MilitaryConnection.com Receives Prestigious Award from Weddle’s

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By Debbie Gregory

Everybody likes to be recognized for the work they do. In a densely-populated field, it is especially rewarding to be acknowledged and singled out from the large crowd for your efforts. That is why we, at MilitaryConnection.com, are ecstatic to have been selected as one of the thirty recipients of the 2015 Users Choice Award from Weddle’s, out of more than 200,000 employment websites.

Weddle’s is a research, publishing and consulting firm that disseminates all things related to employment. Weddle’s is relied upon by job seekers, employers, recruiters and employment website as the “industry standard” for maximizing their employment success.

Weddle’s annual User’s Choice Awards recipients are voted on by recruiters, employers and job seekers who have used the sites and therefore are in the best position to vote. Weddle’s asks job seekers and recruiters to cast their ballots for any job board or career portal operating on the Internet. And out of the more than 200,000 sites, voters selected Military Connection.com to be named as one of the best. Because of the way that recipients are selected, the Weddle’s Users Choice Award is the most prestigious honor that a job board or social media site can receive.

“We are so honored to receive the distinction from Weddle’s,” said MilitaryConnection.com CEO Debbie Gregory. “And it just means that much more because the employers, recruiters and Veteran job seekers who frequent our site are the ones who voted for us. It really makes us feel that we are making a difference in connecting Veterans to employment.”

We at MilitaryConnection.com would like to thank Peter Weddle, and the entire staff at Weddle’s, for this prestigious award.

We also want to say “thank you” to YOU, the Veteran job seekers, employers, recruiters and others who frequent our site, voting it as one of the best.

You can be assured that we will not rest on our laurels. Connecting Veterans to employment and employers to Veterans is a full-time endeavor. And while mission success is achieved every day, it is a campaign that will not end. So we graciously accept the recognition and power forward, continuing with more of the same services that have earned MilitaryConnection.com the reputation as the “Go-To Site!”

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.

MilitaryConnection.com Receives Prestigious Award from Weddle’s: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Offering Relief to Whistleblowers

VA Whistle Blowers

By Debbie Gregory.

On January 20th, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will be offering “whistleblower” relief to over two dozen VA employees. The employees, who had been threatened with retaliation from their superiors, had filed complaints about wrongdoing at VA medical facilities and clinics throughout the country.

Last year, a settlement was reached with three VA employees who blew the whistle on issues concerning unacceptable appointment wait times and falsified waitlists at the Phoenix VA Hospital. These events prompted a national response from Congress, Veterans, and the general public, including legislative measures and the forced resignation of then-VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki. And the settlement has prompted the VA to offer relief to others.

The VA’s actions offer relief to approximately 25 VA employees who faced reprimands, poor evaluations or threats of repercussions after reporting errors and misconduct within the VA healthcare system.

Currently, more than 120 complaints of retaliation are under investigation throughout the VA’s 970 facilities nationwide, following employee allegations about improper patient scheduling, understaffing and other problems.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald had previously promised to eliminate retaliation against whistleblowers as the VA looks to change its image and its culture. The VA has a decades-long reputation for providing service to Veterans that is slower than private sector healthcare.

The VA is now being applauded for its willingness to change, taking steps to protect its employees who file whistleblower complaints, and implementing widespread changes in policy throughout the department.

The VA is committed to holding those who retaliated against the whistleblowers accountable.VA employees who blow the whistle on their superiors because they have identified a legitimate problem should not be punished, they should be protected. And in the opinion of Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, they should be praised.

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: Tickets for Comedy Show at Laugh Factory

Comedy show

By Debbie Gregory.

Do the post-New Year’s blues have you feeling down? Are you in need of a pick-me-up? We all know that laughter is the best medicine, and the world famous Laugh Factory has been dishing out this medicine since 1979. Supply & Demand Comedy will be administering the chuckles and belly-laughs at the Laugh Factory on Sunset Blvd. for three shows this February.

Supply & Demand Comedy’s limited run will take place on February 4th, 11th, and 18th at 8:00 PM. Each show features its own array of talent and style.

The Wednesday February 4, 2015 show will feature: Steve Hofstetter (the host of Laughs on FOX), Erik Griffin (Comedy Central series “Workaholics”), Danny Jolles (popular in New York and LA), Tommy Johnagin (who is slated to have his own show on CBS), Iliza Shlesinger (the youngest person and only female to hold the title of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”), and Michael Malone (album “Thirty One” coming out in February).

The Wednesday February 11, 2015 show will feature: Steve Hofstetter (the host of Laughs on FOX), Nicholas Anthony (writer for upcoming CBS show ‘The Inspectors”), Taylor Tomlinson (talented SoCal comedian) and more.

The Wednesday February 18, 2015 show will feature: Steve Hofstetter (the host of Laughs on FOX), Mary-Lynn Rajskub (from the FOX show “24”), Camila Cleese (popular LA comic), Jenny Zigrino (one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch”), and Carlos Alazraqui (“Reno 911” star and voice acting legend…seriously, look him up!)

The Laugh Factory is supporting the Supply & Demand shows in a big way, encouraging their funniest and most famous comedians to drop in and perform surprise sets.

For each Supply and Demand show, the first fifty tickets are free. After that, they go on sale for $5, $10, $15, and $20 as the show sells out. Ticket sales are limited to four per order. If you have more than four people in your party, you will have to place multiple orders. Be sure that you are among the first fifty people to sign up in order to get your free tickets.

To get the free tickets, visit http://www.ComedySupply.com

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: Stefanie Sanders for Military Spouse of the Year

Stefanie Sanders

By Debbie Gregory.

More than one million military spouses support and maintain the home front while members of our armed forces defend this great nation. Since 2008, the Military Spouse of the Year (MSOY) has been awarded to honor military spouses, all ranks, all branches of service, for their unwavering commitment to the military community.

On January 23, 2015, the base winners were announced, and the next round of voting is scheduled for January 30th.

One of the candidates for MSOY was nominated by Navy Captain Brad Cooper, Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Gettysburg (CG-64) and longtime friend and supporter of MilitaryConnection.com. Capt. Cooper nominated his Command Ombudsman, Stefanie Sanders. Mrs. Sanders won the base vote for Naval Station Mayport Florida, which she now represents in the branch voting tier.

As Command Ombudsman, Stefanie is the go-between for the families of the Gettysburg’s crew and the ship’s leadership. When a ship is in port, most Navy families utilize their service member to connect to the resources and support they need. But when the ships are underway, the spouses and families utilize people like Stefanie to obtain the support and resources they need. As the Command Ombudsman for the U.S.S. Gettysburg, Stefanie has her hands full, as the ship has the distinction of having the highest operational tempo and most time away from homeport than any other ship in the U.S. Navy for the last 2+ years.

In his nomination letter, Capt. Cooper called Stefanie an “military spouse ‘superwoman’ and an extraordinary American.” As high a compliment as those praises may sound, they may not do Stefanie justice.

Stefanie, herself, is a Navy Veteran, having served as an enlisted sailor for four years. Because of her service, Stefanie brings a unique and vitally effective point of view to her position as Ombudsman.

Stefanie’s advice to younger military spouses is spot on: “Find a hobby, get a job, do something to keep busy while your spouse is deployed. Because if you just sit at home and miss your sailor, deployments seem like they take forever.”

Besides being the Gettysburg’s Ombudsman since 2012, Stefanie is also the wife of a Senior Chief Petty Officer, and mother to three children and a puppy. She is also the PTA President at Finnegan Elementary School, and has just completed her bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Management from the University of Phoenix. Stefanie’s work with military families has prompted her plan to return to school to secure a Family and Child Services Certificate. She wants to make a career out of supporting and assisting military families, beyond her tenure as Ombudsman.

Stefanie was gracious enough to grant MilitaryConnection.com an interview. She admitted to feeling overwhelmed at her nomination, and winning Mayport’s Spouse of the Year. Through her modesty and her drive to help military families, Stefanie only reaffirms why she should win Military Spouse of the Year.

“I have a great group of spouses on the Gettysburg, without them, I never would have been nominated. I also want to thank my husband, Eric, and our kids for their support and for sharing me and my time with the other families at the command. I would also like to thank Captain Cooper and the leadership and crew of the Gettysburg,” Stefanie told MilitaryConnection.com.

The list of Top 18 MSOY candidates is scheduled to be posted on January 30th. We fully expect to See Stefanie Sanders on that list. When that happens, be sure to VOTE for Stefanie for Military Spouse of the Year during the 24-hour voting period on February 4th. Stefanie is expected to be in contention for one of the six branch winners, and advancing to the National Vote. While every military spouse nominated is worthy of recognition, we have our fingers crossed for Stefanie Sanders.

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 Wants to Slow Drawdown

Army to slow force size reduction

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army is now looking into measures to slow the drawdown, though the military branch still intends to reach its planned force size of 450,000 active duty personnel.

The Army is currently slated to cut approximately 20,000 soldiers every year to reach the target number by the end of fiscal 2017. If on schedule, the Army is expected to reach a force size of 490,000 by the end of fiscal 2015. But new discussions have Army leaders talking about avoiding sequestration in 2016, and moving the timeline back by one year.

With that said, Army leadership does not have the ability to make this decision on its own. Congress must approve what would amount to a personnel increase for fiscal years 2016-2018. Right now, Army brass is considering what options to present to Congress.

Soldiers should not breathe a sigh of relief about their jobs security just yet. While a year-long pause in sequestration would improve the Army’s flexibility, should a greater force size than 450,000 be needed, that number is still locked in for the long term.

The Army sees altering its drawdown plan as a necessary measure. Commanders estimate that only 36% of the Army’s units are adequately prepared to deploy in response to a world crisis. The Army wants to have 65%-70% of its units mission-ready and available for rapid deployment, if necessary. If their force sizes continue to decrease, it will only hurt Army readiness even further, as cuts are generally being made in the middle and upper-middle levels of the officer and enlisted ranks.

Under sequestration, the Army could be forced to shrink to 420,000 soldiers.

An active duty end-strength of 450,000 personnel would generate challenges in manning and readiness, but there is a belief that sequestration could eventually impose an Army force size of just 420,000. Part of this move to delay the drawdown could also be seen as defense against an ending force strength of 420,000, which many around the Pentagon believe to be too small for ideal national security.

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: Navy Seeking to Bulk Force Size

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By Debbie Gregory.

While the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps have been looking to reduce their force size, the Navy is expected to increase its ranks over the next five years.

Navy leadership is currently planning the composition of its force size numbers anticipated for 2025. Since the Navy has reconfigured what it wants the future of the fleet to look like in terms of ship types by 2025, Navy leaders are retooling the focus on the number of sailors expected to man the fleet. The current plans call for a slight increase from its current number of 325,000 sailors, to roughly 328,000 by the end of 2020.

Many around the DOD and the Department of the Navy have wondered about the Navy’s end strength. Global instability and recent flashpoints in Iraq and Russia appear to be shaping Air Force and Army force size considerations. The ongoing conflict against the Islamic State, both in Iraq and Syria, as well as the activity between Russia and Ukraine, have all contributed to the DOD and its branches reconsidering planned cuts to their ranks.

The Navy’s end-strength increase is at least partially funded in the recently passed 2015 defense bill, which includes roughly $45 billion for personnel costs. The stability of planned force-size increases will enable the Navy to focus on recruiting and retention. At the same time, Navy officials say the service is pleased to be growing at a time when a naval presence is needed around the globe.

In December, 2014, Air Force Secretary Deborah James announced that the USAF would halt its plan for a new round of layoffs in 2015.  The Air Force has approximately 315,000 officers and enlisted members on active duty, the lowest level since the service was created in 1947.

Also, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno recently acknowledged that the reductions in Army end strength, already underway, no longer make sense in light of emerging global threats such as the Islamic State. The Army previously planned to reduce its current strength of 520,000 personnel down to 490,000.

Congress will also have a say as to how large these service branches force sizes can be. Lawmakers have already blocked efforts by the military to cut down their personnel costs by maintaining pay raises and benefits that service leaders have wanted to reduce.

While world events and jockeying in Washington continue to determine the future force size of each service branch, service members, Veterans, tax payers and young Americans who wish to someday join the U.S. military look on in eager anticipation.

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: Clay Hunt SAV Act on to Senate Floor

Senate Floor

By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee voted to send legislation, aimed to combat the high rate of suicide among Veterans, to the Senate floor.

The committee’s play comes just over a week after the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act was reintroduced in the Senate, after overwhelmingly passing in the House twice within a month’s time.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act was named for a 28 year-old Marine Corps Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and committed suicide in 2011.

The heavily publicized bill was headed for easy passage in December, 2014, when it failed due to a procedural maneuver by then-Senator Tom Coburn, who has since retired.  Coburn, who claimed that the bill merely duplicated existing VA programs and did not offer enough new resources for its $22 million price tag, essentially killed the bill with a legislative hold that prevented a Senate vote.

Several Veterans advocacy groups and military associations vowed to reintroduce the Clay Hunt SAV Act as soon as the new Congress convened in January, 2015.

And true to their word, the Clay Hunt SAV Act of 2015 was introduced in the House as H.R. 203 on January 7, 2015, virtually unchanged from the measure that failed just days prior. The 2015 bill was passed unanimously in the House on January 12th, and returned to the Senate the next day. So far, there appears to be no opposition to the bill.

On January 21st, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee agreed to send the Clay Hunt SAV Act of 2015 to the Senate’s calendar under General Orders. The Senate could vote on the bill as early as this week.

There are over 8,000 Veteran suicides each year, which averages out to approximately 22 suicides each day.  Currently, the Clay Hunt SAV Act is the leading measure on the table for combating these numbers. Be sure to track this measure and how your elected leaders vote on it by frequenting MilitaryConnection.com and www.Congress.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: New Battle of New Orleans: Veteran Homelessness

HomelessVeteran

By Debbie Gregory.

In a January 7th press release, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared that his city has ended homelessness among its Veterans. The statement touted the city, nicknamed “The Big Easy” as the first major city in the nation to end Veteran homelessness.

The mayor, his administration and the claim instantly drew criticism from people both in and outside of New Orleans. Some were quick to point out that both Phoenix and Salt Lake City have already claimed an end to Veteran homelessness in their cities. Other critics were eager to find any and all homeless people in New Orleans to ascertain if any of them were Veterans living on the streets.

But while critics were quick to jump to conclusions, the most important thing to keep in mind is what Mayor Landrieu and his city were able to accomplish.

Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama challenged mayors throughout the U.S. to make a commitment to end homelessness among America’s Veterans by the end of 2015. So far, 312 mayors, six governors, and 71 other county and city officials from across the United States have accepted the first lady’s challenge. Mayor Landrieu was among them.

In early 2014, the Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted its annual National Point in Time Survey of Homelessness. At that time, the survey identified 193 homeless Veterans combined in the parishes of Orleans and Jefferson. The Landrieu administration coordinated with local nonprofit organizations, homeless service providers, active duty service members, Veterans, and federal, state and local agencies. Their goal was to provide housing for all homeless Veterans. Ultimately, the city and its alliance managed to provide housing for 227 homeless Veterans.

This is truly a remarkable and commendable feat that New Orleans accomplished. This should be celebrated and emulated around the nation. Critics can dig up whatever nay-saying they want, but Landrieu accomplished what Mrs. Obama’s challenge was intended to do; provide a tremendous amount of local support for homeless Veterans.

One thing that both Mayor Landrieu and his critics do agree on, whether the claim is accurate or not, is that combating Veteran homeless is not a battle one simply wins and stops fighting. It will be an ongoing campaign that will take on-going commitment and resources.

It is our hope that elected officials and community leaders all across our country will take up the fight against Veteran homelessness. The men and women who put all of their best efforts into this battle should be proud, and they have the right to brag about their accomplishments.

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 Battle of New Orleans: Veteran Homelessness: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Even One More Military Suicide is Unacceptable

Military Suicides

By Debbie Gregory.

The number of suicides among active duty military personnel jumped slightly in 2014. Because every suicide is one suicide too many, each military service branch has been implementing its own prevention program, each with realistic approaches and expectations. These programs seemed to be working, as each branch saw a considerable drop in 2013, from the year before, across active and Reservist/Guard components.

According to Department of Defense data, there were 288 suicides among active duty personnel in 2014. Although this number is higher than the 286 suicides recorded for 2013, it is still a far cry from the 352 confirmed military suicides, a record high, reported in 2012.

For the last several years, all of the service branches have been aggressively generating and retooling their suicide awareness and prevention programs. The emphasis of these programs has been on identifying and reaching out to service members who may be having problems, and encouraging them to come forward if they need help. Each branch has also taken special care to educate and empower everyone, including junior enlisted personnel, to recognize and react to any signs of crisis among their peers. Military leaders have also tried to implement programs for reducing stress, and teaching service members about coping mechanisms and other tools to deal with the various pressures of military life.

This time last year, Pentagon officials were encouraged to see the number of suicides drop by more than 15% from 2012 to 2013. But the same leaders have also cautioned that there will be jumps and drops in this battle.

Among the jumps in this year’s statistics was in the Air Force, increasing from 52 suicides in 2013 to 60 in 2014. The Navy’s statistics also rose from 43 in 2013 to 58 in 2014.

The Marine Corps’ statistics improved, dropping from 45 in 2013 to 35 in 2014. The Army also saw improvement, going from 146 confirmed suicides in 2013, to 135 in 2014.

Again, even one service member suicide is too many. But there is more awareness about this matter than ever before. With continued program development and participation, hopefully we can see the number of military suicides begin to drop significantly, ideally down to zero.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans 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 Boardinformation 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: Be Alert for Predatory Payday Loans

Payday Loans
Most military installations across the country have a few local businesses in the area. Restaurants, hotels, dry cleaners and barber shops are just a few of the staple businesses that are usually found within walking distance of the gates. But there are other industries that have popped up over the years, just outside of military installations, that can be beneficial to military personnel, but also have the potential to harm service members. Among the biggest offenders are payday lenders.
It goes without saying that not every payday lender is out to swindle people. The more reputable establishments should appreciate this article, because it could increase their business from people who don’t want to be cheated by the less trustworthy lenders.
Payday loans can be a very useful service for when life happens, and it happens to us all. Payday and deposit advance loans do provide an important alternative to credit card debt and bank loans. But the truth of the matter is that payday lenders are frequently using new loan products to prey on service members and military families. Deposit advance loans typically offer service members the ability to cash their military paychecks a week or more before they typically would be able to access the funds. In exchange, companies take a fee when the paycheck arrives, and pile on other penalties if the check doesn’t cover the outstanding balance.
Researchers from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that more than 12,000 military families used some form of deposit advance product from 2012 to 2013. Years ago, federal regulations were put in place to cap the annual interest payments on short-term loans to military members at 36%. But lenders have found ways over, around and under these regulations, and many of today’s loans are not covered under any previous regulations passed by Congress. Believe it or not, some of these loans can carry annual interest rates in excess of 300%! Under current rules, certain loans of more than $2,000, or ones with terms longer than 180 days, are not regulated.
These high rates and short loan timeframes often lead to compounding debt that can financially devastate a service member or military family. Poor credit, defaulted loans and other impacts often caused by payday loans can cause serious harm to a service member’s career. Security clearances can be revoked or denied due to defaults and low credit scores. Also, often times, when a loan is defaulted, the lender will contact the service member’s chain of command, which can also have a negative effect.
The DOD has already proposed broadening some of the military loan regulations, including extending the interest rate caps to any payday loan or auto title loan, regardless of their amount or duration.
It is a shame that anyone would target and prey on service members. But just like when in combat, service members need to do their part to not make themselves targets. This includes avoiding taking out any unnecessary loans or lines of credit. It is highly recommended that service members and military families use their earnings wisely. If you must use a payday loan, shop around and choose a lender that will work within the federally approved 36% annual interest rate.
Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans 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 Boardinformation 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.