Healing from Injury: Using CBD to Promote Recovery

Healing from Injury: Using CBD to Promote Recovery


Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso


Science is continually improving – and those scientific improvements bring about better treatment methods and plans for everyone, including our injured soldiers and veterans. As the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and there have been significant advances in pain management and treatment knowledge over the past two decades.Some of those advancements have proved life-changing for some. While science has led us down a promising path in pain management, more needs to happen before possibly catastrophic injuries can be treated without the risk of a possible opioid addiction during the healing process. 


It’s hard to miss the medicinal marijuana debates. Long viewed as a “gateway drug,” medicinal marijana is distributed through dispensaries to qualified applicants who are under the care of a doctor. These patients are often seeking relief from medicinal marijuana for other treatments – such as chemotherapy. However, it can also provide benefits to those with chronic pain illnesses, such as ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis). These dispensaries and treatment plans that include controlled and regulated medicinal marijuana are certainly changing the face of pain management. However, there is another option with similar benefits: CBD oils. 


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the oil derived from the Hemp plant. Hemp and marijuana plants are genetically similar. However, Hemp, and subsequently CBD oils, lack the same levels of THC. (Some CBD oils do sport trace amounts of THC, but minute in comparison to the THC levels found in medicinal marijuana). Why is this important? THC – or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – is the ingredient in marijuana that causes the user to feel “high.” It’s fair to note that not all patients with chronic pain or injuries enjoy the feeling of being altered or “high.” For those patients, CBD oils and products can provide a safe and successful alternative.


In 2005 I fractured my ankle in three different sports. I broke the fibula, tibia and talus in such a fashion that surgery was required to put my right ankle back together again. A small plate with six screws and three pins were all surgically inserted.  I had a second surgery almost four months later to remove the plate and screws that were rejected from the bone and then a third surgery in 2013 to remove one of the small pins that was also in the process of rejecting. Fourteen years later and I was still living with daily pain and discomfort. Though I had no abnormal build up of arthritis in the joint, walking down the stairs in the morning was a task that I handled one little step at a time…and sideways, since my right ankle would not bend enough to accomodate the steps. Pain was constant and pain management was ibuprofen each morning and an ibuprofen with a sleep aid at night. Until two months ago when I met Steve Raack and he introduced me to Vitalibis. 


Steve reached out to us at MilitaryConnection.com because of the potential healing power that CBD oils could hold for veterans. My first phone call with Steve lasted nearly an hour. He offered to send me some samples, as I had never tried CBD oils and he felt that the best way to learn about and then promote the product line was to actually feel the results. As I hung up the phone that day, I found myself skeptically hopeful. When you live in pain, you learn to get used to the pain. It had been so long since I walked down the steps in the morning like a normal person, I nearly forgot what it was like to be able to have mobility. 


I have a tendency to make light of my injury. I refer to my right ankle as “Frankenankle” and joke about the things that are difficult or nearly impossible for me to do – like steps and squats. Mornings are the toughest time of day for me and the stiffness fades as the day wears on (and as the weather warms), but it is still a daily discomfort. 


It is just my ankle. It is still there. I can still use it. What are the levels of pain and discomfort for those who have had serious injury or lost a part of themselves? When the box of Vitalibis products arrived, I found myself hoping that this little package contained a minor miracle for me – and perhaps a more major one for many.


I tore open the box and dug through my new goodies and pulled out the Soothing Body Cream first. That night, I rubbed a dime-sized amount into Frankenankle and instead of taking my normal ibuprofen with sleep aid, I let the warming/cooling tingling on my ankle do its magic. The weight of my blankets didn’t bother my ankle that night. I didn’t wake up uncomfortable through the course of the night. The next morning, bleary-eyed and barely awake, I stumbled down the steps in my normal fashion. It wasn’t until I was in my kitchen that I questioned my trip down the steps and if I would have been able to walk down normally had I tried. 


I got my answer about a week later. I had hit snooze on my alarm, so when my eyes actually fluttered open, I was late and needed to get downstairs in a hurry. I raced down the steps. I didn’t go down sideways and I didn’t hesitate. I ran down the steps like a normal person without injury. Being in a hurry to get downstairs, I did what my body could do, not what my brain allowed. 


After just eight nights of using the Vitalibis Soothing Body Cream, I had regained more mobility than I had achieved in the past fifteen years! Say no more, Vitalibis and scientific data! My own personal research has me convinced! It was at this point I reopened that little magical cardboard box and explored the rest of its contents. Signature 300 was my next planned experiment – but not on me. I decided to try it on my anxiety-riddled and skittish pit mix dog who still acts like a puppy and gets so nervous and excited that she is prone to hurting herself when she runs across the hardwood floors and faceplants into the wall! Our little rescue – formerly in abusive situations – will panic whenever we leave and will eat things she shouldn’t (like wood and dirty diapers). 


I started giving her about ¼ of a dropper per day. While she isn’t going to hold it under her tongue as suggested, she does happily eat it when mixed with some whipped cream! We started to see a difference in her in just two weeks. Crated for her own safety when we leave, we no longer needed to zip tie the crate door closed. Her calmer demeanor means I don’t fear her safety. It means she walks – not attempts to run – across the hardwood and arrives safely every time. 


The scientific jury is technically still out regarding the broad benefits of CBD oil use. There haven’t been enough studies to prove the effectiveness of CBD oil or to say for sure that it is a reliable alternative to opioid medications.The personal jury, however, is in. I can attest to the benefits that I have personally received from using CBD oil product and I recommend that anyone facing chronic pain issues give it a try. 


I have tried and love Vitalibis – more than just their products. I appreciate their corporate transparency and third-party research and testing. It is important to have that when trying any new product. It’s also important to keep your medical professional who has been charged with your care in the loop that you are trying something new. 


The possibilities for CBD oils are endless – and will certainly bring positives changes to many as the research catches up to the practical use.


As Vitalibis and Steve Raack say – “be well.”


Chapter 35 Benefits – The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

Chapter 35 Benefits – The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


The Department of Veterans Affairs has plenty of great programs in place for Veterans and their families, and most of us have at least been briefed on these benefits or received a press release in the mail. That said, there are still VA programs that don’t get much press, but that can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those who are eligible. The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program, or DEA for short, is one such benefit.


Authorized by Chapter 35 of Title 38, U.S. Code, the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program is an education benefit that offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of two groups of Veterans: those who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or those who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition.


The rest of this post is intended to pass along answers to some of the most common questions the Department of Veterans Affairs receives, such as the types of training available, payment rates, how payments are received, eligibility rules, and more. As with most benefits programs, things change from time to time (what’s authorized, what you’ll need to do in what order, etc.) and there are often exceptions to some of the rules and regulations; visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/DEA.asp for the most current information available.



DEA Eligibility. You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of:


…A Veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability. The disability must arise out of active service in the Armed Forces.


…A Veteran who died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability was in existence.


…A Servicemember missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.


…A Servicemember forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.


…A Servicemember who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability (effective Dec. 23, 2006.).


Additional notes on eligibility…


If you are a son or daughter and wish to receive benefits for attending school or job training, you must be between the ages of 18 and 26 (in certain instances, it is possible to begin before age 18 and to continue after age 26). Marriage is not a bar to this benefit. If you are in the Armed Forces, you may not receive this benefit while on active duty. To pursue training after military service, your discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions. VA can extend your period of eligibility by the number of months and days equal to the time spent on active duty. Typically, this extension cannot go beyond your 31st birthday, but there are some exceptions.


If you are a spouse, benefits end 10 years from the date VA finds you eligible or from the date of death of the Veteran. If VA rated the Veteran permanently and totally disabled with an effective date of three years from discharge, a spouse will remain eligible for 20 years from the effective date of the rating. For surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died on active duty, benefits end 20 years from the date of death.


Types of Assistance with DEA. Benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. The benefit provides a monthly payment to help cover the cost of getting a High School Diploma or GED; taking College, Business, Technical or Vocational Courses; completing Independent Study or Distance Learning courses; taking Correspondence Courses (Spouses Only); Apprenticeship/On-the-Job Training; Remedial, Deficiency, and Refresher Training (in some cases); and paying for the cost of tests for licenses or certifications needed to get, keep, or advance in a job.


You may receive up to 45 months of education benefits, if you began using the program before August 1, 2018.  If you began your program on August 1, 2018 or after, you have 36 months to use your benefits. Effective Oct. 1, 2013, some DEA beneficiaries may be eligible for up to 81 months of GI Bill benefits if they use the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance program in conjunction with an entitlement from other VA education programs. 


How much does the VA pay for this benefit? The amount the VA pays is based on the type of training program and training time (i.e. full-time, half-time, etc.). Benefits are paid monthly and in arrears, and if attendance is less than a month or less than full-time, payments are reduced proportionately. View current payment rates at 



How to apply for your DEA benefit. To apply, take these steps (which vary, depending on your situation):


…Make sure that your selected program is approved for VA training. Take a look at their GI Bill Comparison Tool for more information. VA can inform you and the school or company about the requirements.


…You can apply online or by completing VA Form 22-5490, Dependents Application for VA Education Benefits. Send it to the VA regional processing office with jurisdiction over the state where you will advance your education and training. If you are a son or daughter, under legal age, a parent or guardian must sign the application. If you are eligible for both DEA and Fry, you will be required to make an irrevocable election unless you are a child of a Servicemember who died in the line-of-duty prior to August 1, 2011.


…If you have started your educational program, take your application to your school or employer. Ask them to complete VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, and send both forms to VA. (Note: Schools must contact their VA representative to receive this form.)



While we’ve tried to pass along just some basic information about the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program to help increase awareness, there is so much more detail to DEA that will affect and impact how it might benefit any given Survivor or Dependent that chooses to use it. I’ll reiterate that details of programs like this change quite often…please check with the Department of Veterans Affairs for the latest details about the benefits you have coming to you.


Until next time…

The Fisher House Foundation: Watch Your Dollars Work

The Fisher House Foundation: Watch Your Dollars Work


Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso


9 Million days of lodging


86 Houses in operation


368,000 Families serviced in the past 30 years


$451,000,000 in savings to families of injured soldiers



It’s about to be the most wonderful time of the year – a time for holiday parties and get-togethers, for making lists and checking them twice. In your holiday planning this year, take a moment to remember the organization that gives 93% of every dollar raised back to our servicemen, women and veterans: The Fisher House Foundation.


It is always a pleasure to talk to Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of The Fisher House Foundation. A native New Yorker, just the sound of Ken’s voice brings me back home. Just a few minutes into our call, he has my mind racing and my heart pounding with excitement, as his own excitement is contagious to anyone who takes a moment to listen. 


Our call this week was specifically about adaptive sports and their importance in the world of healing. Our house is a hockey house – and several members of my family are involved with sled hockey, an adaptation that gives the sport a seat – in a specially designed sled that allows participants to play the game without needing legs. 


There is no arguing the benefits of adaptive sports for wounded veterans. These men and women spent most of their careers in top physical shape and a profound injury is life-altering in so many ways. Adaptive sports can provide not only a path to healing – but an outlet for relationship building and friendships with other people who have faced the same physical limitations, difficulties and severity of recovery. 


Adaptive sports are just some of the many services available through the numerous Fisher Houses across the country. All of the services available through the Fisher House Foundation have the same goal: improve the life of the wounded warrior so that warrior can heal.


The Fisher Houses across the country ensure that the families of the wounded can be near them while they heal. Having the loving support of family nearby is proven to help with the healing process. 


There are six Fisher Houses under construction right now – New Orleans, LA, Ann Arbor, MI, Omaha, NE and Huntington, WV are all getting their first Fisher House. Denver, CO is getting their existing Fisher House replaced and Richmond, VA is seeing a second Fisher house built to help address the needs of the population in that community. These houses are being built now – but there are more on the horizon as the Fisher House program continues to grow. Togus, ME and Albuquerque, NM have houses planned for the near future. 


The integrity of the Fisher House Foundation is unquestionable. The services provided are invaluable. It is inarguably worthy of your charitable dollars this holiday season, and any other time of year. Giving to the Fisher House Foundation is easier than you think – in fact, there are many ways to give. I personally set up my Amazon Smile account to benefit The Fisher House Foundation – and while my personal contribution hasn’t been outrageous just yet, the organization has received nearly $90,000!


You can help make an impact this holiday season. Visit the Fisher House Foundation website to see how you can make a difference in the lives of our healing veterans!

A Veterans Day Salute

A Veterans Day Salute

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing (Lieutenant Colonel, USA Retired)

Greetings, friends. As we commemorate this Veterans Day, it is an honor to be able to visit with you on the Military Connection platform. It is an honor to have worn the uniform of the US Army, as well. I was a Soldier by choice, but an American by the grace of God.

We gather in many places to salute our nation’s Veterans. On the anniversary of Armistice Day, we pause to remember the brave men and women who served, and sometimes died for, our country. We remember the other men & women we’ve served alongside, lifelong friends who have the common bond of enduring hardships, pain, and even loss, as we contributed to something we considered priceless – the defense of our country. I feel privileged and proud to be part of a group that has done so much for so many.

We remember our battalions, our companies, our ships…our bombers, our tanks, and our cannons. We remember our patrols, our deployments…our battles & our homecomings. We remember our friends, our crews, our units – our first haircut, the mess halls, guard duty – we remember voices – shouting, laughing…and the tears. We, the ones that have served this nation, have these images and sounds and feelings burned into our minds, hearts, and souls…

We remember the brave men and women who have served in places such as Antietam, Gettysburg, and San Juan Hill; in the trenches of France, the beaches of Normandy, the deserts of Africa; the jungles of the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, or Vietnam; the hills of Korea, the sands of Kuwait, the villages of Iraq, and the mountains of Afghanistan. Wherever and whenever our men & women are called to serve, they go.

For those Veterans who have stood guard in peacetime… to those who have seen the terror, the horror and inhumanity of combat — and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice – our Veterans have always been there, defending the Constitution of the United States of America. The Veterans of our nation have been safeguarding our liberties since before the American Revolution.

On Veterans Day, we remember those who sacrificed at home and overseas. Where it was once specifically a celebration of the silencing of the guns of World War One, Veterans Day now marks a day when nations around the world pause and observe – with solemn, silent pride – the heroism of those who have served, those who are currently serving, and those who died in our country’s service, in that war and in all others. It is not a celebration of victory, but rather, a celebration of those who made victory possible.  It’s a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation — generations of them — who above all else believed in, and fought for, a set of ideals.   

Just as our Veterans chose to serve, I challenge & encourage all of you to volunteer your services to any number of endeavors…your school’s PTO, a local food pantry, or your church…the Little League or the high school feeder team’s Football Club. Service to country is very much like service to community.

Our communities are the fabric of our nation, and every one is a little different. From those communities, our Veterans bring those differences to the defense of our nation. Poor or wealthy, urban or rural…they bond together as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. As our Nation’s sword and shield, our Veterans represent the strength and diversity of our nation.

This includes members of the Reserve Component – our Reservists & National Guardsmen. When serving in a traditional role, not federalized or deployed, these men and women are full-time members of the community. They work in your towns, their families attend your schools, and they commit themselves to the protection of your land and defense of your freedoms against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Today’s National Guardsmen and Reservists, from all branches of service, are able to transition from the workforce to the fighting force with speed, grace and resiliency.  In this time of what seems like persistent conflict, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places. I deployed twice while my sons were in elementary school. I remember the heartbreak of leaving my wife and children, but I also vividly remember the joy of coming home after a long deployment.

Those of us that have worn the uniform typically have a variety of reasons for having done so. For many, it’s a sense of Duty-Honor-Country, a belief in freedom, and a faith in America’s future. I think that one of the reasons why I served is that, on occasion, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness…visiting with a Tuskegee Airman at a Missouri Veterans Home, or watching history come alive at the airport at 0400 as WWII Veterans gathered for a trip to see our nation’s memorials in Washington, DC, a part of the Honor Flight network.

So, whether it’s chatting with Veterans from WWII or trading war stories with those fresh from today’s battlefields, sometimes I get to shake the hands of some real heroes. That’s just one of reasons why I served, and why I’m proud…I am proud to be an American; I am proud to be a Veteran.

On Veterans Day, be sure to pause and remember the many Americans who have served. The Veterans of today are writing the history books that you, your children and your children’s children will one day study.  

Thank you for taking the time to commemorate this special day in your own way. God bless our Troops, God bless our Veterans…and may God continue to bless the United States of America.


Civilian Credentials and Troops in Transition

Civilian Credentials and Troops in Transition

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

We hear a lot about credentials in today’s workforce development community. While technically, it’s “a qualification, achievement, or aspect of a person’s background that indicates they are suitable for something,” for those of us transitioning from military service to a civilian job it can open a lot of doors – or better yet, keep those same doors from closing.

In the military employment assistance environment, the credentialing of Veterans and Military Service Members is a complex issue, with partners and players at every level – national, state, and local. While credentialing authorities typically remain at the national or state levels, the critical effort has often been grass-roots, with a focus on building awareness at the local level. When I was involved with the State of Missouri’s Show-Me Heroes program, we had many of those initial conversations with our Governor’s Office, our Division of Workforce Development, and our National Guard headquarters. I’d like to think that those conversations, while strategic in nature, helped lead to some of the progress we’re seeing today.

There are certain jobs and skill sets that immediately come to mind during a discussion on credentialing. Jobs in the healthcare industry, law enforcement, or transportation might be considered the low-hanging fruit to some that are in this Veteran employment assistance space, but there are so many more potential options with regard to credentialing. Not only do some fields require credentials to legally perform certain jobs, but they can also serve to ‘amp up’ your resume and communicate to prospective employers that you’re among the most qualified for the job.

All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces offer some kind of credentialing or certification program for its Service Members; in no particular order, here are a few connections for you to explore:

Army COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line). A tool to help Soldiers find details on certifications and licenses related to their military jobs and potential civilian careers, you can use Army COOL to get information on credentials related to an Army Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Civilian Occupational Pathways, potential gaps between Army training and civilian credentialing, and resources available to help fill those gaps. Check it out at cool.army.mil.

Navy & Marine Corps COOL. Although it sounds the same, the Department of the Navy’s (DON) credentialing resource site has a whole different feel; their website “represents the joint effort, close coordination, and shared resources that support the Navy and Marine Corps COOL programs.” For their ongoing commitment to Sailors, Marines, and DON Civilians, visit www.cool.navy.mil.

Air Force COOL. A Total Force enlisted program, the Air Force’s credentialing resource includes all enlisted AFSCs for active duty, the Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard. AF COOL is a one-stop shop for Airmen to explore credentials recognized by the civilian community; find more information at Air Force Virtual Education Center.

Coast Guard Certification Programs. Although the Coast Guard doesn’t offer COOL or organic online certification tools, it does encourage its Service Members to take advantage of certification finders sponsored by the Department of Labor, such as CareerOneStop (www.careeronestop.org/toolkit/training/find-certifications.aspx) and O-Net Online (www.onetonline.org/crosswalk).

Your path to picking up some well-deserved credentials may lead you to classroom training or online testing. There may be options to pick those up on the military’s dime while you’re still serving or by using your GI Bill benefits. Either way, hopefully it will help by making for a smoother transition or by making you more competitive in the search for your next job, so take a closer look at whatever tools you might have at your disposal.

Until next time…


5 Simple Ways Veterans Can Combat Stress

5 Simple Ways Veterans Can Combat Stress


Stress takes a major toll on combat veterans. PTSD is a serious threat can result in multiple issues among veterans, including homelessness, suicide, and addiction. Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans alone began seeking treatment at an alarming rate; in one year, the number of these vets seeking  treatment for PTSD rose by 70%. 


Get Out in Nature

According to a study conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, gardening could lower the risk of death from any cause by as much as 18%. Why is this? The fact is, our body has a natural link to nature and the Earth around us, even if we don’t often explore it as much as we should. After all, nature has long been linked to the ability to reduce stress and improve our perceptions of the space around us. Taking a simple stroll through nearby botanical gardens or going on a daylong hike through the mountains can have impressive results on the mind, especially if you make nature immersion a regular part of your routine. 


In a feature published in Psychology Today, psychotherapist and author Dan Mager said, “Wilderness areas, in particular, are portals to present-centeredness, transporting us to an attuned awareness of the here and now, capturing our conscious attention, and anchoring us in the moment. When we connect with nature, we re-connect—both consciously and unconsciously—with the most original and authentic parts of ourselves, and expand our capacity to connect with others and the world through an enriched awareness of the commonalities that link us all together, as well as a greater sense of our place as part of a much greater whole.”


Practice Mixed Martial Arts

On the surface, it might seem like combating war with more fighting seems counterintuitive, but this isn’t the case. Organized combative fighting can prove particularly effective at relieving stress, re-targeting emotions, and distracting the mind. “Learning proper self defense using the right disciplines is more of an art than anything,” says Hai Nguyen, who teaches muay thai in Houston at Elite MMA. “It’s about patience, practice, and deeply personal self-improvement.” 


Veterans who have returned to civilian life may struggle to get readjusted, which is completely normal. But in addition to learning more about the art of MMA, there are several possible side benefits that many practitioners can benefit from. For example, the social element of class brings together people of shared interests who are motivated to achieve something. Even if that “something” starts out as just getting a specific movement downpact, it tends to grow into something bigger, and the desire to achieve infiltrates other areas of a person’s life. 


Go On a Trip 

Traveling is a great way to relieve stress and open up the mind. If possible, veterans should consider going on a trip—however large or small—solo. Traveling alone allows you to address your fears head on, take complete control of your itinerary, make smart, planned decisions, learn new cultures, and embrace your thoughts. Traveling alone also allows you to “detox” from the day-to-day lifestyle and learn to be comfortable in your own skin again. And according to author Adam Galinksy, “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.”


Fortunately, there are many travel perks reserved for veterans, like airline discounts and TSA pre-checks. Even if you don’t see any deals online, you should consider reaching out to travel agencies to ask personally about their military offerings, as many companies are happy to work with you. 


Help Others

Volunteering has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress. When you engage in generous acts, you build upon empathy and receive back gratitude, which releases oxycontin—the hormone in our bodies that is responsible for giving us that “feel good” emotion. Think about what you’re passionate about and try to combine that passion with volunteer work. If you’re passionate about the well-being of eldery people, for example, volunteer at a nursing home. 


You can also combine the “giving back” philosophy with some of the other stress relievers mentioned here. For instance, combine getting out in nature with volunteering at a local garden, or helping a school plant trees and flowers. Or combine it with travel by participating in a volunteer organization abroad. There’s no right or wrong way to give back to communities and habitats around the world.