Military Connection: Proposed Changes to Military Retirement

military retirement

By Debbie Gregory.

Current service members are well aware that the military has been taking measures to cut its spending, in light of our nation’s current economic state. Every branch has seen noticeable reductions in force size, with tens of thousands of service members encouraged to enter early retirement or into involuntary separation. Now those who fought to remain in the military may see their retirement benefits reduced as proposals to overhaul the military retirement system mill about our nation’s capital. How will the changes affect those who serve twenty years in the military?

Traditionally, only service members who remain in the military for a full twenty years or more get retirement pensions, medical benefits for themselves and their dependents, as well as other benefits. Exceptions to this policy are those who have a service-related disability, those who received a medical retirement, and those who took the offered early, pro-rated retirement to help force reduction efforts. More than eighty percent of service members don’t meet the requirements for military retirement, and therefore, don’t receive pensions or benefits after they complete their tours of duty.

One of the proposed changes could benefit those who serve and don’t qualify for military retirement, as a proposed new model would offer service members a personal retirement savings account benefit, wherein the government would make annual contributions of up to six percent of their basic pay.

However, this proposed system complicates matters for service members who plan to make a career out of the military and retire with twenty years in. The new system calls for cutting the size of the current pension by twenty percent, an average of over $4,000 per year. To make up for that, the Department of Defense would open 401(k)-style retirement accounts. Funds placed into these accounts will not be available for withdrawal without a tax penalty before the service member reaches age sixty.

The proposed changes to military retirement also effect on when the service member can begin receiving their retirement pension. Under current policy, an individual who enlists at eighteen years old and retires after twenty years can begin collecting their retirement checks as soon as they retire at age thirty-eight. Under the new system, military retirees would have to wait until they are sixty to start receiving retirement pay.

The proposed changes to the retirement system are included in the 2016 defense authorization bill that is moving through Congress. Under that legislation, today’s troops would have about 18 months to make a decision, by 2017, on whether to stick with the old benefit or sign up for the new plan. Let us hope that our elected leaders do what is right when making decisions for our service members. Be sure to contact your representative and senators to make sure that they know how you want them to represent you.

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: Proposed Changes to Military Retirement: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Major Investigation Into Army Warrior Care

warrior care

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army established Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) at major military treatment facilities around the world to provide personalized support to wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. Usually severely wounded, these soldiers require at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management. Also treated in the units are mobilized Reserve Component Soldiers requiring definitive care. But now, a key congressional committee is looking into allegations of harassment and mistreatment within the units.

The House Subcommittee on Military Personnel also called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to gauge the long-term viability of the WTUs, given the decline in the numbers of wounded troops in recent years as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down. The call for the GAO investigation came as the Army planned to close 10 of its 25 WTUs.

The WTUs scheduled for inactivation by August 2016 are at Fort Gordon, Ga.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Polk, La.; Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Fort Meade, Md.; and Naval Medical Center, San Diego.

The Army has pushed back against the suggestion that allegations of harassment and disrespect by WTU staff indicated a pattern of abuse or systemic mistreatment, arguing that complaints along those lines were isolated incidents.

The subcommittee directed the GAO to evaluate how well the Army responds to complaints by soldiers in the WTUs and the selection and training of their leaders.

In a recent statement, Col. Chris Toner, head of the Army’s Warrior Transition Command, said “I treat all these allegations seriously.” He said he had a “zero tolerance” policy for disrespect and mistreatment by staff.

The Army Medical Command welcomes any reviews “in our ongoing quest to improve the care provided to our soldiers in transition,” a spokesman said Thursday.

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: Major Investigation Into Army Warrior Care: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Operation Engage America Holds 2nd Annual Community Event

OEA

By Debbie Gregory.

The death of a child is the most devastating loss. Ever. You mourn not only the loss of life, but also the loss of their potential and their future. Your life is forever changed. But sometimes that loss can be the catalyst to set into motion actions that honor the memory of your child.

That is exactly what Howard and Jean Somers did. Following the suicide of their son, CA Army National Guard Veteran Daniel Somers, they channeled their grief into a call to action, founding Operation Engage America (OEA).

When Daniel transitioned back to civilian life after serving in the Iraq war, he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Gulf War Syndrome. He was in constant pain, both mentally and physically, and found significant obstacles to seeking care for himself.

Operation Engage America is Howard and Jean’s mission to ensure that no other Veteran or family suffers as they have. They are now armed with information and resources that they want to share in an attempt to reduce the alarming suicide statistics for those suffering with PTSD and TBI

With some 46,000 volunteer organizations dedicated to helping those who serve, past and present, as well as their families, the most important job is getting the right information and resources to those who need them. To that end, on the 20th of  June, as part of PTSD Awareness month, OEA will have their second annual OEA community event, currently held in San Diego and Des Moines. It is their  hope that this grassroots event will begin to spread to communities throughout the U.S.

Here is your opportunity to join the effort.  As an attendee, you could be the resource that saves the life of a Veteran.  If you are an organization whose mission is to help Veterans and their families, click here. For more information about OEA, visit them at http://operation-engage-america.org/index.html.

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: Operation Engage America Holds 2nd Annual Community Event: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Limits on Military Gear Sold to Police

police tank

By Debbie Gregory.

Lately, it seems as though media outlets are reporting on conflicts and protests against law enforcement.  As many of our readers are former military, they often side with law enforcement, as do many law abiding patriotic Americans. With that said, it is important to keep in mind that military and local law enforcement are two different entities, each with separate, but equally important missions to our country, its government, and the American way of life. While similar in nature and mentality, they are two separate trades- and the tools for each trade should also be separate.

For years, the military has offered surplus and out of date weapons, gear, ammunition, and vehicles to law enforcement agencies at discounted prices. Recently, the White House announced new limitations on federal programs that provide military grade equipment, weaponry, and vehicles to state and local law enforcement agencies. From now on, there will be restrictions on gear such as armed aircraft, tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers and high-powered guns and ammo of .50 caliber or greater. The restrictions prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from acquiring such equipment from federal agencies or with federal funds.

Additionally, the restrictions will put terms on law enforcement agencies wishing to acquire more common equipment from the military. Riot gear, drones, helicopters, firearms, and wheeled armored vehicles will now have to be approved by local government before law enforcement agencies are able to purchase them from the military. Agencies will be required to provide explanations for the need of the equipment as part of their mission and duties, and prove that the members of their force are properly trained to use such equipment before a purchase can be made.

Since the 1990s, more than $4 billion worth of military grade equipment has been procured by law enforcement agencies. Naturally, many law enforcement agencies and their supporters across the country are not pleased with the restrictions. But the risks of misusing such powerful equipment is too great. More to the point, such equipment is generally used for military assaults, and is not essential for agencies that are intended to “protect and serve.”

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: New Limits on Military Gear Sold to Police: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army Looks At Credentialing Soldiers For Jobs

spitlerBy Debbie Gregory.

Upon entering the military, a soldier becomes a highly-trained individual prepared to face any situation on the battlefield and beyond.  Recently, Maj. Gen. Rex A. Spitler spoke at an American Legion National Credentialing Summit identifying that the Army should take measures to help soldiers be recognized for their skill sets upon re-entering the civilian marketplace.

As deputy chief of staff for the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Spitler sees 500,000 individuals process through his facility each year, knowing that the value each soldier carries from their military training is a great asset to the civilian world. Therefore, upon leaving the military, soldiers should be armed with credentials that provide them with a foothold in their civilian careers.

The Army trains its members to engage in the complex world, where the next battle is “unknown and unknowable,” Spitler said. “We’re not quite sure what we’re going to see when we go into that next battle.”

Spitler cited the Army’s Soldier for Life program as an example, that once a person enters the Army, they are truly serving their whole life in that their impact in their community and beyond after active duty is a reflection of the person they became because of the military.

The two-day American Legion summit was comprised of Veterans, government officials and members of all the services.

“The conference highlighted the importance of creating a skilled workforce that not only strengthens the military in these challenging times, but also helps the military member,”  said Steve Gonzalez, Assistant Director, Veterans’ employment and education division at the American Legion. The focus was to assure that the Army maintains professional industry best practices, providing the military with the highest caliber of personnel.  Those serving in the military should find out now what opportunities for credentialing are available to them, so that they can make the best use of the education and training available, to benefit them now and beyond their military careers.

Spitler also stated, “We’re training them how to survive and win in any environment that they’re engaged in, which also includes the civilian marketplace.”

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 Looks At Credentialing Soldiers For Jobs: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: California School Suspended from GI Bill

ITT-Tech

By Debbie Gregory.

All fifteen campuses of one popular vocational school in California have been suspended from enrolling new Veteran students.

The California State Approving Agency for Veteran Education (CSAAVE) has suspended ITT Educational Services, including its ITT Technical Institute. CSAAVE falls under the authority of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), which answers to the federal department, the Veterans Affairs (VA).

One of the most generous and commonly used Veteran benefits is the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The benefit is administered by the VA, and can be used at colleges, universities and vocational/technical schools that have been approved by the VA and its approving agencies in each state.

Under the suspension, CSAAVE will no longer approve new benefits claims for Veteran and dependent students who apply to use their benefit at ITT Educational Services programs in California. The reason for the suspension is that the school was reported to have failed to provide required financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“CalVet takes very seriously our duty to ensure our California Veterans receive the education and training they are paying for with their earned GI Bill benefits,” said CalVet Deputy Secretary of Veteran Services, Keith Boylan. “CSAAVE suspended ITT because ITT does not meet the required accreditation standards for approval.”

According to CalVet, ITT Educational Services’ failure to provide the SEC with audited financial statements was sufficient reason to support the suspension of fund eligibility.

ITT Educational Services has until July 13th to produce the required financial documents. If it fails to do so, CalVet has the authority to withdraw the company’s VA provider status in California. At that point, all students currently enrolled at the campuses would no longer be able to use GI Bill benefits to pay for their education at ITT schools in the state.

There are approximately 1,400 students enrolled in programs with ITT Educational Services through utilization of VA education benefits. If the school can produce the documents by the July deadline, the suspension should not interfere with the continued education of these Veterans and dependents, as long as they do not stop their program for a semester or more and try to restart at a later time. If the school fails to do so, these Veteran and dependent GI Bill students will have to find other schools to finish their degrees or certificate programs. Unfortunately for these Veterans, while vocational/tech schools often lead directly to employment in specific fields, they are also notorious for not providing transferable credits for students to use at other institutions.

For the sake of the 1,400 Veteran students enrolled at ITT Educational Services, let us hope that the school can resolve its issues with the SEC and CalVet, and better serve their GI Bill students in the future.

Veterans currently enrolled at ITT Educational Services institutions who have questions about the future of their benefits can contact the VA at 1 (800) 827-1000, or send their questions online using the VA’s Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS).

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: California School Suspended from GI Bill: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Two Soldiers Arrested for Selling Guns

guns seizedBy Joe Silva

Two members of the Army National Guard were arrested in California, accused of selling weapons, ammunition and body armor.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Reyes and Specialist Jaime Casillas were assigned to Troop C, 1-18, a California Army National Guard Cavalry unit stationed at the Armory in El Cajon.

On seven separate occasions, the two soldiers sold  a total of $13,000 worth of military property to undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The items included: four AR-15 rifles, an AK-47 assault rifle, a .40-caliber pistol, and a 7.62-caliber SKS rifle, body armor and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Reyes claims that some of the guns were his, and that he purchased them in Texas.

The undercover ATF agents told the two soldiers that they were members of a Mexican drug cartel, and that the guns would be transported into Mexico. Both men were reported to have been in uniform for at least one of the meetings with the agents.

Reyes and Casillas were arrested on April 16, 2015. Each man faces a charge of dealing firearms without a federal license. Reyes faces an additional charge of unlicensed transportation of weapons. Casillas is a Mexican national, and may have joined the military to assist in becoming a U.S. citizen. Both men are considered to be flight risks because they each travel to Mexico as many as four days/week.

There is no defending this behavior. Stories like this always beg the question, how did no one notice? I wonder what sort of investigation will be happening at that armory and what procedural changes will take place? As a Veteran, stories such as this, that tarnish the military that I served in, disgust me. The fact that I have to report them makes me even more uncomfortable. But I hope that some service members may read this article or hear about this incident, and become more observant where they work. Ensuring others aren’t acting in a similar matter will uphold all of the virtues our military represents.

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: Two Soldiers Arrested for Selling Guns: By Joe Silva

Military Connection: Model for Rating Veteran-Friendly Schools

Vet friendly schoolsBy Joe Silva

Since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2009, more than one million individuals, including Veterans and dependents with transferred GI Bill benefits, have enrolled at institutions of higher education. And approximately 250,000 service members continue to separate from the military each year, the majority of whom will use their GI Bill to attend college. In response to all of these Veterans attending school through use of GI Bill benefits, many institutions have been vying for their federally paid tuition money, and the extra grant funding offered to schools that serve Veterans. Even with the best intentions in mind, some institutions have lost sight of the need to serve each Veteran student individually. It has become hard to tell which schools are actually out to help Veterans, and which are out solely to help themselves.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) has come up with a possible solution for their state that could set the standard for the entire country. The MVAA has devised a rating system for colleges and universities that provides Veterans with a means to determine their prospective school’s track record for serving Veteran students.

The MVAA looks at criteria such as:

  • On-campus Veteran’s coordinator and/or staffed Veterans center
  • Active student-operated Veteran club/association
  • Established process for the identification of current student Veterans
  • Evaluation and awarding of credit for military training and experience
  • Veteran-specific website/portal
  • Monitoring and evaluation of student Veteran academic retention, completion and graduation rates
  • Monitoring and evaluation of student Veteran job placement rates

If a school has at least three of the above, the MVAA gives them a Bronze rating. If the school has four, they receive a Silver rating. If they are found to provide six or more of the above, schools are given a Gold rating. The ratings are announced by MVAA and placed on their website for Veterans to consider when they are researching schools to use their GI Bill.

While this rating system is currently only used in Michigan, it could be something to consider doing nationally, ideally by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which administers Veteran education benefits. When using the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool, Veterans have access to information such as how many GI Bill students attend a particular school, if that school has a Veterans club/group, and if they are a Yellow Ribbon School. Also available is information such as whether the school is in compliance with the president’s “Principles of Excellence,” do they abide by the “8 Keys to Veterans Success,” and if the school has had any complaints made to the VA by way of Veteran student feedback. Furthermore, Veterans can see how the school is accredited, and view the amount of fees paid through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program. All the VA would have to do to implement a program similar to the one that the MVAA has in place would be to calculate the data that it is already collecting.

Veteran students will still have a choice of where they want to attend, but knowing if their prospective school is or isn’t doing all that they can to serve their Veteran students could assist with the decision making process.

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: Model for Rating Veteran-Friendly Schools: By Joe Silva

Military Connection: Mau is First Female F-35 Pilot

Military Connection: mau

By Debbie Gregory.

Meet the first female F-35 fighter jet pilot.

Lt. Col. Christine Mau, the 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group deputy commander, piloted her first training flight in the state of the art jet, following 14 virtual training missions in the mission simulator.

Mau is an experienced pilot who has served with the Air Force overseas. In 2011, she was a member of the service’s first all-female combat-mission team, which included pilots, weapons-systems officers and mission planners in the Kunar Valley of Afghanistan.

“Flying is a great equalizer,” Mau said in a statement. “The plane doesn’t know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support. You just have to perform.”

Women have served in combat aviation roles in those and other aircraft for more than 20 years. Mau joked that the only difference between her and her male colleagues is the size of her G-suit and face mask.

Mau acknowledged that although she may be the first female in the F-35 program, gender has no bearing on her performance as a fighter pilot. It was Mau’s combat experience and technical prowess in the cockpit that were the primary draws for her selection to her position with the 33rd OG.

“As a service, we need to attract the most innovative and skillful Airmen possible for one reason; it makes us more effective,” said Col. Todd Canterbury, the 33rd FW commander. “The broader the net that we cast into the talent pool, coupled with a laser focus on performance, ensures we have the best Airmen in place to carry out the mission. Performance is key, and it’s the standard we hold all of our Airmen to in the Air Force. Lt. Col. Mau brings a valuable level of combat and operational knowledge to our team. ”

We wish Mau all the best as she takes to the skies.

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: Mau is First Female F-35 Pilot: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Playing for a Cause

gol

By Debbie Gregory.

Since its inception in 2005, For The Troops, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has been dedicated to providing American military troops with “We Care” packages.

For The Troops has distributed more than 100,000 packages to our service members overseas. Every package contains basic necessities, goodies, games, but most importantly, a show of support from home.

What started on a small scale, with the desire to ensure that our service members would have access to everyday comforts that we all take for granted, has grown into a community-wide undertaking.

Thanks to the generous donation of time and effort, the all-volunteer crew can be found at the organization’s storefront office in Simi Valley, CA, packing boxes of donated items. Volunteers consisting of students, seniors and other individuals also handwrite letters to make sure that each box is personalized for the recipient.

Volunteers also serve at fundraising events, such as the annual military tribute gala and annual golf tournament. This Monday, June 1, marks the 5th Annual Heroes Golf Tournament at Moorpark Country Club.

Everyone is invited to try their luck on the ball drop raffle, with tickets priced at $10 each, 3 for $25, or 13 for $100. The lucky grand prize winner will receive two first class Delta Air Lines tickets to Maui, with a four night stay at the Four Seasons Resort, as well as $1,000 spending money. The prize also includes a Limo to and from LAX!

For anyone interested in playing in the tournament or donating a round to a U.S. Veteran, please contact Tony DiRaimondo at 213 820-3811. Awards dinner attendees will also be able to participate in the silent and live auctions.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available. But hurry, because June 1st will be here before you know it!

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: Playing for a Cause: By Debbie Gregory