Military Connection: VA Wants to Close Under-utilized Facilities

VA clinic

By Debbie Gregory.

In the spirit of saving tax dollars and stretching the budget, the U.S. military is being forced to cut programs, reduce personnel numbers, and even close some installations. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is now asking if it can do the same.

Unlike the DOD, the VA is expanding. Due to negative publicity regarding VA appointment wait times and scandals, public outcry made Veterans Affairs the hottest political issue of 2014. Several programs and billions of dollars have been allocated to VA programs in an effort to fix a broken system. As a result, the VA is one of the few government entities that is on a hiring spree. They are building new facilities, and several new initiatives are intended to improve Veteran healthcare, access to VA resources and better serve Veterans. But to make their budget go even further and to better serve Veterans, the VA is proposing to close a few of the facilities that are under-utilized by the Veteran community.

In budget testimony before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said the department has 336 buildings across the nation, spanning the VA’s three administrations, that are less than half-occupied, or are not being used at all. The estimated cost of maintenance on the 336 buildings is over $24 million per year.

The VA has over 1,700 medical facilities, including medical centers, out-patient clinics, and nursing homes. There are also 56 regional offices and 131 VA national cemeteries and 33 monument sites. The VA wants to streamline resources and focus in order to provide better service at all of their facilities and offices. On top of this, the VA estimates that approximately 1,300 of the structures that house their facilities are seventy or more years old.

“VA cannot be a sound steward of the taxpayers’ resources with the asset portfolio that we’re currently carrying,” McDonald told the committee. “No business would carry such a portfolio. Veterans deserve much better. It’s time to close the VA’s old substandard and underutilized infrastructure.”

Closing any facilities will require support from Congress. Many lawmakers believe that any federal government facility closure means potential reduced services, lost jobs, and angry constituents. Many members of Congress are likely to initially agree with the VA’s proposal, but are more likely to balk if closures are targeted at facilities in or near their constituency.

The VA has not developed a formal list of facilities to be closed, nor a strategy to execute any closures.

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 Wants to Close Under-utilized Facilities: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Defense Secretary Outlines Priorities

carters policies

By Debbie Gregory.

Ashton Carter was sworn in as the Secretary of Defense on February 17, 2015. Carter takes over the position as the fourth Defense Secretary of the Obama Administration, and the only one of the four who has never served in uniform. Given this fact, many Americans, especially the service members and civilians who work for the DOD, want to know where Carter stands on certain topics.

Knowing that this was an issue, Carter stated three of his priorities in a message sent out to all DOD personnel.

“Our first priority is helping the president make the best possible national security decisions for protecting our country– and then implementing those decisions with our department’s long-admired excellence,” Sec. Carter stated in the message.

The second priority that Carter laid out was ensuring the strength and health of “…the greatest fighting force the world has ever known – our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, civilians, and contractors all around the world.”

Secretary Carter intends to cover this priority by focusing on the well-being, safety and dignity of service members, DOD contractors and their families. The secretary pledged to offer top-notch equipment and training, and to take the “utmost care” when making decisions that would put them in harm’s way. Carter called this his “highest responsibility as secretary of defense.”

Carter’s third priority is a focus on building the force of the future. He said that the department must steer through sequestration, which imposes an uncertainty harmful to national defense.

“We must balance all parts of our defense budget so that we continue to attract the best people – people like you; so that there are enough of you to defend our interests around the world; and so that you are always well-equipped and well-trained to execute your critical mission.”

Secretary Carter also said that the department needs to win the support of the American public in order to get needed resources approved by the government. He contends winning that support will through less government wastefulness, and making better use of every tax dollar. To accomplish this, Carter said that the department will have to become “leaner.”

“It also means embracing the future – and embracing change.”

While Secretary Carter has never served in uniform, his service in the Pentagon has spanned more than three decades, originally working during the Clinton Administration as an Assistant Secretary for Internal Security Policy. Carter worked in the Pentagon under eleven other secretaries of defense.

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 Defense Secretary Outlines Priorities: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Next Step, Civilian Career

Career-Services-Counseling

By Joe Silva.

As a Veteran, I am proud of my service.  While there are numerous programs designed to help us Vets get jobs, many of the jobs that employers are touting as “Veteran Friendly” are retail jobs, or jobs that require little skill or training. These jobs can be good for transitioning Veterans, especially while they are using the GI Bill to go to school. But once we have degrees in hand, Veterans are still having difficulty getting hired in jobs that require a professional wardrobe as opposed to a name tag.

One of the main problems I had was effectively translating my military experience to prospective employers. I needed to communicate what my skills were,  and how I could be of value to them.  I found that while most interviewers were quick to verbally thank me for my military service, very few were willing to take a chance on someone with little experience in their industry, just because I had served.

It’s not that those who served don’t have any experience. Far from it, and that is usually the problem. Veterans must find a way to weed through their experiences and pick out aspects that are pertinent for the position they are applying for, and highlight those points.

Veterans tend to write their resumes like they were generating a personal eval, and that is not the case. Resumes don’t serve the same function as a military eval, so why should they look the same or contain the same language? Military jargon can provide a disconnect between you and your potential employer.

Even hiring managers who sincerely want to hire Veterans will have a hard time justifying a new hire to their boss if the Veteran’s resume is unintelligible to them, or does not convey experience needed for that position.

It is highly recommended that all Veterans frequent career resource centers while they are actively looking for employment or while they are in school or vocational training. These centers, called by many different names, are usually free for Veterans, and can be found on most college or university campuses, and at city, county, or state funded employment offices.

Even if you think that you have got it down, these centers will help you with job searches, generating a strong resume, drafting cover letters, and preparing for interviews. Some even offer referrals. Often times, these centers provide computer labs with printers and paper, as well as other resources needed to find employment.

Make sure that your military experience leads to the civilian career you deserve, by effectively communicating your military work experience. And be sure to use your improved resume to apply for jobs posted on MilitaryConnection.com’s Jobs Page.

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: Next Step, Civilian Career: By Joe Silva

Military Connection: New Army Senior Enlisted Member’s Politics

SMA Daily

 

By Debbie Gregory.

On January 30, 2015, Sergeant Major Daniel Dailey was sworn in as the Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA), becoming the service chief’s top adviser on all matters concerning enlisted soldiers.

The SMA is generally considered the most senior enlisted member of the U.S. Army. But if an Army sergeant is acting as the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that advisor would be considered the most senior enlisted member.

As Sgt. Maj. Dailey takes over the SMA position, he will be a key component as to how the Army views and treats its enlisted members. Over the next few years, the branch will face budget cuts, downsizing, and probable missions against the Islamic State and other threats. Dailey’s views and stances will play a critical role, and many want to know what they are.

The Army’s current force size is at 490,000, with the Pentagon pushing for a force end-strength between 440,000 and 450,000 over the next few years. This means that the Army is going to have to become more selective when it comes to recruiting and retention. The branch is already gearing up for this attitude, as it recently changed its recruiting slogan to “Can you make cut?”

Sgt. Maj. Dailey believes that as part of his duties, he ensures that the Army involuntary separates, or otherwise forces out the least amount of good soldiers as possible. But the SMA is all for putting the “greater good” over what is good for some, and is therefore not opposed to reducing the Army’s force size.

The SMA’s outlook may not be what many current and prospective soldiers want to hear. Many prefer the war-time “come one-come all” and “stay as long you want” attitudes that the Army was pushing regarding recruiting and retention over the last decade and a half. But Sgt. Maj. Dailey’s reasoning is sound, and epitomizes the level of responsibility of his position as Sergeant Major of the Army.

Dailey believes that the U.S. Army has a responsibility to defend this nation, which includes preserving its resources and wealth, even if it means reducing the military’s budget and force size.

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 Army Senior Enlisted Member’s Politics: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Cym Lowell: A Veteran Helping Veterans

Cym Lowell

By Joe Silva.

When Cym Lowell came home from Vietnam, his country did not welcome him like it had done for Veterans of previous wars. There was no parade, no band playing patriotic music no cheering crowds, no praise for these Veterans’ service. Instead, Cym Lowell and most Vietnam Veterans were met by anti-war protestors, who called them names and vilified their war-time service.

Most of the advocacy and resources being offered to Vietnam Veterans was drowned out by the protestors’ voices. But Cym Lowell was determined to provide a different homecoming for the Veterans who came after him. It is for this reason that he founded Operation: Next Chapter.

Operation: Next Chapter works with non-profit Soldiers’ Angels and its initiative Valor: IT, a program that helps to provide voice-controlled laptops to Veterans who were wounded a result of their military service.

Lowell admits that he did not take academics seriously when he was younger. But when he transitioned out of the U.S. Navy, Lowell used his GI Bill to earn a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. He eventually went to law school, and, in 1972, graduated from Duke University’s School of Law. He became a successful tax lawyer and made partner at his firm. In recent years, Cym  began writing thrillers, publishing “Riddle of Berlin” in 2008 and “Jaspar’s War” in 2014.

Through it all, Lowell has been an advocate for Veterans, pledging 100% of the proceeds from “Jaspar’s War” to benefit Operation: Next Chapter.

“When I came home from Vietnam, I was spit upon,” Lowell said. “I wanted to make sure that later generations of Veterans received a much different welcome home.”

The laptops provided through the program cost approximately $800 each, but to the Veterans who receive the voice-controlled laptops, they are priceless. Veterans who are recovering from amputations, burns, eye injuries, paralysis, and traumatic brain injuries use these laptops to communicate with their families and complete other functional tasks while they are in treatment and beyond. With Lowell’s help, some 70 Veterans have received laptops through the Soldiers’ Angels initiative.

“It is such an honor to be able to help Veterans in a way that is useful and meaningful in their lives,” Lowell said.

Now Cym Lowell and Operation: Next Chapter are teaming up with Patriot PAWS, an organization that trains and provides service dogs for disabled Veterans. While the the service dogs are provided at no charge to the Veteran, the care, handling and training of the dog costs patriot PAWS approximately $27,000 per dog. Through this venture, Lowell hopes to continue to provide a better welcome home for disabled Veterans .

You can help Cym Lowell achieve this by purchasing “Jaspar’s War” at Amazon.com, or by donating directly on the Soldiers’ Angels Website and writing “Operation: Next Chapter” in the comments section.

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: Cym Lowell: Veteran Helping Veterans: By Joe Silva

 

Military Connection: San Diego County Honors Veterans

San Diego

By Debbie Gregory.

San Diego County is one of the most military-friendly regions in the country. From Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, to Miramar’s Marine Corps Air Station, to the naval station and installations on North Island and in San Diego proper, the county is teeming with service members who live and work in the area. And when these service members separate from active-duty, many remain in the area with their families.

During his state of the county address last week, County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn dubbed this year “The Year of the Veteran” in San Diego .

More than one-third of the county’s population is made up of Veterans or active military and their families. Chairman Horn, himself a Marine Corps Veteran, believes that ramping up current county programs that connect Veterans and their families with benefits and resources is a top priority.

“These men and women have made sacrifices that often take terrible tolls on their personal lives. As a county and as a community, we have a responsibility to take care of our Veterans,” Horn said in his address at the County Administration Center.

A brand new Veterans Resource Center is scheduled to open this summer at the North Inland Family Resource Center in Escondido. Horn said that the center will be a one-stop shop for Veterans and would connect them with county representatives, access to programs and services and around 15 organizations that provide support.

The center will also offer benefits counseling, employment and housing services, legal aid, transition assistance and college fee waivers. The center is located under the same roof as the family resource center, making family assistance much more accessible.

Over the course of 2015, the county also plans to convert its Department of Veterans Affairs into a streamlined Military and Veterans Department. San Diego County will also begin a program called Vet Connect, which will allow Veterans to access assistance using FaceTime video calling from library computers. Plans are also in the works for a memory care unit at the Chula Vista Veterans Home of California.

The folks at the San Diego County Board of Supervisors seem to understand that military members (past, present and future) are the lifeblood of their region. Providing resources for this population is an extremely well-thought out way to say “thank you for your service” and “welcome home” in San Diego County.

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: San Diego County Honors Veterans

Military Connection: Obama Signs Clay Hunt SAV Act

obama-signing-SAV.jpeg.

By Debbie Gregory.

On February 12, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act H.R. 203, also known as the Clay Hunt SAV Act.

The bill, named after Clay Hunt, a Marine Veteran who committed suicide in 2011, calls for an evaluation of existing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suicide prevention and mental health programs. The bill also improves the reach and efficiency of how these programs are administered to our nation’s military Veterans.

Also included in the legislation is the establishment of a pilot program for community outreach. Part of this outreach program could involve  colleges and universities assisting Veterans in their transition back into their communities.

Currently, just about all colleges offer at least a minimal degree of student psychiatric services. But surprisingly few institutions are staffing full-time advocates and resources provided solely for Veterans, including psychiatric services for Veterans. The truth of the matter is that student Veterans’ mental health needs tend to be similar to the needs of other students. But Veterans tend to have unique challenges that differ from their classmates who are on a traditional track of education.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act calls for the formation of no less than five integrated service networks that will be community oriented peer support programs. The networks will establish peer support training guidelines, as well as veteran peer support counselors.

The bill also includes plans for generating and maintaining a website that will store and disseminate information pertaining to Veteran healthcare services. This will be a collaboration between the VA and non-profit mental health organizations. The Clay Hunt SAV Act also establishes a pilot program to pay the student loans of psychiatrists who come to work for the VA.

The VA has tracked Veteran suicides, and the statistics are staggering; over 8,000 each year- an average of 22 per day. The Clay Hunt SAV Act is the latest and best attempt to combat that high suicide rate among the men and women who have served our 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: Obama Signs Clay Hunt SAV Act: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army Brigade Deploys to Kuwait

3rd BCT

By Debbie Gregory.

While the world is updated daily as to  the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, members of the U.S. military are on the move to confront that force of evil. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado is deploying to Kuwait.

The 3rd BCT is known as the “Iron Brigade.” The unit is Fort Carson’s heaviest force, armed with tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Many of the soldiers in the Iron Brigade served in one or more of the brigade’s four combat tours in Iraq.

The soldiers of the 3rd BCT have trained for over a year for the Kuwait mission. They practiced and re-learned the armored combat skills last used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The 3rd BCT is deploying just days after President Obama asked Congress to authorize new combat efforts against the Islamic State.  But the president’s proposal isn’t intended to use the Army’s big combat units to fight Islamic State militants.

“Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations,” the president said in a letter to Congress. “The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against (Islamic State) leadership.”

Kuwait has housed a U.S. Army brigade since the end of the Iraq war in 2011. Those brigades have worked to train local troops from throughout the Middle East.

A deployment ceremony was held at Fort Carson on February 11th. We wish the men and women of the 3rd BCT a safe and successful deployment, and a safe trip home to their families.

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 Brigade Deploys to Kuwait: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Senate Approves New Secretary of Defense

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By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Ash Carter as the next Secretary of Defense by a vote of 93-5.

Mr. Carter is familiar with the workings of the Pentagon, as he has spent the last few decades working for the Defense Department in a variety of positions. From 1993 to1996, during the Clinton Administration, Carter served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. And then, from April 2009 to October 2011, he served as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. His latest position was essentially serving as the number two at the Pentagon, when he was Deputy Secretary of Defense until December 2013.

Mr. Carter’s appointment will make him the fourth Defense Secretary in six years. Carter replaces Chuck Hagel, who resigned in November over what many claim to be a mutual frustration between Hagel and the Obama Administration.

One top priority on Carter’s to-do list will most likely be rallying support in Congress for the president’s proposal, facilitating the use of force against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Legislators from both parties and in both houses of Congress have expressed their concerns over the proposal.

“I’ll be entirely straight and upfront with the president and make my advice as cogent and useful to him in making his decisions as I can,” Carter vowed at his confirmation hearing.

As Secretary of Defense, Mr. Carter faces the daunting task of heading a military that is pressured by Congress to spend less money, while maintaining a formidable military.  This expectation comes at a time when the world is dealing with the Islamic State and other terrorist militants, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and other brink-of-war occurrences. Adding to the pressure is the eventual troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, preventing circumstances similar to those in Iraq, where more than a decade of work could be undone by extremist groups, following the departure of U.S. forces.

As for the new Defense Secretary’s stances on current politics, Carter told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that he would consider recommending an altered strategy for withdrawing forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, if the situation calls for it. He also told the committee that he was inclined to support providing defensive lethal aid to Ukrainians battling Russian-backed separatists.

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: Senate Approves New Secretary of Defense: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Air Force Couple Spent Valentine’s Day Apart

Valentine's Day

 

By Debbie Gregory.

Over the weekend, many of us celebrated Valentine’s Day spending time with our significant other. Restaurants were packed, greeting card shelves were emptied, and millions of dollars were spent on flowers, chocolates and jewelry.  But, across the country and across the world, there were many people who could not spend Valentine’s Day with the one they love. Many, many service members were not able to spend the day with their Valentine­– especially when both of them are serving in the military.

One military couple was featured in an article written by Air Force Senior Airman Austin Harvill, that was originally posted in the DOD News blog. Air Force Staff Sergeant Denise Brown and her husband, Senior Airman Johnny Brown, were separated on Valentine’s Day as a result of their military service.

In 2014, the two Airmen were dating in Langley, Virginia when Mr. Brown got orders to Kadena Airbase in Japan. Despite being half a world away, the two decided to try to make their relationship work. They kept in contact through video calls, and were finally able to see each other, in-person, over the 2014 holidays, when Denise flew out to Japan. Her beau proposed to her on Christmas Day, and the two Airmen were married one week later.

While it is difficult for a newlywed couple to be apart on their first Valentine’s Day, the Browns remain positive.

“I don’t think about how my husband is gone on Valentine’s Day,” Mrs. Brown said. “I am just grateful to have the best Valentine any one could ever ask for.”

It is important for military families to  find ways to prevent separations from harming their relationships. It is easy to get down and depressed when holidays and special events are spent apart. But making a conscious decision to keep a positive outlook can do wonders for a relationship. It can be used to build a couple’s communication skills and enhance their appreciation for each other.

The Browns show the dedication and awareness of the bigger picture that foreshadows a strong marriage. We wish them joy, happiness and success in their careers and their marriage.

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: Air Force Couple Spent Valentine’s Day Apart: By Debbie Gregory