Military Connection: New Suicide Screening: By Debbie Gregory

militay suicide screeningMilitary doctors are looking to reduce the number of suicides among service members with psychiatric conditions by implementing a new screening system that flags those who are at the highest risk of taking their own lives.

Most suicide screenings are questionnaires that are dependent on truthful answers from people who often feel the need to hide their true symptoms and intentions for fear of retribution. The questionnaires also offer little-to-no help in combining factors to predict suicide risk.

Doctors have known for years that mental health patients are at a high risk of suicide in the months after leaving the hospital. Military researchers wanted to know what, if anything, those who did commit suicide had in common. They thought that a great way to proceed would be the pooling of databases of the patient’s military and medical records.

The research team analyzed the records of 40,820 service members who were hospitalized at least once between 2004 and 2009 for a mental health disorder. Researchers found that 5% of the sample patients tested 15 times more likely to commit suicide during the first year after being released from the hospital than the rest of the test group.

The team formulated a list of more than 300 factors that could be related to suicide risk, including age, access to weapons, military rank, history of substance abuse, IQ, clashes with leadership, combat experience, PTSD diagnosis, and marital status.

Through their study, researchers were able narrow the list of factors down to those that together identified the 5% at highest risk, resulting in more than half of the suicides that occurred within the entire group in the year following hospital discharge.

Some of the shared factors among those at higher risk were expected, such as previous suicide attempts, contracting a traumatic brain injury, and a history of using weapons. But other factors, such as an enlistment age older than 26, and having a higher I.Q., came as a surprise.

Researchers believe that if the new prediction program can be integrated into the military’s medical system, it could allow doctors to follow high-risk soldiers closely after discharge, allowing them to take preventive measures. These measures could include outpatient therapy in the weeks after discharge, working to build social support by enlisting friends and family, and teaching coping mechanisms to deal with overwhelming feelings.

This type of suicide screening is not likely to be immediately useful for civilian hospitals, which do not have nearly as much personal data on patients as the military does.

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 Suicide Screening: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Suits for Richmond, VA Vets: By Debbie Gregory

boots to suitsWhen newly separated Veterans are scrambling to prepare for their first post-military job interview, they often find that their wardrobe is lacking. Many Veterans find that they can’t afford a new suit for that first interview. The Junior League of Richmond has launched a campaign in an attempt to help.

Most men and woman who serve in the military adjust to living a Spartan lifestyle. After multiple deployments and a few PCS moves, it’s easier to live and travel lightly. When most service members transition out of the military, they usually have a full assortment of uniforms, and some casual civilian clothing. Since the need for formal attire, outside of a dress uniform, wasn’t a necessity while they served, business suits are often missing from these wardrobes. So while they were able to wear their military uniform to a wedding or formal event, Veterans must now wear appropriate business attire for job interviews.

New suits cost an average of $200, and can go up as high as $1,000. Veterans also have to make sure that they have appropriate shoes, socks, shirts, and ties. Having to purchase these items, even on the lower-end of the price spectrum, could break the bank for single Veterans, and especially for Veterans with families.

To help Veterans to be at the ready to interview in the proper attire, the Junior League of Richmond launched the BOOTS TO SUITS program on Veterans Day, 2014.

The program is administered through the league’s thrift store, appropriately called The Clothes Rack. The store issues vouchers to Veterans that entitle them to  receive two career outfits. Veterans can chose to have one suit and one business casual outfit, or two business casual outfits.

Veterans can obtain vouchers through the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program and the Petersburg Freedom Support Center.

The BOOTS TO SUITS program is stocked solely from clothing donations made by caring individuals. The program is always in need of donations for both men and women. Items needed include dress pants, blazers, skirts, slacks, button up shirts, blouses, ties, khakis, polo shirts, sweaters, belts and shoes.

The Clothes Rack also accepts other clothing items for men, women and children, as well as home decor, small furniture and jewelry. Please see the store’s Donations Guide for complete details. Donations are tax deductible.

If you are a Veteran in need of interview attire, or an individual interested in donating items to the BOOTS TO SUITS program, please visit or contact The Clothes Rack directly at their two locations:

The Clothes Rack at Cary Street
2618 West Cary Street
Richmond, VA  23220
804-358-4693

The Clothes Rack at Stratford Hills
6780 Forest Hill Avenue
Richmond, VA  23225
804-323-6270

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: Suits for Richmond, VA Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Pending Defense Budget Fears: By Debbie Gregory

The PentagonFor the second straight year, the Pentagon is expected to submit a five-year budget to Congress that will infringe on mandatory spending caps, this time by as much as $60 billion.

Defense officials have said for months that the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), which limits how much the Pentagon can spend, wouldn’t limit the 2016 request. It has been reported that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have pushed for an increase of $60 billion over the $535 billion cap for defense, with another $10 billion for Department of Energy programs.

Budget planners from the Pentagon estimate that, unless overturned, the automatic cuts will reduce defense budget request through 2021 by an average $31 billion a year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that unless Congress reverses the caps, the cuts could average closer to $47 billion a year.

A Pentagon report from March, 2014 outlined how $35.3 billion per-year in cuts would fall under sequestration in 2016, and remains relevant for companies and investors

The five year plan for fiscal 2015-2019, released in February and still pending before Congress, called for $115 billion more than sequestration permits. That plan also included $35.3 billion more than allowed for fiscal 2016, if the cuts return in full force, as planned, after a two-year pause.

The Pentagon aims to spend at least ten percent more each year for the next five years than it currently does on nuclear upgrades and modernization programs.

One of the main areas that would be cut is the upgrading of aircraft throughout all branches of the military. The Pentagon is expected to cut 17 of the 343 F-35 fighters it planned to buy, in fiscal years 2016 through 2019.

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: Pending Defense Budget Fears: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Wait Times Remain: By Debbie Gregory

VA wait timesVeterans will be happy to know that the Department of Veterans Affairs has made significant progress in improving the backlog of patients waiting for care at VA facilities. The VA has cut the number of Veterans who face a wait time of more than four months for an appointment from 120,000 in May, 2014 to 23,000 in October, 2014.

That number is expected to drop even lower with the issuance of VA Choice Cards, a short-term solution that will allow Veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA facility to seek treatment from non-VA facilities. Choice Cards will also temporarily allow Veterans waiting longer than 30 days for treatment at a VA facility to seek private care.

From June through September, 2014, the VA completed 19 million medical appointments in their facilities. This is an increase of 1.2 million compared to  the same time last year.

The VA’s goal is to provide timely, quality healthcare for Veterans and their dependents. That is why the VA continues to implement reforms aimed at significantly improving access to care.

One of the major efforts that the VA is undertaking as part of their long-term reform is to recruit more health care providers. To entice quality doctors, nurses, counselors and staff, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has proposed pay hikes for medical professionals in the VA. This, and other long-term reform plans have yet to have a major impact on wait times. But data shows that dozens of VA facilities still have a quarter or more of all their patients waiting 30 days or more for an appointment.

Some facilities, including ones in Atlanta, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Temple (Texas) are among the 64 that have average wait times of over 60 days for new patients. In total, more than 600,000 Veterans continue to wait 30 days or more for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics.

Many politicians and media sites may try to convince the American public that the VA is either fixed by the 16.3 billion from the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. But the truth of the matter is that reforming the VA is going to be long and evolving process.

There will be setbacks, and possibly a few failures, but also many improvements for Veterans along the way. The best thing that we, as voting citizens can do, is pressure our lawmakers to make the appropriate decisions when it comes to caring for our Veterans and vote to approve Veteran-friendly measures when they reach the ballot.

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 Wait Times Remain: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Vets Get New Help on Job Front: By Debbie Gregory

New PartnershipsThere is great news on the way for Veterans who are looking for post-military careers. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced a partnership with online education site Coursera to help Veterans get hired.

First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced the partnership during a women Veterans career development forum held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, just before Veterans Day. Mrs. Obama said that the joint venture is part of the administration’s efforts to help Veterans finding meaningful and lasting employment after separating from the military.

“It’s about making your transition to a fulfilling and wonderful civilian career as seamless as possible,” Mrs. Obama said. “Because we know that leaving the military can feel like you’re stepping into a whole new world.  And in the past few years, too many veterans have struggled during these crucial few months right after you hang up that uniform.”

As part of the partnership between the VA and Coursera, all Veterans will be eligible for a free certificate for select courses on www.Coursera.org. The free courses will be offered in a range of fields, including cybersecurity, health care, entrepreneurship, and data science, to name a few.

After completing a course on Coursera, Veterans will be able to upload the certificate of completion to the mega online job networking site LinkedIn, which will also be offering a free one-year premium subscription, waiving the regular price of $360 a year. The subscription will allow Veterans to appear as featured job applicants to potential employers, and will allow them to access training materials tailored for those who served in the military. They will also be able to contact anyone on the network.

LinkedIn will also be integrated with the VA’s online database system called Veterans Employment Center (VEC). Veterans will be able to upload their VEC profile to LinkedIn, as well as access resources specifically for Veterans.

The VA and Coursera will also work together to launch 20 “learning hubs” around the country. These will be brick and mortar centers that would offer online access and support for Veterans on the job hunt.

In October, 2014, the unemployment rate of Veterans who served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was 7.2%. And women from this demographic saw an alarming 11.2% rate. The unemployment rate for non-Veterans was just 5.4%

It is great to see so many measures, initiatives and partnerships forming to combat Veteran unemployment. And with the further education and promotion of Veterans, the rate of under-employed Veterans should be reduced as well.

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: Vets Get New Help on Job Front: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Joint PTSD/TBI Research: By Debbie Gregory

PTSD TBI StudyIt has been estimated that approximately 20% of the 2.3 million troops who have served in combat since 2001 have suffered a brain injury and/or developed PTSD. Medical researchers are closing is on the creation of a test designed to detect post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.

Currently, conditions such as PTSD and TBI are only diagnosed with self-reported symptoms and subjective exams. But scientists from five different institutions are getting closer to formulating a definitive test for these injuries. In a collaborative attempt to develop tests to detect the invisible wounds, NYU’s Langone Medical Center, the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of PTS and TBI, Stanford University, Emory University School of Medicine, and the Department of Defense are examining PTSD and TBI conditions in more than 4,000 service members and civilians.

Now, in year two of the five year, $42.9 million study to locate biomarkers that can indicate evidence of PTSD and TBI, the preliminary results have determined symptoms and methods that can be utilized to determine the presence of these conditions. Blood and genetic variation tests, brain imaging, eye movements and even vocal changes have been determined to provide evidence of PTSD and TBI.

Using brain imaging, researchers have found that patients with PTSD have above-average activity in the amygdala, the portion of the brain responsible for creating and storing memories. They also found below-average activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain that controls social behavior and expression as a response to fear-inducing stimulus. These findings could lead to brain scan tests to diagnose PTSD and confirm treatments appropriate for the condition.

Other research has found that people with PTSD have distinct vocal patterns as part of the condition. The further study of the vocal patterns in PTSD patients could pave the way to a definitive examination to determine whether a person has the disorder.

For years, athletic trainers, emergency medical responders and military medics have looked into the eyes of patients believed to have suffered TBIs. Researchers in the study are also looking at out-of-sync eye movements to develop a quick test for concussion.

Researchers at the Cohen Veterans Center tracked the eye movements of more than 400 service members and Veterans as they watched a four-minute video. They found that these patients’ eyes did not track together in individuals who had or were recovering from a TBI. The condition is called an “anisocoric and disconjugate gaze.” Further study could lead to the development of a medical device that could be used in combat theaters to detect a TBI, such as a concussion, immediately after it occurs.

The next phase of the study will involve determining the most promising biomarkers, and how they can be used to personalize treatments for PTSD and TBI.

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: Joint PTSD/TBI Research: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Bill Vetoed in NY: By Debbie Gregory

NY GovernorNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently vetoed legislation that would have authorized state and municipal pension credits for peacetime military service. The killing of the bill came just before Veterans Day and sparked a fair amount of criticism of the governor.

The legislation was authored by NY State-Senator William Larkin, who is a World War II combat Veteran. If approved, the bill would have amended current NY state law that provides up to three year’s credit toward public employee pensions for military service during hostilities. Veterans would have to pay three percent of their compensation during those military years to the retirement system.

In his veto message, Cuomo claimed that if he had enacted the bill, the state’s local governments would incur $57 million in near-term obligations while ignoring recently enacted pension reforms. The measure would also apply to every past member of the armed forces who is a member of any public employees’ retirement system. Cuomo also noted that the state associations of counties and mayors and the New York City mayor’s office all voiced opposition.

“If enacted, this bill would run roughshod over systemic reforms carefully negotiated with the Legislature to avoid saddling local property taxpayers with additional, unmanageable burdens,” Cuomo wrote.

The NY State Assembly passed the bill 133-1 on the last day of the legislative session back in June.

Assembly sponsors said the U.S. now depends on a volunteer military, and to encourage citizens to join, the state needs to recognize all Veterans by giving them pension access.

Many military and Veteran advocates were extremely disappointed by the veto. However, Cuomo did sign other bills that benefit Veterans. One new law is designed to increase the property tax exemption for Veterans from $5,000 to $7,500 of assessed value. Another new law provides a state income-tax check-off to donate to a homeless Veterans assistance fund.

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 Bill Vetoed in NY: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Open Audition for Singing Vets: By Debbie Gregory

4troopsEveryone who has served their country in uniform possesses talents beyond what their military duties required. Many celebrated actors, comedians, writers, visual artists and singers are military Veterans. Many Veterans who leave the service look to pursue careers that utilize their talents and passions. For those who list singing as one of their passions, they are being invited to an open audition for the patriotic musical group 4TROOPS.

Since 2010, the Sony Music Veteran group, 4TROOPS, has been a professional touring musical ensemble. The group plays a variety of songs for all audiences, but specializes in patriotic themed songs and military audiences. In their debut year, 4TROOPS performed a concert on the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid (CV-11) and even sang the National Anthem at the 2010 World Series.

Now Sony Music is looking to form a new group of singing Veterans to record music and tour the world as professional vocal performers. Sony is partnering with the Center for American Military Music Opportunities (CAMMO) to hold open auditions online.

All U.S. military Veterans with a verifiable honorable discharge are eligible to try out. Active duty personnel who are separating from service or starting terminal leave by March 1, 2015, are also eligible. National Guard and Reserve component service-members who are able to obtain permission to dedicate the time it takes to fulfill recording, promotional and performance obligations for the group are also invited to audition.

For the audition process, Sony Music Entertainment and CAMMO have gathered a prominent group if panelists to judge the candidates and select the next members of 4TROOPS. The group includes American Idol and The Voice vocal coach, Debra Byrd; Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar winning musical arranger and producer, Jay Landers; 4TROOPS vocal coach, Joey Beebe; CAMMO creative director and 4TROOPS’ producer,writer, arranger, Victor Hurtado; Universal, Sony, J Records and Def Jam producer, Jeff Caufield; and founding member of 4TROOPS, Ron Henry.

Following a 50-city tour of the U.S., and appearances on numerous national television shows, the founding members of 4TROOPS eventually had to leave the group for family reasons. Over the past three years, with the help of rotating members, the ensemble has continued to perform the material from the first album.

To audition for 4TROOPS, log on to http://cammomusic.org/#puresolo. For more information about the auditions, please contact casting@cammomusic.org.

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: Open Audition for Singing Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA’s $16.3b Won’t Last Long: By Debbie Gregory

VA MoneyThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is claiming that the $16.3 billion that was allotted through the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 (Veterans Choice Act) is not going to be enough to provide adequate care, long term.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald predicts that in the coming decades, Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will require even more care, possibly peaking 30 to 40 years from now. The VA’s leader said that the department will need more money to care for Veterans.

Many Americans believe that the seemingly huge sum allotted by the Veterans Choice Act was supposed to fix the VA and provide long-term healthcare for Veterans. But even though the wars seem to be winding down, the claims made by the Iraq and Afghanistan War-era Veterans will likely peak again in 40 years, and the duration of benefits will last even longer. McDonald noted that VA records show that there are still approximately 100 Veteran dependents from the Spanish-American War, and one dependent from a Civil War Veteran who still receive benefits.

The $16.3 billion allotted by the Veterans Choice Act is broken down into smaller provisions. The bill allots $10 billion for the utilization of private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion for the department to hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff. The other $1.5 billion can be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country.

Back in July, before the Veterans Choice Act was approved, Sloan Gibson, who was acting-secretary, said that the VA needed $17.6 billion over the next three years to reform patient wait times at VA facilities. Note that Gibson’s amount was more than what the VA received, and it was estimated to fix the wait time issue only.

The next  request for funds by the VA could fall on deaf ears as lawmakers return to Washington to hammer out fiscal 2015 spending bills, with a look towards 2016.

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’s $16.3b won’t Last Long: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: ‘No Peace’ in Ferguson: By Joe Silva

No justice no peaceThey say what’s happening in Ferguson is not about color, but it is… it’s about Army green, law enforcement’s tactical black, and also about red, white and blue.

On Monday afternoon, Ferguson, Missouri was the epicenter of unrest over a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the August 9, 2014 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Since the death of Brown, demonstrations and clashes between protesters and law enforcement have been a constant in Ferguson. On August 18th, the Missouri National Guard activated and deployed to Ferguson to help restore the peace.

The Missouri National Guard was reportedly reactivated on November 17th  by Governor Jay Nixon, to assist local law enforcement in and around the St. Louis area and its suburbs, especially Ferguson. Reports are unclear as to what degree the National Guard was involved after the November 24th announcement was made.

After the decision was made public, protests began. Some demonstrations were peaceful, and some were violent rampages that included looting and arson. Smaller-scaled protests and unrest took place around the country.

“No Justice, no peace” is the slogan that can be heard chanted and yelled by protestors on the news footage. This slogan was also heard in other instances, dating back to at least the 1970’s. But do people today truly understand what they are saying when they declare, “No justice, no peace?”

“No justice, no peace” could be taken as a threat of war. Service members and Veterans might know what war entails, but chances are, the people making this declarative threat do not. Great care needs to go into the creation and maintaining of both peace and war. The fact that this battle cry is being used in this instance shows that individuals either don’t know what it is they are saying, or have a complete disregard for their community, their nation, and the men and women who fight and have fought to protect their freedoms abroad and in their own neighborhoods.

While every American has the constitutional right to protest, the constitution does not grant individuals permission to make war or mayhem in protest. And who are protestors declaring “no peace” on? These are the questions that every American needs to ask.

“No Peace” in Ferguson, in the late hours of November 24th, meant that businesses were looted, burned and destroyed, police cars were overturned and set on fire, and more than 150 gunshots were heard, and not from law enforcement. “No peace” also meant that any well-intentioned protests of a young man’s death was overshadowed.

People call what is happening in Ferguson a race issue, but law enforcement officers, members of the National Guard, and business owners come in all colors, races and ideologies. And most importantly, all those involved, on both sides of this conflict, are Americans.

Our thoughts are with the community of Ferguson, the Missouri National Guard, and law enforcement.

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: ‘No Peace’ in Ferguson: By Joe Silva