The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

It’s that time of year in our household: the birthday and holiday season, which means an influx of items into our house which is already stuffed beyond what I find reasonable. There are seven of us in my family, and 5 of our birthdays fall between October 22 and January 4. Combine all of that with Christmas and you have loads of goodies coming through the front door and a desperate need for some gently used items to go out as well.

We do our best to reuse as much as possible and hand down clothes from child to child. Some of the outfits that are currently hanging in my youngest son’s closet have been worn by four other boys before him and we will be passing it along after his next growth spurt. While I love our little system, not everything can be easily handed down and not every family has a system quite like ours.

I happened upon the Military Order of the Purple Heart several years ago during a pre-Christmas purge. Like so many families with young children, I found our house inundated with more stuffed animals than we could reasonably handle. Our standard donation collection location did not accept stuffed animals. The thought of tossing these toys, which were in near perfect condition, prompted me to look for a donation place that would repurpose them into homes that could use them.

 

I did what any Xennial would do – I posted on Facebook and asked for a recommendation. There was one answer that resounded: The Military Order of the Purple Heart.

 

I had never heard of them before that point, but I was convinced within three clicks of a mouse. Since then, it is the only place I donate – and here is why:

 

  1. Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are combat wounded veterans. These men and women served their country and came home with battle scars. They take their experiences and “pay it forward” by using their energy and resources to help current active duty servicemembers, veterans and all military families.
  2. They pick up at my door. Does it get any easier than that? The Military Order of the Purple Heart has contracted with Green Drop, a charitable organization that both assists in raising funds for its partners and handles the pick up and delivery of donated items. Simply put, Green Drop converts your lightly used items into funds that are critical for the organization of your choosing – in my case, the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
  3. I can schedule my pick ups online. I just pull up GoGreenDrop.com, click on “schedule a pick up” and type in my zip code. They keep track of me by my last name and phone number. Not thrilled with having them come to your door? No problem! There are drop off locations as well (just click on the appropriate drop down).
  4. They email me. I get a confirmation AND a reminder. Let’s be real – I’m a busy mom with five active kids. I’m lucky I remember anything. I need the reminder. My reminder email comes through a day before my pick up and I put my bags by the front door. When I get up the next morning, I put them on my porch (you designate the pick-up location: porch, driveway, front of house, side of house; depending on your home style) and then I don’t think about it again. By the end of the day, the Green Drop folks have stopped by, collected my gently used items and left a receipt to say thank you.
  5. Receipts! Speaking of receipts – I’m married to an accountant so we account for every single item that gets donated. Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart keeps your donation receipt accessible. So – when tax time rolls around and you need proof of your monthly donations, simply hop on that website again and look up your history by your phone and zip code.
  6. Don’t forget the environmental impact! My donation might end up on a shelf at a second-hand store or be given directly to someone in need. Either way, it isn’t ended up unused (like it was in my house), collecting dust or worse – taking up space in the dump. We donated a bear that could sing and read stories. I love the idea of a little girl or boy listening to those stories and singing along, just like my kids used to do.
  7. Finally – and for me, most importantly – donating to The Military Order of the Purple Heart provides me a way to help when finances are a little tighter than we like them to be. (Remember the five kids? They aren’t cheap.) I don’t always have discretionary funds and sometimes I have to make sure the bills are paid before I can put my dollars towards helping others. Green Drop and the Military Order of the Purple Heart take my donations of goods and turn them into donations that help actual people. I love that.

 

So as you dive into the holiday season, if you are looking to purge in your own household, please consider having Green Drop pick up your gently used items. If this holiday season brings you lots of joy – and lots of items that are brand new but won’t find a use in your home, please have Green Drop pick them up. The Military Order of the Purple Heart could use them and the financial resources that your items will bring.

Here is a comprehensive list of items accepted by Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart:

Clothing & Shoes

 

All men’s, women’s, children and infant clothing including outerwear, underwear, shoes and boots, jackets, ties, shirts, dresses, blouses, sweaters, pants, hats, gloves, handbags, purses, raincoats and overcoats, swimsuits, sandals, shorts, sleepwear, jeans, T-shirts and formal wear.

 

Household Items

 

Cosmetics and toiletries (unopened), eyeglasses and sunglasses, artificial flowers and trees, umbrellas, yarns and material, knick-knacks, antiques,  jewelry, luggage, buttons, musical instruments, towels, area rugs-6×9 or smaller, Christmas and seasonal decorations, novelties, framed pictures and paintings, yard tools, hardware tools, bedding, draperies, blankets, bedspreads, quilts, sheets, pillows and pillow cases.

 

Kitchenware

 

Cookware and bakeware, dishes, utensils, flatware, silverware, pots and pans, Tupperware, glasses and cups, serving plates and trays and canning jars.

 

Games/Toys

 

Fisher Price and Little Tikes items, bicycles, tricycles, board and other games, stuffed animals, software for Playstation, Xbox and Wii.

 

Small Appliances

 

Irons and ironing boards, sewing machines, microwaves, clocks, hair dryers, electric griddles, blenders, coffee makers and toasters.  

 

Electronics

 

Flat screen TV’s, computer items including towers, printers, flat screen monitors, hard drives, software and accessories, telephones, smart phones, answering machines, portable copiers, fax machines, calculators, stereos, DVD players, video cameras and equipment and radios.

 

Sporting Goods

 

Camping equipment, roller blades, ice skates, golf clubs, baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, lacrosse equipment and accessories, skiing equipment and boots and fitness items.

 

Books, CDs & Videos

 

Hardback, paperback and children’s books, CDs, DVDs, Blue Ray movies, electronics, books and record albums.

 

Small Furniture

 

Furniture weighing less than 50 pounds such as end tables, coffee tables, lamps, night stands, wooden chairs, rocking chairs, stools and plant stands.

 

Do you work with an organization that provides assistance for Active Duty Military, Veterans, Spouses or families? We want to hear your story! Please email [email protected]!

Cost of Living Adjustment Boost in 2019

COLA Increase Planned for 2019

 

Effective this December, over 67 million Americans will see a 2.8% cost of living adjustment added to their federal benefits. For the first time in six years, military retirees and disabled veterans will receive an increase of over 2%

 

The increase was announced in October by the Social Security Administration and the news immediately made headlines. The 2018 COLA was 2%, which was a significant increase over the previous 3 years, which showed a total of 2% increase from 2015-2017.

 

While SSA is able to boost its COLA without an act of Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs is not. Therefore, this increase only applies to beneficiaries of Social Security payouts. However, Congress recently passed a bill that was signed into law that increased several Veterans benefits, which include clothing allowances, dependants compensation and other cost of living issues.

 

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Top ten lists…it seems like they’re everywhere, and about everything. For many of us, it’s a method of focusing and organizing so we can prioritize our time and energy on what we’ve deemed the ‘most important’. For others, it’s just a catchy way to encourage a reader or a viewer to linger a few more minutes.

Whether you cut your teeth on the humor of David Letterman’s regular ‘Top Ten List’ segment or you find such lists a really valuable use of your time, it should come as no surprise that examples abound on the top ten reasons employers should hire Veterans.

A quick Google search will pull up results from the U.S. Department of Labor (“Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), BusinessInsider.com (“10 Reasons Companies Should Hire Military Veterans”), Military.com (“10 Reasons to Hire Vets”), MakePositive.com (“5 Good Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (“Top Ten Reasons to Hire Members of the Guard and Reserve”). Some of those lists were compiled with the help of military veterans, some were put together by employers, and some were assembled by federal, state, and local agency personnel who have a stake in the employment assistance space. And the shocker is, all of them are correct, to some degree…it’s just a matter of perspective.

I put my first of such lists together in 2010, when I started working with the Show-Me Heroes Program, a partnership between the Missouri Division of Workforce Development and the Missouri National Guard that sought to help our state’s Veterans find meaningful employment. My original list expanded and contracted as I spoke with more and more employers and reflected on my own years of experience in the U.S. Army.

I often shared my list with job seekers from the military community that I came across, for this list of reasons to hire Veterans is as much for Veterans themselves as it is for business owners and hiring managers. Once employers ‘get it’, there’s not usually a need to go on and on with them. For those looking for a job, however, it’s important that they know how those in the employment assistance arena are advocating for them. They need to know that we’ve ‘talked the talk’, so they can put things in place to ‘walk the walk’, so to speak.

Once job seekers read through my list or any other, they should take inventory of the things that might very well make them the best candidate for the job. They should incorporate those soft skill sets and experiences into their resume, their cover letter, and answers to potential interview questions. That’s how they can communicate what they bring to the table. That’s how they can communicate how they can make a positive and lasting impact to that civilian employer’s workforce.

From the front lines to the assembly lines, much of the training, the challenges, the adversity…those things do, indeed, translate. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard from countless employers that hiring someone with military experience made a sudden and lasting impact on their workforce.

So, here’s my perspective. I was initially going to say, “this list is in no particular order,” but in fact there is an order to my list. It’s an order that I put together based on nearly a decade of meeting with employers to discuss the prospect of hiring Veterans for their workforce. My Top Ten list includes these elements…

  1. Leadership Experience.
  2. Strong Personal Integrity.
  3. Ability to Work as a Team Member and Team Leader.
  4. Performance under Pressure.
  5. Possession of a Valid Security Clearance.
  6. Strong Work Ethic.
  7. Specialized Advanced Training & Technical Skills.
  8. Flexibility and Adaptability.
  9. Discipline.
  10. Attention to Detail.

When I first penned this list, I struggled with how short it was. I thought that there were many other attributes that were front and center in the people with whom I served…attributes and soft skills that could really make an impact. After taking some time to look through some old award narratives and evaluation reports, and touching base with some human resource managers that I knew, I felt that I could justify a few more.

  1. Ability to Work Efficiently & Diligently in a Fast-Paced Environment.
  2. Commitment to Excellence & History of Meeting Standards of Quality.
  3. Ability to Conform to Rules and Structure.  
  4. Initiative & Self-Direction.
  5. Respect for Procedures and Accountability.
  6. Strong Sense of Health, Personal Safety, and Property Standards.
  7. Ability to Give and Follow Directions.
  8. Hands-on Experience with Technology and Globalization.
  9. Systematic Planning and Organizational Skills.
  10. Accelerated Learning Curve with New Skills and Concepts.

But wait, there’s more. Some of us have more of these soft skills than others. Some of us have spent decades in uniform, others just a few years of an initial enlistment. Different Branches of Service have put emphasis on different areas in different times, and training that the Soldier received in the ‘70s is quite a bit different that what the Sailor received last year. So, I added a few more to the list…

  1. Diversity in Action and Strong Interpersonal Skills.
  2. Emphasis on Safety in the Workplace.
  3. High Levels of Maturity and Responsibility.
  4. Motivation, Dedication, and Professionalism.  
  5. Triumphant over Adversity.

I’m pretty sure I could keep going, but I’m going to stop right here. These are just a few reasons why employers value military experience in their workforce. If you’re a hiring manager, I’m sure you get my point. If you’re a job seeker from the military community, I encourage you to figure out which of the items in this ‘Top Twenty-Five’ list resonate most with you, at least in part because of the path you’ve followed. Be able to make the connection between items on this list and essential elements in the job description and do your best to communicate what you bring to the table…to the person that’s sitting across the table from you during your next job interview. Cheers!

Soldiers’ Angels

May no soldier go unloved,

May no soldier walk alone,

May no soldier be forgotten,

Until they all come home.

 

Soldiers’ Angels

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

It is the time of year for giving – and so many families are looking for opportunities to give back or “pay it forward” within their communities. There are so many wonderful opportunities, from adopting a family to toy and coat drives. However, there is a group out there who dedicates their time and energy to helping deployed servicemen and women.

 

Soldiers’ Angels was founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader. The Pasadena, CA native is the daughter of war Veteran LTC (ret) David Patton, so supporting the troops was a way of life. It was during her oldest son’s deployment in Iraq, however, that Patti identified a need to help. Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn was happily receiving his mom’s care packages when he commented that he was one of the few soldiers to enjoy such a treat. Patti gathered neighborhood friends and worked together to send care packages to the entire platoon. As word traveled, Patti and her group received requests from across the globe.

 

More could be done to help. Patton-Bader recognized that Americans were ready and willing to help, just lacked the channels to get their kindness into the hands of the soldiers who needed it most. Using technology, determination and the heart of a military mother and daughter, Patton-Bader built an online community of Angels who work diligently to fulfill the needs of deployed soldiers.

 

As word spread of Patton-Bader’s efforts, so did the number of businesses wanting to participate. So many businesses were looking to donate time, money, goods and services that Patton-Bader’s band of helpers needed to formerly reorganize as a 501(c)(3) in 2004. Over the past fifteen years, Soldiers’ Angels has grown and changed to adapt to the current military needs. As always, they match the availability of their volunteers with the needs of a solder.

 

While they have continued helping the deployed soldiers, Soldiers’ Angels have also spread their wings to include Veterans, wounded soldiers, families and more. The group, who was led by Patti Patton-Bader until 2013, has won several awards and been recognized many times over. Some of their recognitions include:

 

  • Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service from the Department of the Army
  • George Washington Spirit Award from the Military Order of the Purple Heart
  • Microsoft Above and Beyond Extra Effort Award
  • James C. Van Zandt Citizenship Award from the VFW
  • The Spirit of Hope Award from the Secretary of Defense

 

 

Veterans and Homelessness

Veterans and Homelessness

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

Homeless.

 

It is really a state that just shouldn’t exist. No human should be without a home – without shelter. Without a place to feel safe.

 

There are, however, certain groups that seem particularly intolerable when paired with the word “homeless.” One of those groups is Veterans.

 

We have all seem the images (like the one feature with this article) of a down trodden man in fatigues – tired, thin and dirty – with a homemade cardboard sign begging for help. Some of them are missing limbs. Some are in wheelchairs. Some struggle with PTSD. All share the common bond of having served our country to return home and live on the streets.

 

By now, we have all heard of the now infamous homeless Veteran and his “benefactors” who conspired to bilk GoFundMe contributors out of hundreds of thousands. Those images of homeless veterans are exactly why the GoFundMe scam was so instantaneously successful. The trio relied on the general public’s sympathetic response to seeing a homeless Vet so willing to turn over his “last” $20 to a stranger.

 

The most heartbreaking part of their tale is the damage it does to Veterans who are homeless and in actual need of assistance. While Homeless Veterans are of the utmost concern across the country, there are some areas in California that are getting federal assistance – to the tune of $5.3 million – to help those Veterans get back on their feet.

 

The federal dollars have been awarded to assorted HUD offices in the Bay Area and Central Valley in California and is expected to help 343 homeless Veterans find permanent housing and support services. Ben Carson, secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban development has been quoted in a statement made October 4, 2018 as saying  “we have few responsibilities greater than making sure those who have sacrificed so much in service to their country have a home they can call their own. The housing vouchers awarded today ensure homeless veterans nationwide have access to affordable housing and the critical support services from the VA.”

 

The voucher funding has been awarded in a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and was made available by the HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program, but it will be the VA facilities that will be evaluating each case to determine the needed level of support. The VA facilities in the area will be expected to report on the length of each homeless experience, the length of time without adequate housing as well as the amount of support that would be necessary to get them into permanent housing. There will be an extensive system of checks and balances before Veterans will be referred for vouchers.

 

Since the joint program launched in 2008, more than 150,000 homeless veterans have been assisted throughout the country. Additionally, more than 93,000 housing and services vouchers have been awarded. Veterans who participate in the voucher program typically rent privately owned residences and use 30% of their income or less to cover that rent each month.

 

The breakdown of funding by housing authority is below:

 

The Santa Clara County Housing Authority – $2.8 million for 140 vouchers

The San Francisco Housing Authority – $343,723 for 21 vouchers

Contra Costa County Housing Authority – $284,891 for 20 vouchers

San Mateo County Housing Authority, Palo Alto-based VA medical facility – $162,949 for 12 vouchers

San Mateo County Housing Authority, San Francisco-based VA medical facility – $67,895 for 5 vouchers

San Joaquin County Housing Authority – $116,648 for 20 vouchers

Stanislaus County Housing Authority – $138,880 for 25 vouchers

Marin County Housing Authority – $76,965 for 5 vouchers

Berkeley Housing Authority – $248,181 for 15 vouchers

Santa Clara County Housing Authority – $2,816,567 for 140 vouchers

Pittsburg Housing Authority – $62,903 for 5 vouchers

City of Alameda Housing Authority – $131,188 for 5 vouchers

Alameda County Housing Authority, VA Northern California Health Care System – $278,986 for 20 vouchers

Alameda County Housing Authority, Palo Alto-based VA medical facility – $209,240 for 15 vouchers

City of Napa Housing Authority – $40,182 for 5 vouchers

Livermore Housing Authority – $75,849 for 5 vouchers

County of Sonoma – $51,983 for 5 vouchers

 

To Ink or Not To Ink…

To Ink or Not To Ink…

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Tattoos have been around for a long time. Many historians believe that the first tattoos were inked onto hands and fingers of our Neanderthal ancestors in an effort to ward off illnesses. Tattooed mummified remains have been found and those remains date back to more than 5,000 years ago. Tattoos have been used to mark your skill set, designate your tribe, honor your lineage and more. The perception of tattoos continues to change every day as an increasing number of soccer moms sport full inked sleeves to practice. Public perception has changed and the Navy had to catch up.

For years, the United States Navy limited to the ink that it allowed in its ranks. Rules were in place to limit visible tattoo size and number, so sailors were restricted with what could be on their forearms and lower legs. Additionally, neck tattoos were not permitted. However, with tattoos on the rise in the 17-24 demographic, the Navy found themselves limiting recruits because of this rule.

The most efficient way to handle this barrier was to eliminate it, which is what the US Navy did. Under the revised rules, sailors have no restrictions on tattoos below the neck. Full sleeves are now permitted. Neck tattoos are also permitted, but have a limit on size. This opens up the doors for the young and tattooed who have an interest in serving in the Navy.

Sailors and tattoos have had a long history, so this recent change opens up a level of public acceptance that reflects the personal feelings of many who choose to decorate their personal canvases. Over the past few years, tattoo rules have changed in the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army. While each branch has changed their code regarding the allowing and acceptance of tattoos, all of the individual rules are different.  

 

TRICARE Open Season

TRICARE Open Season

 

Important information for all military: TRICARE Open Season, their annual open enrollment period, start today, November 12th. Between now and December 10th, there are a few things about your TRICARE coverage that you need to know.

 

  • Selections for 2019 health care coverage must be completed between now (November 12) and December 10.
  • You may use this time to select a new TRICARE Select or TRICARE Prime plan
  • Open season is when you can change your existing plan or enrollment to something different
  • If no changes are made, your 2018 TRICARE selections will carry over to 2019
  • This is the ONLY time to make changes throughout the year unless you have a QLE or Qualifying Life Event

 

Qualifying Life Events are major events that fall into two categories: Military changes or Family changes. Military changes include activation, deactivation, injured while active duty, moving, separating from active duty and retirement. Family changes includes marriage, divorce, birth of a child, adoption of a child, college aged children attending school, children becoming adults, becoming Medicare eligible, moving, experiencing a death in the family, loss or gain of alternate health insurance.

A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

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.

 

The Healing Power of Art

The Healing Power of Art

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Art as therapy. If you’ve seen it in action, you know the life-changing effects it can have on our Brothers & Sisters that struggle. For years, art has been shown to improve interpersonal skills, increase self-awareness, and boost self-esteem. Clinically speaking, this helps reduce tension and anxiety, which can relieve pain and set a strong foundation for the process of healing or coping with lifelong disabilities. It can also mean relief for PTS and other issues stemming from military service.

For at least one Veteran, the visual arts have long been a format for creative expression, often providing emotional healing, strength, and a sense of purpose. Scott Beaty, a 20-year Navy Submarine Veteran and the founder of Visions for Vets, a small non-profit in St. Louis, Missouri, discovered a way to provide Veteran assistance through teaching and creating art and building strong Veteran camaraderie. As his organization grew, he witnessed his Veteran art students find release from their burdens, express themselves emotionally through creativity, and realize freedom from society’s label of being “disabled.”

“We’ve found that once Veterans have gained confidence in their newly-found, rekindled, or enhanced art skills, they’re ready to serve all over again. Service is at the heart of Visions for Vets and we seek to help Veterans continue the mission through art, building important relationships in their communities and engaging in outreach to bring the power of the healing arts to those in need of peace and joy,” Beaty said.

There’s an emphasis on the power of the visual arts at the national level, as well. As part of the current Presidential Administration, Second Lady Karen Pence uses her national and international platform to shine the light on art therapy. The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have their own platforms in the Creative Forces Network and the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network serves the special needs of military patients and veterans who have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions, as well as their families and caregivers, placing creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at 11 military medical facilities across the country.

Made possible by a unique collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, DoD, the VA, and state arts agencies, Creative Forces is a network of caring people who believe in the transformative and restorative powers of art. The network is made up of creative arts therapists, artists, doctors, military service members, veterans, community leaders and policymakers, helping make a difference on military bases, in hospitals, and at community art centers.

Nationally, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities use the creative arts as an effective rehabilitative therapy to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities by encouraging expression in a non-threatening way. Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in local creative arts competitions, culminating in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The competition includes 51 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama and creative writing. Through a national judging process, first, second and third place entries in each category are determined. The Festival is co-sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. In addition to raising funds for the event, Auxiliary departments provide volunteers who assist with everything from punching meal tickets to stuffing programs to ironing costumes for the stage show.

 

Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

There have been a variety of settlements made to Agent Orange victims since the chemical warfare in Vietnam ceased over 40 years ago. While some settlements had immediate payouts, there may be funds still available, depending on your condition and infliction. The VA is providing assistance, benefits and care for Veterans who have health implications as a result of Agent Orange exposure.

Initially, the Agent Orange Settlement Fund was a result of a class action lawsuit brought against the manufacturers of the chemical agents used in the Vietnam War by the Veterans of the war and their families. This fund and lawsuit did not involve the VA or the government in any way.

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may be eligible for a wide variety of VA benefits. These benefits may include disability benefits for diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure. These diseases include:

 

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin’s Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Parkinson’s Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Additionally, survivors of exposed Veterans and depends may also be eligible for benefits. Fortunately for Veterans, there is no need to prove Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange exposure is presumed if a Veteran was in Vietnam from January 9, 1962 until May 7, 1975. This includes both time on land and time aboard a ship that operated in the Vietnam waterways. Also covered by this presumption are veterans who were in or near the Korean demilitarized zone from April 1, 1968 to August 31, 1971.

Veterans can apply in person at their local office or online: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage. If you need any additional information about your possible disability benefits, please visit the VA’s site: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-agent_orange.asp.