Military Connection: Coming Changes to VA: By Debbie Gregory

New Acting Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Visits Phoenix VA Medical Center

By Debbie Gregory

Acting-VA Secretary Sloan Gibson announced on July 8, 2014 that the department will restructure its Office of the Medical Inspector (OMI).

The OMI is the division of the VA that monitors and improves the quality of care that is provided to Veterans by the Veteran Health Administration.  VA employees, Veteran patients, caretakers and family members are encouraged to notify the OMI of any issues pertaining to the quality of VA healthcare.

The change to the OMI comes after months of demands for VA reform from law makers and Veteran advocacy groups, who wish to see an improvement in the quality of VA healthcare. Long wait times for Veterans’ medical appointments and the widespread covering up of those wait times created a national backlash against the VA and its employees.

Since the scandal broke, many stories have been brought to light revealing instances where VA employees had attempted to blow the whistle on the misconduct. They were threatened, suspended or terminated by their superiors at the VA, in order to keep up the facade that their facility was in compliance with the VA standards for patient wait times.

Acting-secretary Gibson has focused on whistle-blower protection. Over the few weeks that he has been in charge, Gibson has met with VA employees at facilities across the country. And on June 13th, Gibson disseminated the following letter:

“As I told our workforce, intimidation or retaliation – not just against whistle-blowers, but against any employee who raises a hand to identify a problem, make a suggestion, or report what may be a violation in law, policy, or our core values – is absolutely unacceptable. I will not tolerate it in our organization.”

The VA decided to restructure the OMI based on recommendations made by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The OSC sent a letter to President Obama on June 23rd concerning VA employees who could be deemed whistle-blowers.

After the OSC’s letter to the president, Gibson ordered an immediate review of the OMI’s process, procedures and structure. The review exposed a clear need to revise the policies, procedures, and personnel structure under which the OMI operates. As a result, Gibson directed the restructuring of the office.

Acting-secretary Gibson offered the following statement on the restructuring of the OMI:

“At VA, we depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of Veterans first and honor VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence. Given recent revelations by the Office of Special Counsel, it is clear that we need to restructure the Office of Medical Inspector to create a strong internal audit function which will ensure issues of care quality and patient safety remain at the forefront.”

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: Coming Change to VA: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Unemployment June 2014: By Debbie Gregory

BLS June 2014

By Debbie Gregory

On July 3rd, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their monthly employment report, The Employment Situation–June 2014. Among the data collected and tracked in the report is the unemployment rate as it pertains to varying demographics throughout the country, including Veterans of  WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, and both Gulf Wars  (Desert Storm and Post-9/11 Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.)

According to the June report, Veterans lost ground across the board in terms of unemployment rates. All Veterans over the age of 18 saw an unemployment increase by.4% , from 5% in May to 5.4% in June.

Overall,  Veteran demographics fared better than the civilian demographics. This is largely due to the excellent unemployment rates from WWII/Korea/Vietnam Veterans at 5.1% and Gulf War I Veterans at 4.6%. But our most recently transitioned Veterans from Gulf War II are up to more than a full point over the national average for June.

Gulf War II Veterans rose drastically after a huge dip in May. In April, the Gulf War II unemployment rate was at 6.7% and dropped to 5.5% in May and spiked up to 7% for June.

Male Veterans in the Gulf War II demographic were only slightly over the 6% national unemployment rate at 6.3%.  Female Veterans from this same era recorded a 10.3% unemployment rate for June, 2014, demographically making them the second highest unemployed group. The highest consists of female Veterans aged 60 to 90 from the WWII/Korea/Vietnam eras, who recorded a 10.9% unemployment rate.

While many government programs and private organizations, companies and individuals have made tremendous progress in lowering Gulf War II Veteran unemployment, the fact that Veteran unemployment, in any demographic, is above the national average is unacceptable. Veterans need jobs, and they deserve consideration when companies are hiring.

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 Unemployment June 2014: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Tattoo Taboo: By Debbie Gregory

tattoo

 By Debbie Gregory

On March 31, 2014, the U.S. Army implemented its current policy on tattoos. Under Army Regulation 670-1, the Army details all grooming and appearance standards for soldiers in uniform, including the rules regarding tattoos and brands for soldiers currently serving, and for potential recruits wanting to enlist.

Each branch of service has its own policies on tattoos, brands and piercings, as well as policies for other grooming standards for both male and female service members, as well as for new recruits. All tattoos are subject to inspection for content.

The Army’s policy now states that new recruits cannot have tattoos on the neck, face, head, hands, wrists or fingers. The policy also specifies that a combination of no more than four individual tattoos or brands are permitted below the elbow or knee. Ear gauges are also prohibited. Individual tattoos must be smaller than the recruit’s hand. Individual tattoos that are clustered together to appear as one large tattoo are also prohibited. Any soldier who was active and in-compliance with the previous policy are grandfathered in under the new policy.

Navy policy prohibits tattoos on the head, face and neck, as well as tattoos on the inner lips or mouth that can be seen when the mouth is open. Tattoos that are visible when wearing a properly fitted crew neck T-shirt cannot be bigger than the applicant’s hand. The Navy also does not allow tattoos that are located on the torso, legs or upper arm, that are visible while wearing the Navy’s traditional Summer White uniform.

According to U.S. Marine Corps policy, tattoos on the head and neck are prohibited. There is also a ban against sleeve tattoos, and half-sleeve or quarter-sleeve tattoos that are visible to the eye when wearing standard physical training gear. And potential USMC recruits with more than four tattoos will be subject to review before admittance to “The Corps.”

The U.S. Air Force tattoo policy prohibits any tattoos above the collarbone, such as on the neck, head, face, tongue, lips or scalp. Airmen are also prohibited from having tattoos that cover more than 25 percent of a body part while wearing any type of uniform, including short sleeve, long sleeve, sleeves rolled up or open collar.

Americans wishing to enlist into any branch of the U.S. military need to be aware of the requirement standards and restrictions, especially those concerning tattoos and piercings. The Army Recruiting Command in Phoenix has reported that since March, in El Paso Texas alone, about one hundred potential recruits have been turned away because of their tattoos, brands and piercings.

Any would-be recruit that is denied acceptance because of violation of the tattoo policy may undergo tattoo removal and re-apply once their procedure is complete. However, it is highly recommended that gung-ho tattooed patriots research their tattoo removal facility prior to any procedures. Some facilities might leave you with a blemished area where your tattoo once was, that could be considered a brand, and still be disqualifying.

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: Tattoo Taboo: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: YOUR Veteran Benefits: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

African American military father hugging family

Would it surprise you to know that many Veterans aren’t taking advantage of their Veteran benefits? While many Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are utilizing their education benefits, most notably the Post-9/11 GI Bill, there are a multitude of additional benefits that Veterans are just not applying for.

Veteran disability benefits are among the most underused benefits by Veterans from all generations. If an injury or illness can be linked to your service, you could be entitled to disability compensation. The benefit is tax free monetary compensation for injuries or illnesses that occurred during, are related to, or were aggravated during your military service.

The best way to get started with your VA disability compensation claim is by going online and utilizing the VA’s eBenefits page. Veterans can also utilize the Facility Locator Page and find the closest VA facility to file a claim with assistance from a VA employee. Veterans may also take advantage of an accredited representative or agent. Service officers within Veteran organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans are accredited, and help all Veterans with their claims, regardless of whether or not you are a member of their organization. The VA website also offers a a resource link to Connect to Representatives near you.

Members of the armed forces are inundated with information when they separate from the military, including benefits that don’t necessarily apply to them at that time.  But they should make a point to find out all that they are entitled to–– all that they deserve–– through their military service. Benefits won’t seek Veterans out, Veterans have to apply for them.

Find out all that YOU are entitled to through your military service by frequenting www.MilitaryConnection.com and www.VA.gov.

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: YOUR Veteran Benefits: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Time Waning for VA Reform Bill: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address At U.S. Capitol

Back in May, there was a large outcry from lawmakers calling for VA reform. Now is the time to see how serious members of the House and the Senate are about improving benefits for military Veterans.

With just a few weeks before Congress goes on August break,  Veterans and Veteran advocates will be watching to see if law makers can find a way to put their party agendas aside, and reach an agreement to truly improve Veteran affairs. Many Veterans have concerns that politicians are merely using the long-standing issue as a political football.

For years, VA healthcare has been notorious for long wait times and in the eyes of many Veterans, the system was improving. The zeal with which law makers called for reform, and for former VA secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, were surprising, if not disquieting, to many Veterans. But even Veterans who weren’t complaining about the system before May of this year would still welcome improvements.

But what many want to see from their elected officials is that the needs of our nation’s Veterans are put first, and won’t take a backseat to any individual’s or party’s ambitions.

A bill is expected to pass that would drastically reduce wait times for Veterans enrolled in the VA health system, and also make it easier to fire VA employees who hinder or abuse the system. Bills have already run through Congress to allow service members whose wait times have exceeded or will exceed a reasonable waiting time to receive treatment outside the VA system. Additionally, Veterans who live more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility can be treated at private facilities and still be covered by their VA medical benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate’s proposed bill would cost an estimated $50 billion, and that the House’s proposed bill would cost an estimated $44 billion. Both bills passed their respective chambers with overwhelming votes in favor. Now debates about where to cut down on these proposals in order to make them more feasible is where lawmakers could get hung up.

Hopefully, for the sake of our Veterans,  our elected leaders can come up with an effective solution and agree to pass it into law.

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: Time Waning for VA Reform Bill: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: USMC Sgt Still in Mexican Jail: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Sgt Tahmooressi

Last month,  Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, America’s last prisoner of war, was exchanged for five Taliban combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay. The White House stressed that the reason for the exchange was that they would go to any lengths to fulfill the promise of bringing our service members home.

If that is the case, than many Americans believe that one of our own is still missing, and needs to be returned immediately. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been in a Mexican prison since March 31st . Sgt. Tahmooressi  served in combat during his two tours in Afghanistan. While it is true that Sgt. Tahmooressi is not a POW, and that the U.S. is not at war with Mexico, one of our Marines is in a Mexican jail.  Tahmooressi’s friends, family and supporters in the military and Veteran communities want him back on U.S. soil.

There is some controversy in regards to Tahmooressi’s claim that he simply made a wrong turn, winding up on the Mexican side of the border with firearms that he owned and possessed legally in the U.S. There are claims that Tahmooressi walked across the border earlier in the day, checked into a hotel in Tijuana, and  later drove his truck across the border, with the weapons inside. Mexican officials claim that they offered Tahmooressi the opportunity to surrender his weapons and safely return to the U.S., which Tahmooressi says  is untrue.

Mexican officials claim that Tahmooressi brought his weapons, a .45 caliber pistol, a 12 gauge shotgun and an AR 15 rifle, across the border illegally to sell to members of a drug cartel.

Tahmooressi argues that their claims don’t make sense. “I wouldn’t have gone about selling my guns to get money,” Tahmooressi told CNN. “I would have sold my motorcycle. I would have sold my truck. Besides that, I had plenty of money in my bank account that I had saved up from the Marine Corps. And I’m not a dumb man, to be selling my guns that have serial numbers registered to me.”

Tahmooressi’s  first trial is scheduled to begin in Mexico on July 9th.  This service member is asking for his countrymen’s prayers. Please answer his plea. But concerned Americans should also write their congressmen and senators. Sgt. Tahmooressi’s family is also requesting donations to the FREE SGT. ANDREW TAHMOORESSI FUND.

Please offer your support in any way that you can to bring Sgt. Tahmooressi home.

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: USMC Sgt Still in Mexican Jail: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Celebrity’s Act of Kindness: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Amy Adams

Many of today’s negative headlines cause people to lose their faith in humanity. Violence, crime, unemployment and politics dominate the news. So when acts of kindness occur, it is always good to make sure that “feel good” stories gets the same viral attention, restoring the public’s faith in humanity.

The story is easier to spread if it features a celebrity. So it is my pleasure to share actress Amy Adam’s random act of kindness.

Adams, best known for her roles in Man of Steel, American Hustle, and The Muppets, was on a flight going from Detroit to Los Angeles. The actress saw that a soldier in uniform was traveling on the same flight. At some point, Adams very quietly made arrangements to swap her first class seat for the soldier’s seat in coach.

Adams intentionally requested the switch discreetly, not wishing to draw attention to the act. Other passengers, who were sitting in first class, saw the exchange and reportedly weren’t even sure that the soldier knew who had gave up their seat for him. But it was reported by the flight attendants  that Adams met privately with the soldier near the cockpit and thanked him for his service. Adams, who grew up in a military family, didn’t switch seats for the publicity.

“I didn’t do it for attention for myself, I did it for attention to the troops,” Adams has told the media since the flight.

The story was only made public by Tweets from other passengers, including ESPN personality Jemele Hill, and an article in the Huffington Post by Ernest Owens, Adams’ seatmate in coach. Owens has a selfie with Adams that he will treasure.

For Adams, it was mission accomplished. That unnamed soldier was treated to a well-deserved, comfortable seat for the flight, and a fascinating story to tell his comrades and family.

You don’t need to be a celebrity to commit acts of kindness, especially for American service members. If you see men and women in uniform, or whom you believe to be service members or Veterans, follow Amy Adams’ lead and show your appreciation in any way you can at that moment. Pay for their coffee, pick up their meal tab, buy their movie ticket, or just shake their hand and say, “Thank you for your service.”

You would be surprised at how much your act of kindness will improve the service member’s day, and your own as well!

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: Celebrity’s Act of Kindness: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: “Unbroken” Veteran Dies: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Louis Zamperini

Military Connection: “Unbroken” Veteran Dies: By Debbie Gregory

If you haven’t heard Louis Zamperini’s name before, you soon will. This amazing Veteran’s life has been chronicled in “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” written by acclaimed author Laura Hillenbrand. The book, which has also been turned into a feature film written and produced by the Coen brothers and directed by Angelina Jolie,  is set for release in December, 2014.

Louis Zamperini was born on January 26, 1917, and grew up in Olean, New York. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was young. Zamperini graduated from Torrance High School, and attended the University of Southern California on a track scholarship. His performance on the track team at USC paved the way for Zamperini’s participation in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Track Team. Despite the fact that he did not medal, Zamperini’s effort and determination led to a   personal meeting with Hitler.

After college and prior to the U.S. entering WWII, Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces, Based on his level of education, Zamperini was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and deployed to the Pacific as a bombardier.

In April of 1943, Zamperini’s  B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean due to mechanical failure. Pilot Russell Philips was the only person besides Zamperini who survived both the crash and the 47 days adrift in the Pacific on a lifeboat. Eight crew members died in the crash.

Their ordeal at sea ended when they were taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Zamperini spent two years in a Japanese POW camp, subjected to abuse and torture.

Captain Zamperini left the Army Air Forces in 1945, and suffered terribly from post-traumatic stress disorder. Zamperini became a born-again Christian after attending a revival by legendary evangelist Billy Graham. Zamperini became an inspirational speaker, focusing his messages on forgiveness, even travelling to Japan to confront his former captors in order to forgive them.

Zamperini was scheduled to be the Grand Marshal the 2015 Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day. But on July 2, 2014, Zamperini died, at his home, from pneumonia.

To say that the 97 year old Zamperini lived a full life would be an understatement. Captain Zamperini led an exemplary life, from his athleticism, to his iron will, resilience, and compassion. The staff at Military Connection would like to salute Captain Zamperini for his service and his epic story that epitomizes the fighting spirit found in members of the U.S. military.

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: “Unbroken” Veteran Dies: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Heroes Aren’t Perfect: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Heroes

Real heroes don’t usually become heroes by accident. Becoming a hero usually requires making a conscious decision to take action when a need arises, despite the risks or costs to one’s self.

Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter is a Medal of Honor recipient. He received the award from President Obama on August 26, 2013 for his heroism and brave conduct during the October 3, 2009 Battle of Kamdesh. During the battle, then-Specialist Carter repeatedly braved enemy machine gun and rocket-powered grenade fire to tend to his downed comrades, and helped secure the safe evacuation of his unit.

Since receiving the nation’s highest military honor, Staff Sgt. Carter’s mission has changed. He is no longer a cavalry scout. Instead of the potential for another firefight where the hero can again display his gallantry, Staff Sgt. Carter now uses his medal, his experience and his reputation to help his comrades where there is another urgent need.

Still an active duty soldier, Staff Sgt. Carter now travels around the country speaking to service members, law enforcement, boy scouts and every day Americans, raising awareness and combating the stigma tied to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This hero doesn’t offer general statements on the subject. Instead, he speaks with a voice of experience, as someone who lives with PTSD every day. During his Medal of Honor-worthy efforts, Carter and his small unit were overwhelmed by a force of more than 300 enemy fighters. Out-numbered and out-gunned, Carter witnessed eight of his brothers-in-arms perish that day. And while defending his comrades, Carter supplied deadly fire on the attackers. Needless to say, Carter struggles with the memories of that day.

People would like to believe that heroes are invincible. But that is justnot the case. Staff Sgt. Carter is doing his part to let people know that vulnerability is okay. While other generations put their Medal of Honor winners up on  pedestals as icons of perfection,  Carter is using his fame to combat the negative connotations that have long surrounded post-traumatic stress.

Carter speaks openly about his struggle with PTSD in order to convince others to do the same. He knows from his own experience that the most effective way to treat PTSD is by acknowledging the disorder and its symptoms.

By coming forward and using his position to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress, Staff Sgt. Carter is showing a different type of bravery, and a different type of heroism. Carter has seen the need to act,  and is filling that need, proving once again that he is a hero, and heroes don’t have to be perfect.

Military Connection: Vet to Hike 4,400 Miles: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

mike viti

How far would you go to raise awareness for a cause? One mile? A hundred miles? A thousand miles? Perhaps it would depend on the cause. But what if that cause was to honor fallen service members? Would you travel over 4,400 miles for this cause? One Veteran is… and he’s doing it on foot.

Former Army Captain Mike Viti began his trip on April 26, 2014 in DuPont, Washington. What is being called Mike’s Hiking for Heroes will result in a 4,412 mile hike across more than a dozen states, the entire western and southern portions of the country. Viti’s legs will ultimately carry him 7,100 kilometers, or more than1 kilometer for every fallen American service member from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Viti is a former platoon leader and Bronze Star recipient for his actions during combat in Afghanistan. His current mission is to raise awareness about the sacrifices made by U.S. Service members in the Global War on Terrorism. He hopes to unite Americans in their remembrance of the sacrifices made by the fallen, hopefully culminating in permanent memorials in the hometowns of each service member who was killed in action.

From Washington state, Viti and his team hiked to California, where they met with the NFL San Francisco 49ers. They spent Independence Day in the San Diego area.

Mike’s Hiking for Heroes is averaging 22 miles a day, even though there are breaks and stops at events and rallies that draw the public to his cause.

Viti’s hike is scheduled to end on December 13, 2014 at the Army-Navy Football game in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to being a former captain in the U.S. Army, Viti was also a former captain of the Army Football team from his days at West Point . Playing for the Black Knights, Viti was a punishing fullback. He was briefly signed to a contract with the Buffalo Bills in 2008.

Viti and his team are seeking donations for their cause at www.mikeshikeforheroes.com. Please do your part and join Viti in recognizing service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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: Vet to Hike 4,400 Miles: By Debbie Gregory