Elderly Marine Veteran Allegedly Held Captive for Years

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By Debbie Gregory.

In a story almost too tragic and inhumane to tell, 86 year old U.S. Marine veteran David McClellan was apparently held hostage for four years and abused by his captor.

It is alleged that 35-year-old Perry Coniglio has held McClellan prisoner so that he could cash the senior’s Social Security and pension checks, and collect his food stamps.

McClellan was the perfect prey, as he had a lot of money, no known friends or relatives, and he was in an advanced stage of dementia.

“The guy who was arrested who lived next door, he was giving him just one bowl of cereal a day, he would stick him back in the room with a stick, wasn’t bathing him, the old guy would just be walking around here naked, just terrible,” according to one neighbor.

Medics took McClellan to a local hospital to make sure he is physically OK. Orange County’s Adult Protective Services is working with the local police department and will assist in finding the veteran a new residence

Police recovered illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia from Coniglio’s room.

Town of Highlands police arrested Coniglio and charged him with unlawful imprisonment, grand larceny, criminal possession of a weapon, endangering an incompetent person, menacing and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Detective Joseph Cornetta of the Town of Highlands Police Department said Coniglio used “brute force and intimidation” to get the elderly and mentally diminished veteran to cooperate.

As was expected, calls for brute punishment have been flooding the media. So, too have been calls for the investigation of anyone else that may have been complicit in this heinous crime.

In order to prevent this type of elder abuse from happening, we need to be the eyes and ears for those who are most vulnerable.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Senate Reduces BAH for Servicemembers Who Reside Together

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By Debbie Gregory.

How would you feel if your employer cut your salary because you and a co-worker were living together?

Well, the Senate has approved a fiscal 2017 defense authorization that calls for reduced housing allowances as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2943), with 85 senators in support and just 13 opposing.

The verbiage states that servicemembers who share off-base housing stateside will have the benefit cut.

The Senate wants the housing benefit for military troops to be more like the one offered to the State Department’s foreign service officers, who are compensated for actual rental or housing costs.

Beginning January 1, 2018, the Senate legislation sets the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.

The BAH amount caps individual monthly payments to the lesser of two amounts: either what individuals actually pay to rent housing or to a local BAH maximum based on their rank and dependency status.

Last year the Senate proposed two other controversial changes to BAH. Neither survived final negotiations with the House.

The Senate committee under John McCain has said that the perception of housing allowances has become distorted from the original intent, which was to provide a housing benefit for servicemembers in recognition of the transient nature of military service, and in further recognition of the reality that civilian spouses are often unemployed and sacrifice careers of their own.

The DOD has made BAH integral to its calculation of Regular Military Compensation, which is used to compare compensation to civilian salaries and track the adequacy of military pay.

Although it’s a done-deal, what do you think? Is this fair?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Spouses Are Not getting Fair Treatment

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By Debbie Gregory.

According to an Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) report entitled, “The Force Behind the Force: A Business Case for Leveraging Military Spouse Talent,” military spouses are not faring as well as their civilian counterparts.

There are more than one million active duty, guard, and reserve military spouses, more than 15 million veterans’ spouses, and an estimated 5.8 million surviving spouses of veterans in the U.S.

Yet, military spouses are largely overlooked as part of a talent pipeline.

The IVMF report, sponsored by Syracuse University and funded by Prudential Financial, was launched July 14, 2016. It is the first in a series of three research papers as part of an overall study on military spouse employment.

The report revealed that female military spouses earn significantly less than their civilian female peers

It also found that military spouses have a significantly higher unemployment rate (almost three times as many) as their civilian peers. When looking for reasons why there is this disparity, the report found that it was due to factors such as frequent relocations,  a lack of childcare, and the responsibility of single-parenting due to the absence of their active duty spouse

But employers may be missing out if they choose not to hire military spouses. As a rule, they are educated, motivated to work, and have numerous attributes that are valuable in the workplace.

“This research highlights that military spouses bring a variety of business enhancing characteristics to the workplace–such as diversity, resilience, adaptability and high civic-engagement–and offers a compelling business case to recruit and hire them,” said Dr. Nick Armstrong, senior director of research and policy at IVMF.

Additionally, each year, military spouses provide billions of dollars worth of free labor through their volunteerism.

It is often said that military spouses also serve. Their impact on military readiness and retention is invaluable.
“Military spouses are a great source of talent and an integral part of our talent pipeline strategy,” said James Beamesderfer, vice president, Veterans Initiatives at Prudential. “We know that more than one third of them say they are unemployed or underemployed. We want to help turn that around by providing them with meaningful career opportunities. That’s why we’re working with the IVMF to fund the research and share best practices with other employers.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Reuniting MWDs and their Battle Buddies

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By Debbie Gregory.

Molli Oliver has worked more than 40 years as a flight attendant. The 5-foot-2 United Airlines employee has worked many military charters in the past, serving both military K9 handlers and their Military Working Dogs (MWDs.)

Oliver is on a mission of her own: working to reunite retired MWDs with their former handlers.

It all started when she struck up a conversation with a soldier, who was still brokenhearted five years after parting ways with his military canine.

She asked him, “Well, where is the dog? I’ll get him for you.”

The 65 year old Los Angeles resident combines her deep bond with the military and her love for dogs. She has absorbed the costs associated with these reunions.

She was deeply touched by Sgt. Andrew Mulherron’s story as she flew with Marines heading for deployment overseas in April 2015. Mulherron was the first handler for another black lab, Boone, starting in 2009. Boone was a decorated MWD, receiving a medal for detecting 11 confirmed explosive devices in Afghanistan.

Mulherron settled in California and Boone went to another handler. Oliver tracked down Boone and was able to secure permission to fly him to California.

On October 22, 2015, Mulherron was reunited with Boone in 29 Palms, CA.

Another success story, Oliver’s fifth, is Taylor, a yellow lab who served her country in Afghanistan, with her handler, Sgt. Tom Hansen. Oliver flew to St. Louis to pick up Taylor, then to Boise to meet Sgt. Hansen.

Over the course of a dog’s working life, the animal typically goes through several handlers. When the dog is retired, the final handler usually gets first dibs. Other times, a past handler has made it clear he or she wants to adopt. If multiple handlers want the dog, the commander chooses “based on the best interest of the dog,” according to Doug Miller, working dog manager for the Department of Defense.

Oliver has created a nonprofit called MUMS DOGS (Molli’s Uniting Military Service Dogs) to help bring more retired military working dogs together with their former handlers.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Professional Athletes Hope to Fulfill Military Service, and Vice-Versa

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By Debbie Gregory.

On July 5, 2016, Brayan Pena of the St. Louis Cardinals announced that he was planning to join the Army Reserve after the 2016 season. Later that day though, he was informed that he was unable to enlist because such an action would violate the terms of his contract.

But not one to accept defeat, Peña has instead chosen to become an ambassador for the troops, where he will be visiting the troops overseas and conducting baseball clinics.

The Cuban native, who defected in 1999, has been a U.S. citizen for six years.

“It’s time for me to give something back to this great country. It’s not something where I just woke up and did it. I’ve given it some thought and some research. I’m very excited. It’s an honor for me.”

Pena said leaving Cuba for the United States dramatically changed his life, and he began considering the Reserve several years ago when he talked about it with former Cincinnati Reds teammate Jay Bruce.

In other military/sports related news, 24-year-old Christian Hill, who spent five years on active duty in the Air Force, is utilizing an early separation program from the military for an opportunity to go to school and play college football this fall for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Additionally, U.S. Army reservist and pole vaulter Sam Kendricks is on his way to Rio! The 23-year-old second lieutenant set a new U.S. Track and Field Trials record on the 4th of July with his 19 feet, 4 3/4 inches (5.91 meters) jump.

Kendricks won’t be the only representative for the Armed Forces making his way to Rio to compete in the summer Olympics. U.S. Air Force Academy star Cale Simmons finished in second place, good enough to make the team as well.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Rand Study Reveals Interesting Findings Re: Veteran Unemployment

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By Debbie Gregory.

According to a 15 year RAND study, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are not having as much of a difficult time finding employment as some sources would have the public believe.

There are still many hurdles to overcome, with the study revealing that veterans aged 18 to 24 who have recently separated have struggled to find jobs compared to the same demographic in the civilian population. With that said, part of that statistical information may be due to the fact that this age group is opting to use their education benefits and attend school rather than working full time jobs.

Other post-9/11 veterans do not have a much higher unemployment rate than their civilian counterparts. While the media relies on data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics for its reporting, RAND looked at the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, where the sample size is much larger. Utilizing these numbers, the RAND study shows that post-9/11 veteran unemployment is not so different when compared to demographically similar non-veterans.

Also factoring in to the unemployment statistics is the number of veterans who are receiving unemployment benefits. With that said, the RAND study found that the majority of veterans receiving unemployment benefits were reservists returning from mobilization in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The RAND study found that tax credits for hiring veterans, such as the Vow to Hire Heroes Act and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, have had a positive effect on veteran hiring.

So have programs designed to improve veterans’ transition and employment opportunities, such as the 100,000 Jobs Mission, which has exceeded expectations.

Whether you are an employer looking to reach the veteran community with your job openings, an institution of higher learning, or a member of the military, a veteran or a supporter, we hope you will reach out to MilitaryConnection.com.  We are known as “the Go To Site” and have of the most comprehensive online directories of resources and information for our audience.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Employer Survey Reveals Surprising Attitude Towards Vets

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By Debbie Gregory.

While American employers see veterans as “heroes,” they don’t necessarily see them as “assets”, according to a recent survey.

The survey, done by the Edelman marketing firm, found that the designation of “hero” can create an emotional distance between veterans and civilians.  This in turn can make it difficult for civilians to connect with veterans and view them as potential colleagues.

The online survey found that 84% of employers and 75% of civilians see veterans as heroes. But only 26% of employers and 22% of civilians think veterans are “strategic assets” in their communities.

The survey also found that employers most commonly think about mental health problems when they think about veterans.

While the jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan has decreased in recent years, there are concerns about the quality of employment.

Survey results were released as part of a joint effort by Edelman, Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that provides counseling to troops and veterans, and the George W. Bush Institute.

“The issue is about long-term job fit, advancement, retention. Is the veteran given the same look as others?” said  Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour.

The goal was to examine the “well-being” of veterans and what was described as an ongoing schism between civilians and those who serve in the military, according to Van Dahlen.

Van Dahlen said the contrasting view that veterans are heroes, but not assets, is a product of an American culture in need of heroes, but lacking understanding of its military. “These folks come home from war, they’ve seen and done things that would make many of us feel uneasy, uncomfortable, intimidated. And so by seeing them in this way, as heroes, it does keep us distant from them.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Family Residency Program Provides Military Healthcare

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Military Family Care Residency Program brings together military physicians and allied medical personnel with their civilian counterparts to provide top-notch healthcare to their patients.

Each year, 42 residents go through the program, which lasts three years. Each class has 14 participants—eight military members and six civilians. To be accepted into the program, both military and civilian residents must graduate from medical school.

The program, which had been located at Scott Air Force Base, IL, is now located at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, IL. It is the only fully-integrated civilian-military family residency in the Air Force that combines a community-based and a military residency.

The concentration changes every month. Students are required to learn every specialty under Family Medicine in a short amount of time, making it an intensive learning program

Lt. Colonel Matthew Snyder, MFCRP military program director, said that the program is designed to offer students a “full scope” training method, meaning students are not specifically trained in family medicine.

“They are trained in everything,” said Snyder. “That way they can become the most valuable family medicine physicians the Air Force can produce.”

The program began in 1972 and was located at Scott Air Force Base. When the hospital on base closed down in 1996, the program moved to St. Elizabeth’s. Late next year, St. Elizabeth’s will be moving locations along with the residency clinic, but the residency program will remain the same.

The new location will allow more efficient patient care and will also be closer to Scott AFB, making it easier for most DOD beneficiaries to receive care, Snyder said.

“I have a great opportunity to not only shape future Air Force physicians but to also teach and have a direct impact on their education,” said Snyder.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Army Joins Forces with French Company on Zika Virus

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By Debbie Gregory.

French drugmaker Sanofi has reached a research and development deal with the U.S. Army to develop a vaccine against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

A vaccine to combat Zika, which has been linked to birth defects and neurological disorders, is currently not available.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause the birth defect microcephaly, or small heads in babies, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder.

Sanofi is the only major drugmaker working on a vaccine.

The collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) gives Sanofi access to a promising new vaccine, made from inactivated virus, that has already produced impressive results in mice, and could be ready for testing on humans in October.

WRAIR is a biomedical research facility administered by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Zika virus, which has caused a major outbreak that began in Brazil last year, has spread to many countries in the Americas.

A single dose of the WRAIR’s experimental vaccine was shown to give 100 percent protection in mice against the Zika virus, according to a study published in Nature last week, boosting hopes that it will also work in humans.

Sanofi is developing another Zika vaccine based on its own know-how in battling established mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.

However, that vaccine will take longer to develop and Sanofi said earlier this year it did not expect to start clinical trials on its in-house Zika candidate until 2017.

Sanofi’s factory in Lyon is capable of producing 100 million doses per year of its four-strain dengue shot, which could be adapted if needed to make even more doses of a single-strain Zika product.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Status Could Give Veterans a Chance Instead of a Cell

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Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but in many cases, the combat experience has left veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment.  One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse issue.

Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system. Veterans’ treatment courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders.

These specialized courts promote sobriety, recovery and stability, and substance abuse or mental health treatment is offered as an alternative to incarceration and punitive punishments. This is accomplished through the cooperation and collaboration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks and the Veterans’ Benefits Administration, and at times, volunteer veteran mentors and veterans’ family support organizations.

Veterans Treatment Courts are tapping into the unique aspects of military and veteran culture and using it to the benefit of the veteran. They act as a “one-stop shop,” linking veterans with the programs, benefits and services they have earned.

Veterans Treatment Courts are being established in jurisdictions across the country, and by utilizing the same rigorous protocol of treatment and personal accountability, they are keeping eligible Veterans out of jail or prison and making sure they get needed treatment and support.

Contact your local court system to determine if your community has a Veterans Treatment Court already. If not, be sure to ask if one is in the process of being started.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.