine and its School of Nursing both offer programs to educate healthcare providers about the importance of military health history, and how to use it. The aim of the “Have You Ever Served in the Military?” campaign is for all healthcare providers to use military health history to help strategize care.

A presentation for the Region 6 American Association of Critical Care Nurses conference in Atlanta is scheduled this September.

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 Healthcare Idea for Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: More Help for Military Kids: By Debbie Gregory

military kids

By Debbie Gregory

A study released in March, 2014 focused on the children of service members and Veterans wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “Study on Children of Seriously Wounded Service Members” was conducted by the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the University of San Diego.

The study was conducted by interviewing 125 participants over a one year period. The participants included seriously wounded service members, their spouses and children, as well as military, civilian and nonprofit experts who work with these families. The study was intended to assess the children’s needs, and determine what services were already available to meet those needs.

According to the study, an estimated 2 million children across the U.S. have been affected by wartime deployment since Sept. 11, 2001. More than 48,000 children have a parent who was injured in combat. Of those, 4,235 children have a parent who was seriously wounded in action. The state of California leads the country in seriously injured post-9/11 service members.

The study also found that invisible wounds of war, including psychological injuries like PTSD and physical injuries such as TBI, may be more significant for families of seriously wounded Veterans. Because of their unpredictable nature, these wounds in a parent can cause subsequent emotional scarring and isolation in the children of wounded parents. But by meeting other families who are facing similar issues, military families with seriously wounded Veterans can better cope.

The study recommends the formation of a consortium of groups currently working to support the families of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. This collaborative effort would be more capable of centralizing services provided to families in need.

So far, about a dozen groups have attended an initial assembly, and plan to hold quarterly meetings in order to share information and resources.

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 Help for Military Kids: By Debbie Gregory