Art Therapy in the Military Community

Art Therapy in the Military Community

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

In the summer of 2018, I started down a new path. I was never one to avoid technology, but as a crusty old artilleryman, I would rather send high explosive artillery rounds downrange using charts and darts than the automated indirect fire systems we were fielding on a regular basis. But this time, I was fresh to the engagement app scene, helping our little company use the web and social media to make connections and make a difference.

And, a little over a year ago, I wrote an article for our blog called The Healing Power of Art, where I barely skimmed the surface…of how therapeutic art can be. To help dial in and, at the very least, pen a good article, I had to dig in and get my boots muddy. I was fortunate to find a very talented and very giving subject matter expert right here in St. Louis, a 20-year US Navy Submarine Veteran who has both passion and determination to go along with his artistic talent.

That submariner is Scott Beaty, a man for whom the visual arts have long been a format for creative expression, emotional healing, strength, and a sense of purpose. Shortly after he retired from the Service, Scott realized his love for art was also a gateway to his own healing and mental health. Discovering therapy in art, he began pursuing it all the way to earning a Master’s Degree in Fine Art and founding the organization he leads today.

 

When Scott founded the organization Visions for Vets in 2015, he discovered a way to help Veterans find freedom, purpose, and mental health close to home …through teaching and creating art and building strong Veteran camaraderie. Visions for Vets is a non-profit art school that enriches the lives of military Veterans while empowering them through the healing power of the arts. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Visions for Vets is an independent non-profit, not affiliated with or funded by any government or VA program. Art as therapy wasn’t necessarily born here, but it sure found a home in Visions for Vets.

 

Scott talks further about the experience: “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.”

While a tremendous resource for those that need it, Visions for Vets never claims to be an official form of therapy; art therapy is typically facilitated by a professional art therapist to support personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapists are master-level clinicians who work with people of all ages across a broad spectrum of practice. Honoring individuals’ values and beliefs, art therapists work with people who are challenged with medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth.

If you’ve seen the healing power of art in action, you know the life-changing effects it can have on our Brothers & Sisters that struggle. Of course, not all Veterans that connect with art have a post-traumatic stress diagnosis, but for those that do, art is a great option for healing.  For years, art has been shown to improve interpersonal skills, increase self-awareness, and boost self-esteem. It can mean relief for that PTS and other issues stemming from military service. 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. A 2012–14 survey at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE, the outpatient clinic dedicated to treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland) ranked art therapy among the top five most helpful techniques used to treat veterans.

In addition to Visions for Vets and plenty of other local groups with the same mission, there’s an emphasis on the power of the visual arts at the national level, as well. 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.

 

Creative Forces is a network of caring people made possible by a unique collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, DoD, the VA, and state arts agencies; a network made up of creative arts therapists, artists, doctors, military service members, veterans, community leaders, and policymakers who believe in the transformative and restorative powers of art. Those professionals 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.

So, before you move on to other things, here’s my ‘ask’: connect with the ‘art as therapy’ concept. For those of you looking for a military charity to support, I encourage you to learn more about organizations like Visions for Vets and the people behind them. If you have a battle buddy or know someone else who could benefit from the therapeutic effects of art, help them make the connection. And if it’s you that needs to experience the healing power of art, then by all means, create!

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions for Transition

New Year’s Resolutions for Transition

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

Yes, that annual tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions is upon us, and it’s long been a part of the military community. Just like our counterparts in the general population, many of us have our sights set on bettering ourselves in this coming year: eating healthier, getting in better shape, taking college classes, and more. For those serving in the Armed Forces, however, sticking to our resolutions can be more than just the feel-good thing to do…meeting those New Year’s goals can help us pass (or max) the physical fitness test and/or nail that promotion.

Pick up the closest dictionary and you’ll see that a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or to not do something.” If you happen to have made your New Year’s resolutions revolve around the subject of your transition (as in, away from active military service), keeping them can have a tremendous impact on how prepared you are for the next chapter of your life. For the rest of this post, we’re going to drill down just a bit on eight of our favorite New Year’s resolutions – consolidated especially for those in transition.

#1. Work on your resume. Whether you’re retiring or simply separating after your first tour, most folks in transition wind up working for another employer. To do so, it’s likely you’ll need a resume of some sort, so you can communicate what you bring to the table and why you’d make a good hire. Whether you just need to polish the one you have or you need to start the one that you don’t, check out our post titled “Translating your Military Career into a Resume,” found at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/translating-your-military-career-to-a-resume/. In it, we talk about taking your evaluations, awards, training certificates, assignment information, and education – and forming it into that awesome snapshot of who you are as a workforce professional. In similar fashion, you’ll want to translate your military skills into civilian-speak that connects with recruiters…we encourage you to connect with workforce pros that are local to you for help with that task.

#2. Take advantage of the credentialing process. 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. All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces offer some kind of credentialing or certification program for its Service Members, and 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. Not only do some civilian occupations 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. The US Coast Guard offers certification programs and the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines have a cool tool called COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line)…visit their sites at cool.army.mil, afvec.us.af.mil/afvec/Public/COOL, or cool.navy.mil.

#3. Participate in TAP workshops. The Transition Assistance Program, or TAP for short, provides some great content for those heading off to civilian pastures. Much of it is driven by the US Department of Labor (such as resume building and info on USAJobs), but there are great optional tracks, as well. One of those is a course on entrepreneurship called Operation Boots to Business (B2B). Offered up by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), B2B introduces participants to the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to launch a business, including steps for developing business concepts and a business plan, and information on SBA resources available to help. SBA resource partners, like folks from the Veterans Business Outreach Centers, SCORE, Women’s Business Centers, and the Small Business Development Centers, lead different aspects of the workshop. For a bit more detail, see our post at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/highlights-of-an-entrepreneurial-education-boots-to-business/.

#4. Think critically about Small Business Ownership. If you find yourself seriously considering being a small business owner, whether to realize a lifelong dream or simply to put food on the table, you would be well-served to give it some critical thought and connect with subject-matter experts near you. Some other items of note that you’ll find online at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/a-few-tips-for-the-would-be-entrepreneur/ include recommendations to define success, figure out your comfort level with risk, build your team, and manage your brand. Keep in mind that small business is risky, and try to enjoy the ride…

#5. Leverage technology in your job search. Technology, as in the ATS, or Applicant Tracking System. From the advent of the Web to social to mobile, technology has made quite the impact…and perhaps no more so than on the recruiting and selection process for today’s workforce. Back in the day, the explosion of online job boards created a global platform for advertising job openings and forced the recruiter to look to an electronic recruitment system to help automate the processing of all the candidates. While E-recruitment and Applicant Tracking Systems started off as clunky, bureaucratic processes that frustrated everyone, now they’re so much more. Those systems are integrated, cloud-based software suites that encompass the entire employee lifecycle. There are hundreds of Applicant Tracking Systems out there from which a company can choose, and in the employee selection ‘space’ an ATS enables users to manage hiring processes like job distribution, screening, interviewing, and sending out offers. I’ve said it before…there are certain things that you might just want to go ahead and embrace, rather than fight every step of the way. Applicant tracking systems are some of those things. Learn them, figure out how to use them to your advantage, and stay connected with folks in the employment assistance space that are there to help you do just that. For a more comprehensive article on the topic, check out https://militaryconnection.com/blog/applicant-tracking-system/.

#6. Navigate Job Fairs like a pro. If you find yourself seeking out that ideal W-2 job, there’s a good chance you’ll have to endure, I mean embrace, job fairs. Yes, they often suck, but many consider them a necessary evil and a vital part of the job search. Some quick tips include doing your homework in advance, dressing professionally, accessorizing with a clean portfolio, bringing personal contact cards, smiling, putting the phone away, and selling yourself. Treat the job fair like an interview, or a whole fleet of mini-interviews, and you’ll be on the right track. Read more about my take on the subject at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/the-job-search-navigating-a-job-fair/.

#7. Create a top-shelf business plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘gig economy’, which is a great way to describe the workforce environment of side gigs, second jobs, and side hustles we’re in. If you find yourself already knee-deep in running your own business, or think you probably will at some point, you should get smarter on how to develop a plan to help you succeed. Will Katz, one of our guest contributors that has worked with over 1,500 small business clients, offers some very valuable and spot-on information in our blog entitled https://militaryconnection.com/blog/top-shelf-business-plan/.

 

#8. Participate in a transition training program. There are plenty of programs out there these days to help Troops and their families in transition. Some of these efforts are public and some are privately-led…one might be a newly formed not-for-profit organization and another might fall in the Department of Defense’s lane, like Troops to Teachers (https://proudtoserveagain.com). Troops to Teachers was established in 1993 to assist transitioning Service Members and Veterans in beginning new careers as K-12 school teachers in public, charter, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Some other transition training programs might include Veterans to Farmers (whose mission is to train veterans in agricultural systems, technologies, and business operations for a fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle; www.veteranstofarmers.org), Troops to Trades (started to honor the thousands of individuals transitioning into the civilian workforce by helping them find satisfying and successful careers in the trades; https://explorethetrades.org/troops-to-trades), and Helmets to Hardhats (a national, nonprofit program that connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active duty military with skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry; https://helmetstohardhats.org).

At the end of the day (or the year, I suppose), you can join the crowd of those making New Year’s resolutions that barely merit a second thought by early February – or you can choose from this list of transition resolutions to help propel you down your next path. Obviously, not all these are for ‘lottie, dottie, everybody’ – if you’re looking for that dream W-2 job you might care little about small business ownership, and if you’re an entrepreneur at heart, you could probably care less about navigating a job fair. My New Year’s wish is that at least one of these tips for transition will resonate and prove useful to you or someone you care about.

Until next time…

 

The Holidays and Military Service

The Holidays and Military Service

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

As I write this piece for our blog, I feel a little bit of nostalgia coming on. We’re more than halfway through December, the snow has been falling for more than a day now, and the long-range forecast predicts that temperatures won’t be above freezing for the next few days. But after more than thirty years in uniform, my thoughts tend to drift, much like the snow. Drift, not so much to the days of my youth sledding on the hills of our farm, but to the holidays spent away from the ones I loved the most.

Like most of the old Soldiers I know, I have plenty of memories of time spent away from my family. Sometimes it was due to a field exercise or temporary duty somewhere, but the memories that really stick with you are those deployments that result in a family separation during the holidays.

For many, being apart during those holidays near the end of the year are the toughest. And while I’m a Christian, I’ve served with plenty of men and women of other faiths – and the separations as a result of military deployments are tough no matter what religious holidays you miss. For my family, the most special time of the year is Christmas…and I count my first and last deployments as my most memorable (and dreadful, and frightful) military experiences because of what I would rather have been doing during that time of year. I recently came upon a blog post on MilitaryTimes.com from Army wife Maria Cordova, where she shared survival tips from Military Spouses, tips for when loved ones are deployed during the holidays (https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2018/11/20/is-your-loved-one-deployed-during-the-holidays-military-spouses-share-their-survival-tips/). In that piece, she tells of a friend that was going to celebrate everything her Service Member was going to miss – celebrate those things before he deployed. And that’s exactly what my parents had planned for me, some 29 years ago.

My first family separation came as we were preparing to deploy in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in late 1990. I was a young Field Artillery officer with no wife and kids, but with parents and three sisters and an extended family that meant the world to me. From the time President Bush (the first) announced on TV what we were doing in response to the invasion of Kuwait, it was asses-to-elbows, with not much down time. We were painting vehicles, receiving pieces of equipment that had once been considered luxury items, and loading trains. After our equipment was headed to the port, we had a few days off…so I headed home to see my folks for what I thought would be the last time for a while.

As I said earlier, my parents wanted to celebrate everything I was going to miss, so on one night in early November 1990, we had a Thanksgiving feast in one room of our farmhouse, a Christmas tree loaded with presents in another, a New Year’s Eve party (complete with Father Time) in yet another, and several birthday cakes at the kitchen table. It seemed a bit unusual at the time, but it made for great memories that we still talk about today.

My last deployment was a bit harder to tough out. A decade ago, I deployed with the Missouri National Guard to Kosovo for a nearly-year-long mission that found me serving at spots all around that country. While I wasn’t being shot at or fighting insurgents in the middle of Iraq or Afghanistan like many of my colleagues, I did find myself leading men and women over the Christmas holiday at a remote outpost in the northern reaches of Kosovo. A small desktop Christmas tree, a visit from Santa Claus (who arrived on an Army helicopter), and a short Skype call to my wife and young boys as they were opening up their presents at home – that was our holiday season in late 2008. And though it sucked being separated from family, being there with others in uniform – with men and women that I admired and respected – made it bearable, and memorable.

Those deployment experiences of mine, however memorable, stand in stark contrast to one another, but any time spent away from home and family is hard. And I know that the holidays aren’t so special for a lot of folks, but they were for me. Looking back, I feel fortunate that, for those holidays and for those ‘everydays’ during which I was called away from my family to serve, I was able to break bread and chew the fat with my other family, my brothers and sisters in arms.

Yes, I’m a bit older these days, and hopefully a little bit wiser. I retired from the US Army a couple of years ago and there’s a bit more gray in my beard than I would like. I consider myself lucky, I suppose – luckier than some of my comrades that didn’t return, and just plain lucky to have served in a career that I love. My youngest son just turned 18 years old and my oldest will turn 21 in just a few days…that in itself makes me feel my age. But when I think about all those special times with my wife and kids, I also think about those holidays when we were apart so many years ago. Those were tough times, but I’m thankful because we made it through them…and now they’re a part of who we are and where we’ve been. This holiday season, I ask you to remember that we still have thousands of Service Members deployed around the world, separated from their families. Keep them in your thoughts and say a short prayer for them every now and then.

Until next time…

Getting Trained for Your Next Career

Getting Trained for Your Next Career

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

So, the time has come for you to move on…to leave active duty and either retire, fully separate, or join the National Guard & Reserve. When it comes to transition, sometimes we get to make that decision and sometimes that decision gets made for us. Either way, when facing a change in our ‘day job’, it’s only natural for those of us in the military community (our spouses included, of course) to want to be counted among those best qualified. Getting qualified may take some time and extra work, but just as the military trained us for our next rank or our next position, there are a variety of ways to get trained for the next chapter of your life in the private sector. Such as…

Non-Traditional Workforce Training. Many community colleges have programs that offer accelerated training courses designed to help participants become qualified for and quickly enter in-demand jobs. Programs like Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College (stlcc.edu/Accelerated) offer a variety of non-credit courses that provide concentrated opportunities to skill up – in anywhere from three to 23 weeks, depending on the program. A sampling of accelerated training opportunities at STLCC, for example, includes HVAC Operator, Environmental Remediation Tech, and Medical Assistant…be sure and check out accelerated options at educational institutions in your neck of the woods.

College. Whether you postponed your formal, post-high school education for a tour in the military or you’ve decided to go back for an advanced degree, your favorite college or university may be part of your plan. Not long ago, I wrote an article about one of our educational benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs that’s designed to complement the GI Bill. Established by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows colleges, universities, and other degree-granting schools in the United States to enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the amounts payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Essentially, the Yellow Ribbon Program helps make up the difference when the GI Bill just isn’t enough. Read the original post here….https://militaryconnection.com/blog/the-post-9-11-gi-bills-yellow-ribbon-program/.

Transition Training Programs. We’re also getting ready to publish a piece on programs to help Troops and their families in transition. A few of these programs include Troops to Teachers (https://proudtoserveagain.com…helps participants meet education and licensing requirements to teach and subsequently helps them secure a teaching position); Veterans to Farmers’ (www.veteranstofarmers.org… their mission is to train veterans in agricultural systems, technologies, and business operations for a fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle); Boots to Business (https://sbavets.force.com…an entrepreneurial education and training program that provides an overview of business ownership fundamentals); Soldiers to Sidelines (www.soldierstosidelines.orgworks to place Soldier Coaches in local youth, high school or collegiate sports programs where they can connect to their communities and begin to inspire, motivate, and encourage young athletes); Troops to Trades (https://explorethetrades.org/troops-to-trades…started to honor the thousands of individuals transitioning into the civilian workforce by helping them find satisfying and successful careers in the trades); and Helmets to Hardhats (https://helmetstohardhats.org…connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active duty military with skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry).

Of course, that’s not an all-inclusive list of solutions that can help you get trained. To be sure, there are more programs out there for those looking to blaze a trail towards a new career. To find the best training fit for your station in life, and where you find yourself at your time of transition, you’ll probably have to do some homework. You’ll weigh your options, evaluate costs, and get some advice from people you know and trust. Just know that, as with most things in life, there are likely several right answers…and at some point, you’ll just have to make a decision. Embrace it, and then go kick butt.

Until next time…

 

What’s the Best Job ‘Fit’ After Military Service?

What’s the Best Job ‘Fit’ After Military Service?

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

You don’t have to be in transition from active service to be thinking about where you might land your next civilian job, but many folks who are in the process of separating find that much of their time & energy is spent on exactly that: where will they spend the next chapter of their professional life, and will it be a good ‘fit’?

Many people who find themselves looking for work upon separation from active service, also find themselves in one of two camps…those that are planning to slide right into a civilian occupation or position doing exactly what they spent most of their time in uniform doing; or those that want nothing to do with their military skill sets, who seek something shiny and new.

Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve spoken to a whole lot of Troops in both camps…Service Members retiring after 20 or 30 years of active service, young men and women separating after their first enlistment, and Warriors whose careers were cut short due to medical discharge. Thinking about those conversations now, there’s no rhyme or reason about why folks choose to follow a certain path after military service, and how they (or you or me) define “best fit” is very subjective…for some, it’s simply an opportunity to do something new, a break from what they’ve been doing most of their adult life.

If you stay put in a career field where you’ve got history, you may find yourself among the most qualified job applicants out there. On the other hand, if you’re looking to change careers, you may find yourself looking at job offers at low rates of pay, given your experience…or no job offers at all. You may find yourself bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, and have a passion to be a small business owner (more about that at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/a-few-tips-for-the-would-be-entrepreneur).

Wherever you find yourself, take advantage of all the resources you can during your time on active duty: take personality quizzes, enroll in certification programs at local colleges, and get credentialed for your skill sets all throughout your military service. Sign up for aptitude tests, check out projected salary ranges, and participate in seminars and workshops. Check out skills translators like CareerOneStop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor (https://www.careeronestop.org/Toolkit/Jobs/match-veteran-jobs.aspx). Here you can use their Veterans Job Matcher to “find civilian careers that might be a good match for your military skills.”

I’m a firm believer that those of us in the Military community – which includes Spouses – are more likely to succeed at our vocational goals than our counterparts from the general population. That said, you probably shouldn’t wait until terminal leave starts to figure out what that next chapter might look like. How soon should you start, you ask? Well, an old crusty E-9 once told me that he encouraged Troops to start preparing for life ‘back on the block’ right after the Newcomer’s Brief at their first duty station. And there’s some wisdom to that, even though you might think you’re a lifer.

Prepare for that transition process early, prepare often…and all the while, take stock of where your head is, where your heart is, and what’s wise, regardless of what you think you’re owed.

Until next time…

 

Setting Yourself Up For Success As Your Military Duty Comes To An Ultimate End

There are many active service military members that cannot wait until they complete their
military service to go back to civilian life. The truth is that not all military personnel
appropriately plans and takes a course of action to allow themselves to adjust in a variety of
ways of being a civilian. These actions can be everything from saving up money instead of
splurging during each time you are on extended leave. Start practicing good habits like that of
good personal finance habits, healthy physical activity, a focus on mental health, and learning
new skills will pay off over time. The following are tips for those in the military that want to set
themselves up for success even if they are years away from the end of their military career.

Do Not Blow Money Each Time You Have A Few Days Leave

The trap that many young military members make is going crazy in terms of spending money
each time they have a few days or extended leave. This does not mean that you cannot have fun
while on leave but going out every single night can get expensive quickly. The last thing that you
want to do is to spend the majority of your time at home hungover when you could be getting
things done. Looking for jobs during this time can be a good idea or even setting up interviews
can be a huge opportunity. Interviewing well takes practice so getting in and doing well in an
interview can be a perfect practice run for your after-discharge job search. The opportunity to go
to college without incurring debt, free healthcare for life, and the ability to purchase a home due
to your service in the military would be a waste not to do these comfortably in terms of finances
if you have the chance.

Start Freelancing During Your Time Off From Military Related Activities

Freelancing during and after your time in the military is fine as long as it does not interfere with
your duties. Earning extra income monthly can be perfect to allow you to start saving for civilian
life. These freelance gigs can range in pay as well as difficulty with web developers or freelance
writers making healthy amounts. Jobs that might take less skill like a virtual assistant will pay
less but can be a perfect way to start a freelance career. The best aspect of working with clients
for an extended period is that many companies will hire freelancers full-time. Being able to
generate income after discharge while setting your own schedule can allow you to find the job of
your dreams instead of accepting a subpar job to pay for your life.

Learn Skills That Can Be Applicable To Civilian Jobs As There Is Plenty Of
Opportunity

Finding that job that will allow you to thrive after you are discharged will take initiative. You
will be put on a certain path whether it is to be a welder, electrician, mechanic, or work with
computers in some capacity. All of these skills can help you find a job so it is important to take
pride in your work rather than simply do high enough quality of work so you avoid reprimand
from a superior. Private security jobs can be very profitable as a side gig for former military
wanting to supplement their income on weekends. Truspec.com which provides tactical gear that
is up to military specifications notes “Part of working private security details is looking the part
which adds a sense of comfort to those that have hired the detail.”

Take Time To Set Up A Detailed Plan Of What You Are Going To Do In
Civilian Life

Creating a plan can allow for a person that might be flustered during their first few weeks or
months after their honorable discharge. This should include a proposed budget that keeps in
mind the money that you will have saved up by this time. Taking on a job that you might think is
below you can be done simply to keep yourself above water financially. Setting a schedule even
before you have gotten a job is essential as finding a healthy source of employment is a full-time
job in today’s world. There are times when a veteran after discharge doesn’t have a plan or even
an idea of where they will settle down. Drifting will drain that financial nest egg you have built
up so try to write out the direction that you want your life to take after your discharge.
Lessons like consistent effort and routine learned in the military have taught military personnel
that they can accomplish nearly anything with focused work. Finding a routine that makes you
happy, allows you to manage your stress in a healthy manner, keeps you professionally engaged,
and everything in between might take time. Figure out a portion of your life at a time as trying to
figure it all out at once can be overwhelming for almost anyone.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program

The Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

The “yellow ribbon” has been symbolic among Americans for many years. We displayed those ribbons everywhere in support of Americans being held hostage in Iran and the Persian Gulf War inspired countless numbers of our loved ones (my own parents included) to decorate clothing, trees, and even county courthouse columns with yellow ribbons to demonstrate support of those deployed.

More recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs has chosen to leverage that highly positive symbolism when naming a key benefit for military Veterans and their families. Established by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows colleges, universities, and other degree-granting schools in the United States to enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the amounts payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In short, the Yellow Ribbon Program helps make up the difference when the GI Bill just isn’t enough … degree-granting institutions of higher learning that participate in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program agree to make additional funds available for your education without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement.

Here are some key highlights of the program, straight from the VA. Of course, in the realm of benefits things are always subject to change; in order to nail down the most current information, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/yellow_ribbon.asp

The Yellow Ribbon Program. The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay all resident tuition & fees for a public school or the lower of the actual tuition & fees or the national maximum per academic year for a private school. Your actual tuition & fees costs may exceed these amounts if you’re attending a private school or are attending a public school as a nonresident student. In order to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement, these institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. The VA matches that amount and issues payments directly to the institution.

Available Benefits and Eligibility. To receive benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program, you must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This includes:

…Those who served 36 months (may be aggregate) on active duty

…Purple Heart recipients with an Honorable discharge and any amount of service

…Those discharged after 60 days with a service-connected disability and served 30 continuous days after Sept. 10, 2001

…Children using transferred benefits if their Service Member transferor is at the 100 percent level (36 months served)

…Effective August 1, 2022, Service Members at the 100 percent level and transferee spouses whose transferor is at the 100 percent level

…Active duty Service Members or their spouses are not eligible

 

Additionally, your school must agree to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program; your school must have not offered Yellow Ribbon to more than the maximum number of individuals, as stated in their participation agreement; and your school must certify your enrollment to the VA and provide them Yellow Ribbon Program information.

Of course, not every institution of higher learning is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program. For a listing of schools that are participating in the 2019-20 school year, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/yellow_ribbon/yrp_list_2019.asp. In addition, participating schools have the flexibility to designate the number of students they will assist and the amount of contributions based on student status (as in undergrad, grad, or doctoral) and college or professional school. It might be good to touch base with your school’s certifying official, as well, for details on how they fit into the program.

Finally, the Yellow Ribbon Program received some enhancements as part of the Forever GI Bill (aka The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017). Just to reiterate what I mentioned above, effective August 1, 2018 Fry Scholarship and Purple Heart recipients became eligible for the Yellow Ribbon benefits and on August 1, 2022 certain members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty will eligible.

The application process isn’t too complicated…if you submit an application for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the VA and are eligible at the 100% benefit level, the VA will issue you a Certificate of Eligibility advising that you are potentially eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. They say that you should provide your Certificate of Eligibility to the school which, in turn, will determine if there are slots available for the Yellow Ribbon Program (based on its agreement with the VA).

Once the Department of Veterans Affairs started redesigning the current-era array of educational benefits (beginning with the Post-9/11 package), many among us have decided to give ‘higher ed’ the ol’ college try. And the way the Yellow Ribbon Program has helped bridge the gap for many Veterans, especially with the recent enhancements I just mentioned, has made a tremendous impact for many of our Brothers and Sisters.

 

 Until next time…

 

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.”

 

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!

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…