Military Connections: Unmentioned Risks of Service: By Debbie Gregory

Military EDMen and women who choose to join the military and serve their country are aware that there will be many sacrifices involved. They know that they will spend time away from their families. They understand that there is the likelihood of being deployed and the possibility of seeing combat. Service members are usually aware that there is a chance of getting wounded, injured or killed. What many service members don’t realize is there are significant risks to their health outside of the ones that are normally though of.

A recent study found that men who enlist in the military are three times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED) than civilians of the same age group. While the topic of ED is rarely talked about, it needs to be discussed.

On July 17, 2014, the study, “Sexual Functioning in Military Personnel: Preliminary Estimates and Predictors”was published online by the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Researchers polled 367 male service members, aged 21-40.

Between October and November, 2013, participants completed an online survey about ED. The study examined the frequency of sexual function problems in male service members so that they could evaluate the effects of ED, including the quality of life for those who have it.

The study found that ED was quite common, showing up in more than 30% of the service members polled.  Service members aged 36-40 had the highest rates, more than double the rate of ED for civilians over the age of 40.

The high rate of ED among service members could be related to the increased number of deployments over the past twelve years, as well as the number of traumatic events that service members can be subjected to. Generally, sexual functioning issues are associated with getting older, but serious injuries and traumatic events can increase the likelihood of developing ED.

The most troubling part of the study was that most service members were not seeking treatment. Only one out of twelve service members who admitted having various degrees of ED in the survey admitted to seeking medical treatment.  Most of the participants cited concerns about what others would think as reasons for not getting checked out.

While some may consider it emasculating to seek help for problems with sexual function and performance, the study found a direct correlation between ED and one’s overall quality of life and happiness. It is highly recommended that any service member suffering from ED seek medical assistance so that they can restore balance to their life.

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 Connections: Unmentioned Risks of Service:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army to Cut 550 Majors: By Debbie Gregory

550 MajorsThe latest move in the campaign to downsize the U.S. Army was revealed on August 1, 2014 when the Army announced that it will be letting go 550 majors (O-4).

The Army currently has close to 514,000 members in its ranks, but must get that number down to 510,000 by October’s end of the fiscal year as mandated by the Department of Defense. Additionally, that number must decrease to 490,000 by October 2015, and again decrease down to 450,000 by 2019.

The Army recently involuntarily separated almost 1,200 captains (O-3). Now the Army will be cutting 550 majors. The process began with an Army separation board reviewing approximately 8,500 majors whose service began between 1999 and 2003. Some of these men and women may have close to 15 years of service, depending on all criteria involved with credit for years of service, and might be able to retire. But most of the 550 won”t have enough time in the job for a military retirement.

The 550 majors will have nine months to leave the Army. Although not confirmed by Army officials, it is believed that a few of the selected officers are deployed in Afghanistan. A large portion of the officers will be eligible to join the National Guard or the Army Reserve, branches that are in need of competent officers.

The Army has tried to avoid cutting existing personnel by reducing its push for enlistments and creating incentives for voluntary separations.

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: Army to Cut 550 Majors:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Why Hire Veterans? By Debbie Gregory

Hiring vetsVeteran employees are among the most skilled, trainable and dedicated group of individuals in the workforce. Hiring Veterans can greatly contribute to turning our economy around. Therefore, it is vital that employers understand their Veteran employees and the potential Veteran employees have to elevate the success of the company they work for. When civilian hiring managers are given the tools to understand the Veteran workforce, they will be more likely to recruit these workers and leaders into their ranks.

Military Connection has compiled the following list of general facts about Veterans that can assist hiring managers and Veteran employers:

Many Veterans weren’t properly prepared for the transition– Millions of Veterans have left the military during the past decade. Often times, while still in uniform, Veterans were promised employment solely based on their service. It is only in the last couple of years that service branches have taught their separating members how to market themselves to civilian hiring managers. Most Veterans weren’t taught how to translate their vast military skills to a civilian employer.

Company values are important– Most employees, especially Veteran employees, want to work for a company with values and visions of a cause that is greater than profits. Veterans seek out companies that believe in teamwork, strong leadership and supporting the community. Veterans have been seasoned to support and promote the values of their organization. The “hoo-rah” attitude that Veterans used to fight wars could be utilized in supporting your company’s goals.

Veterans don’t want a handout– Veterans don’t want to be hired solely based on their Veteran status. Through extensive military training and benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Veterans have training, knowledge and experience to offer your company. The biggest obstacle that Veteran employment seekers have to overcome is hiring managers who do not recognize military service as employment experience.

Veterans are problem solvers– While serving, Veterans wore many hats and took on varied duties. Veterans received extensive experience in executing orders, improvising when necessary, and crisis management. Veterans also possess the leadership skill set in order to carry out necessary responsibilities and accomplish the company’s missions, such as inter-squad coordination, motivating subordinates, and team building.

Veterans continue to serve– Many Veteran employees may still be serving in the National Guard or Reserves. As a rule, the Veteran workforce is a patriotic and community conscious group. Many Veterans belong to service organizations and clubs, and want to make their communities better places for their families.

When a hiring manager is able to recognize the experience, skills and personality that a Veteran employee can bring to their company, then perhaps the Veteran unemployment rate will go down, and company success can sky-rocket.

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: Why Hire Veterans?   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army Uses Virtual Therapist: By Debbie Gregory

Virtual TherapistFor all of the glass-half-full people out there, there is a positive side to all of the unfortunate physical and mental wounds endured by our men and women in uniform over the last twelve years at war. Out of necessity, advances in medical and behavioral healthcare have progressed by leaps and bounds since 2001.

One of the latest advancements is a virtual therapist. This resource could make it much easier for service members to talk about subjects such as PTSD. Most people, service members included, don’t feel comfortable talking to other people about their major issues, and often don’t tell them the entire story.

The Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California (USC) conducted a study recently, and found that according to the study participants, virtual interviews were reported to be less intimidating. Participants reported that when it came to talking about their problems, they were more willing to open up to a virtual therapist than a human one.

In Afghanistan, the Army has implemented a virtual therapist named Ellie to help their soldiers. Ellie is the smooth-voiced, calm-toned, active listening, and non-judgmental face of a computer program that runs off of a Microsoft Kinect motion sensor. Using Kinect to gauge a patient’s mannerisms and expressions, Ellie responds and listens in-turn, and even urges patients to keep talking with a well-timed “uh-huh,” and a nod of her head. She also changes her facial expression and leans forward to display these active listening mannerisms to her patients.

To see Ellie in action, please view a Youtube video that has been posted by USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Ellie is not intended to permanently replace human therapists. The virtual therapist is, instead, designed to be used as a screening tool for service members who could potentially face mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress and depression, after the get home from war.

Ellie’s program, called SimSensei, could be used as a screening tool for the military and hospitals. Currently, it’s being tested by members of the National Guard in Afghanistan. But eventually, it could be used by civilians suffering from everything from depression to cancer.  

Researchers claim that the advantages of utilizing virtual therapists is that a computer doesn’t get tired,  has no personal history or biases to interpret people through, and can more efficiently gather and analyze massive amounts of patient data for trained professionals, who can then take over the treatment.

The U.S. Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is sold on the idea of utilizing virtual therapists, and have funded the research. Plans are in the works to implement virtual therapist booths in VA hospitals. The actual hardware needed  to run SimSensei, is not expensive. SimSenei runs off of the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect game console that sells for as little as $99 (monitor not included).

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: Army Uses Virtual Therapist:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Success in Hiring Vet Program: By Debbie Gregory

DOT SuccessOn July 25, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)  and its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that the program to assist Veterans and transitioning service members find civilian employment as commercial drivers has been expanded to include all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The DOT’s program began in 2011, as part of Michelle Obama’s and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative. The waiver program authorized state licensing agencies to waive the skills test portion of the commercial driver’s license application process for active duty military and recently separated Veterans who possessed at least two years of military experience operating a truck or bus in that class. By waiving the skills portion of the application, the DOT reduced the cost of obtaining a civilian license for those Veterans, and expedited the process for them.

Over the past three years, the DOT’s campaign has expanded throughout the country. On June 27th, Alaska became the final component for the program’s version of “Manifest Destiny.”

Along with celebrating the successful expansion of the program, the announcement also included two additional components within the program. First, the eligibility period for qualified Veterans to obtain an FMCSA Military Skills Test Waiver has been extended from 90 days to one year from their separation date. Second, starting with Virginia residents, returning military service personnel who possess a state-issued Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate, due to an impairment of one or more limbs, will automatically be recognized as equivalent to an FMCSA-issued SPE certificate and allowed to obtain an interstate Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).  FMCSA encourages other state licensing agencies to establish comparable equivalency SPE programs.

Over 6,000 current and former military personnel from all branches of service have taken advantage of the Military Skills Test Waiver Program. From 2010 to 2020, the need for heavy-vehicle drivers is expected to grow by more than 17%, making it one of the most rapidly growing employment industries in 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: Success in Hiring Vet Program:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New VA Site For ID Theft: By Debbie Gregory

VA ID TheftIn this era of online shopping, digital communication and mobile apps, thieves are more sophisticated, stealing your information instead of your wallet. And  instead of mugging their victims, they hack into bank, shopping and social media accounts.

Veterans, due to their extensive travels and moves throughout their service, are at higher risk for identity theft. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to protecting Veteran information, maintaining an obligation to properly safeguard any Veteran’s personal information it possesses. The VA has implemented a multi-layered system to defend Veteran service and medical record from ever-evolving cyber security threats. Beyond this obligation, the VA is truly intent on helping Veterans ensure the security of their personal information.

On August 5, 2014, the VA’s Office of Information and Technology announced that it has launched a new initiative to educate Veterans about identity theft prevention. The new campaign, called “More Than a Number: Identity Theft Prevention,” refers to the personal information that VA encourages all Veterans to safeguard.

A major component of the campaign is the launching of the website www.va.gov/identitytheft. The site features educational information about identity theft,  and how to best protect your confidential information. The page also contains interactive multimedia and links to other online identity theft prevention resources.

The VA’s “More Than a Number” campaign also includes a toll-free help line that offers support for Veterans, their beneficiaries and VA employees who have questions and concerns about identity theft. The toll-free number is 1-855-578-5492, and is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., EST.

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 Site For ID Theft:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Great News for GI Bill: By Debbie Gregory

Great news for GI BillThe recent passing of the VA reform bill is great news for Veteran students and military dependents who receive benefits! Along with improving VA healthcare and articulating measures to create more transparency and greater accountability within the VA, the $17 billion measure includes a provision that will have a huge impact for Veterans using their education benefits.

Currently, private and public schools are allowed to charge two separate tuition prices to their students. Most colleges and universities charge one price for students who are residents of the state where the school’s campus is located, and a higher rate for students who are residents from another state. Residency requirements are governed by state law, and differ around the country. But typically, anyone who can show proof (lease agreement, energy/water bill etc.) of living in a state for a minimum of one year can qualify for the in-state tuition rate.

Veterans who attempt to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill, or other Veteran education benefits, have faced challenges due to out-of-state tuition rates. Service members are stationed all over the world, and often move every few years. It is not uncommon for service members to move to entirely new locations when they separate, especially if their last duty station was outside of the 48 contiguous states. These Veterans, and those who want to attend a specific school due to their academic programs, are subjected to out-of-state tuition rates. Many Veterans and Veteran advocates argue, and rightfully so, that members of the military serve every state in the union.

Apparently, Congress agreed with the case made by the Veteran advocates, and have included provisions in the bill, on its way to the president, to make it easier for Veterans to receive in-state tuition rates.

Out-of-state tuition rates can make the yearly cost of tuition soar over the maximum paid by the benefit. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays 100% of the tuition for in-state Veteran students attending a public school. The benefit is capped at just over $20, 000 for Veteran students attending a private school, or a school where they are considered a non-resident student.

While the legislation doesn’t mandate that all schools must grant Veterans the reduced rate, it does force their hands. The bill proposes to disapprove future benefits for all Veterans and their dependents at any public school that charges higher than in-state tuition rates to any Veteran who served more than 90 days active service, and separated less than three years before enrollment. Losing the Veteran tuition money from this benefit would cost schools an enormous amount of money.

There are already dozens of states and hundreds of individual institutions that have a history of only charging Veterans the in-state rate. Other schools and states claim that Congress is forcing them to take on extra expenses.

With the passing of the bill by Congress and with President Obama signing it into law on August 7, 2014, every public school will be subject to the federal legislation that will go into effect for school terms starting on or after July 1, 2015.

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: Great News for GI Bill:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Sec Wants to hear from YOU: By Debbie Gregory

VA town hallOne of the biggest concerns that Veterans, advocates, law makers and the public have had regarding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the lack of transparency within the department. Everyone wants to know “what the heck is going on?” and “what is the VA doing to fix the issues?”

In an attempt to quell the concerns, one of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald’s first acts was to direct all VA healthcare and benefits facilities to hold town-hall events by the end of September. These forums are intended to improve communication between the VA and the Veterans they serve across the country.

“Caring for Veterans is a calling, and our first commitment is to provide Veterans and their families the timely, quality care and benefits they have earned and deserve through their service to our Nation,” Secretary McDonald said. “As we seek continual improvement and to rebuild trust among Veterans, it is critical that we continue to listen and learn directly from those who use our system.”

The newly appointed secretary wants each facility to collect, analyze and use feedback from Veterans, family members and beneficiaries. They have been instructed that at each meeting, they should encourage and welcome input from Congressional stakeholders, Veteran Service Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, and other partners within their communities. Details of events in each location will be provided by each local facility.

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: VA Sec Wants to hear from YOU:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Obama Signs VA Reform Bill: By Debbie Gregory

VA reform billOn Thursday August 7, 2014, President Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 into law. The legislation, commonly referred to as the VA reform bill, is intended to give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the necessary funding and resources to improve the access to, and the quality of, care for Veterans.

The highly publicized legislation passed in the House on Wednesday, July 30th , and in the Senate the following evening.

Included in the bill are the means to expand survivor benefits and educational opportunities. It also contains provisions to improve care for victims of sexual assault and Veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries.

In total, $16.3 billion has been allotted to expand the following programs and benefits for Veterans:

Ensuring that the VA healthcare system has the resources it needs: Earmarked $5 billion will allow the VA to hire more doctors and more nurses to staff more clinics. As Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans transition into civilian life, the VA system needs to keep pace with the increased demand and patient population. The bill also allots $1.3 billion more to finance 27 new VA facilities across the country.

Providing timely care: For Veterans who haven’t received timely care through the VA system, this bill will help them get the care they need through private healthcare providers. This is particularly important for Veterans living in remote areas. Under the signed legislation, Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility will be able to seek treatment outside the VA system. This allowance would also apply to Veterans who are unable to receive an appointment in a reasonable amount of time.

Accountability of VA employees: The measure grants the VA secretary the authority to remove senior executives who fail to meet the standards of conduct and competence that their position within the department requires. Specifically, the legislation facilitates the firing of employees who engage in an unethical practice, such as conspiring to cover up a serious problem.

In-state tuition for all Veteran students: Another section of the legislation calls for public schools that don’t offer the in-state tuition rate to Veterans and Veteran dependents, using education benefits, to lose access to all GI Bill tuition students. While not mandating that colleges and universities charge the in-state price, the provision makes it in the schools’ best interest to offer Veterans the lower tuition rate.

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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: Obama Signs VA Reform Bill:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Wheelchair Games: By Debbie Gregory

Veteran wheelchair gamesThe National Veterans Wheelchair Games is an annual event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). More than 500 Veterans compete in seventeen sporting events, including basketball, bowling, softball, hand-cycling, air pistol and rugby.

The games, currently running in Philadelphia through August 17th, are part of a sports and rehabilitation program for military Veterans who use wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries, amputations *or* certain neurological problems. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games attract more than 500 athletes each year, making this event the largest annual wheelchair sports competition in the world. This year’s event in

The VA and its partners in the games are committed to improving the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities and promoting better health through athletic competition. While previous games have produced a number of national and world-class champions, the games also provide opportunities for newly-disabled Veterans to gain sports skills and be exposed to other wheelchair athletes.

The public is welcomed to attend the games and support these heroes as they compete for gold. Admission is free at all of the events at venues across Philadelphia. Service members, Veterans, Military families and the general public are invited and encouraged to cheer for the brave men and women participating in this year’s games.

For a complete list and schedule of events, down load the pdf here.

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: Veteran Wheelchair Games:   By Debbie Gregory