MilitaryConnection.com Under New Ownership

 

 

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MilitaryConnection.com Under New Ownership

Veterans Home Care owners Bonnie and Howard Laiderman are proud to announce the recent acquisition of Militaryconnection.com, a division of Gregory Media, Inc. The acquisition allows Veterans Home Care to offer a greater range of opportunities and broaden their efforts in helping more veterans, active military, and their families.

Both Bonnie Laiderman, founder and CEO of Veterans Home Care and Debbie Gregory, Military Connection founder and Gregory Media CEO established successful businesses by answering a need in the military community. Many active military personnel, veterans and their families fail to access available benefits and opportunities due to a lack of awareness.  

“Eighty-eight percent of our clients who responded to our survey were unaware of the VA’s Aid and Attendance pension until they heard about the VetAssist Program from Veterans Home Care,”
said Ms. Laiderman. Veterans Home Care educates veterans on VA Aid and Attendance eligibility and then offers them home care through their national network of more than 2,800 home care agencies.

“We have been looking for strategic ways to broaden our reach, and Militaryconnection.com was an immediate interest of ours,” said Ms. Laiderman. “It’s a great way for us to expand and connect with active military families as well as veterans and leverage our infrastructure to provide additional value throughout their lives.”

MilitaryConnection.com, launched by Ms. Gregory and Gregory Media, Inc. more than 10 years ago, is one of the most comprehensive online directories of resources and information for military, veterans, and their loved ones. It’s currently ranked #26 on the Top 60 Military Websites And Blogs To Follow in 2018 and also named as one of the Top 100 Employment Web Sites by Weddles LLC.

“After taking the website to heights that I had only previously imagined, I knew that in the right hands, the sky would be the limit,” said Ms. Gregory.  “Bonnie and I are in lock-step as far as giving back all that we can to the military and veteran community. I look forward to working with her throughout the transition and beyond.”

Since 2003, Veterans Home Care has pioneered a unique service model targeted nationwide to 65+ aged veterans or their surviving spouses eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Pension with Aid and Attendance called the VetAssist Program.

 

Ms. Gregory is looking forward to having the time to focus her attention on VAMBOA.org, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association, a non-profit trade association that she founded with over 7,000 members nationally.

 

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

By Debbie Gregory

The Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) was legislated by Congress and implemented by the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure the accuracy and fairness of combined disability ratings of 20% or less assigned to service members who were discharged between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009.

The review gives a veteran a second look at a disability process and corrects any errors that the service may have made, which may result in either a modification to their assigned rating or disability retirement.  

When a servicemember receives full medical retirement, they are eligible for health care and a stipend for the rest of their life. A 30 percent rating or higher gives the veteran retiree status, which includes a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And a review by PDBR cannot hurt a veteran’s existing rating. Those who apply but are not granted a review or a change in status can still continue receiving services from the VA.

The top three medical conditions that result in a favorable recommendation are back ailments, arthritis, and mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress.

So far, only 19,000 veterans have applied, although it is estimated that some 71,000 veterans are eligible for at least a disability rating review. If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

The majority of applicants, some 70 percent, have been Army, 20 percent are Navy/Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force, and less than one percent Coast Guard.

The process does require patience, as the wait for a decision can be lengthy, but in the long run, the process can be a game-changer for disabled veterans and their family members.

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

By Debbie Gregory.

Life after military service can be a smooth transition for some, but for many servicemembers, the struggle is real. That’s why there is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which aims to get servicemembers ready for their next step in their lives, be it education, employment or entrepreneurship.

TAP reform has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill in recent months. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, introduced The Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2018, named for a friend of the congressman’s who committed suicide.

Mulder retired from the Navy in January 2017 after a distinguished twenty-year career as a US Navy SEAL. He was a highly decorated combat veteran with numerous awards throughout multiple overseas deployments. His awards included three Bronze Stars with Valor.

“If we do a better job equipping our servicemen and women on the front end of their transition, we can reduce the number of veterans who struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of intervention,” said Arrington.

The legislation, if passed, would specifically restructure TAP to require servicemembers to choose specific career-oriented tracks that best suit their post-service plans and would require them to take part in one-on-one counseling a year prior to separation.

Furthermore, it would also authorize a five-year pilot program that would provide matching grant funds to community providers that offer wraparound transition services to veterans and transitioning servicemembers.

Finally, the bill would restructure five days of TAP to devote one day for service-specific training, another for employment preparation, two for the service member’s track of choice — either employment, higher education, career and technical training, or entrepreneurship — and the last for a briefing on Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

The bill has support from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The Transition Assistance Program is a joint program administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

National Park Service Grant Funds Films About WWII-Era Japanese-American Confinement Sites

National Park Service Grant Funds Films About WWII-Era Japanese-American Confinement Sites

National Park Service Grant Funds Films About WWII-Era Japanese-American Confinement Sites

 

By Debbie Gregory.

Full Spectrum Features, a Chicago-based non-profit film company that aims to educate the public about important social and cultural issues via the power of cinema, has received a grant to make two short films about the history of Japanese-American World War II incarceration that followed in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The project is funded by the National Park Service, which recently awarded nine grants of more than $1.3 million to projects that help preserve and interpret World II Japanese-American Confinement sites.

In 1942, almost 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes in California, western Oregon and Washington, and southern Arizona in the single largest forced relocation in U.S. history.

Many would spend the next 3 years in one of ten “relocation centers” across the country.

The scripted films will focus on the resettlement and draft resistance of Japanese Americans.

“We think it’s important to have dramatic narrative scripted films about this history because Hollywood doesn’t make World War II films that feature Asian-Americans as the protagonists,” said Eugene Sun Park, Full Spectrum’s executive director.

The filmmakers are working with the Heart Mountain Foundation in Wyoming. Established in 1996, the foundation has worked to preserve and memorialize the site and events, educate the general public about the Japanese American incarceration and support research about the incarceration so that future generations can understand the lessons of the Japanese American incarceration experience. The site of the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center is considered to retain the highest integrity of the ten incarceration centers constructed during the war.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt stated towards war end “to undo a mistake is always harder than not to create one originally but we seldom have the foresight. …every citizen in this country has a right to our basic freedoms, to justice and to equality of opportunity.”

In 1988 and 1992 Congress passed laws to apologize to Japanese Americans for the injustices during the war and to pay compensation to survivors of the camps and their descendants.

 

Vets with TBI at Increased Risk for Dementia

Vets with TBI at Increased Risk for Dementia

Vets with TBI at Increased Risk for Dementia

By Debbie Gregory.

After reviewing the medical records of more than 350,000 servicemembers who served during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, researchers have found a link between those who experienced at least one mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the development of dementia.

The study, led by Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, MPH, posed the question “Is mild traumatic brain injury without loss of consciousness associated with an increased risk of dementia diagnosis in veterans?”

The findings revealed that mild TBI, even without loss of consciousness, was associated with more than a 2-fold increase in the risk of a dementia diagnosis.

Some 15-20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq had at least one mild TBI, usually through one (or in some cases multiple) exposure to post-explosion shock waves.

The study included 178,779 patients diagnosed with a TBI through the Veterans Health Administration health care system, and 178,779 patients in a propensity-matched comparison group.

While it is not clear why the damage caused by a TBI would make someone more prone to a dementia diagnosis, there is a theory that inflammation and the loss of white matter after the injury could create a more inviting environment for the amyloid beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles associated with dementia.

The chronic effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), particularly dementia and related neurodegenerative disorders in military veterans, have become an intense research focus,” wrote Dr. Kimbra Kenney of the U.S. Uniformed Services University and Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia of the University of Pennsylvania’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Research Center in a JAMA editorial article. “This study provides the best information to date that military veterans are at risk for dementia as a consequence of injuries sustained during their service to the United States,”  

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

By Debbie Gregory.

At 112 years old, Richard Overton is the country’s oldest living veteran.

He was born on May 11, 1906 in Bastrop County, Texas. In 1942, he volunteered for military service after the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Overton is a Veteran of Iwo Jima, and also spent time in Hawaii, Guam and Palau. He left the Army in October, 1945, after the unconditional surrender by the Japanese.

Overton served as a member of the Army’s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion.  

After the war, Overton returned to Texas, where he briefly sold furniture, before going to work in the state’s Treasurer’s Office.

Overton lives in East Austin, in a house that he built himself. He has been a bit of a celebrity in the Veteran Community, heralded as being the oldest Vet in the nation.

Overton revealed that his secret to living so long is a moderate daily dose of whiskey and cigars. He admits to a spoonful of whiskey in his morning coffee, and puffing (but not inhaling) cigars, as a part of his regular regiment. But he admits that he mostly credits his longevity to keeping out of trouble.

Overton made it through the battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most horrific battles of all time, and then survived the rest of the war. It would be safe to assume that he had seen enough trouble in his life time to be able to recognize it, and be allowed to stay away from it.

Overton recently flew in a private jet to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, where he received a private tour and met former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

His 112th birthday bash was hosted by Austin hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm and featured music by DJ Kay Cali.

So here’s to Richard Overton and his great ability to endure as a soldier, as a person, and as an inspiration.

 

Is Privatization of the VA an Option?

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Is  Privatization of the VA an Option?

By Debbie Gregory

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been offering care since the World War II era, starting with the then-Veterans Administration’s Hometown Program that began in 1945. Now there is talk abounding that the VA is headed towards privatization. But exactly what is the definition of what privatization of the VA would be?

On the VA website, an article titled “Debunking the VA Privatization Myth” quotes House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe saying, “If we’re trying to privatize, we’re not doing a very good job,”…”We’ve gone from 250,000 employees in the VA in 2009 to 370,000 employees, and we’ve gone from a $93.5 billion budget to what the president’s asked this year is $198 billion. It sounds like we’ve been an utter failure if we’re trying to privatize.”

About $72 billion of VA’s budget this fiscal year goes to medical care, and the department has more than 1,200 medical facilities nationwide. But veterans groups contend that the increase has more to do with inflation and increased demands on the VA than anything else.

There is bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill to any type of privatization efforts.

During his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Dr. Ben Carson floated the idea of issuing health care vouchers to veterans, allowing them to choose where to have their care.This would be similar to the  Veterans Choice Program, one of several VA programs through which a Veteran can receive care from a community provider, paid for by VA.

For example, if a veteran needs an appointment for a specific type of care, and the VA cannot provide the care in a timely manner or the nearest VA medical facility is too far away or too difficult to get to, then a veteran might be eligible for care through the Veterans Choice Program.

Veterans must receive prior authorization from the VA to receive care from a provider that is part of VA’s VCP network of community providers. The authorization is based on specific eligibility requirements and discussions with the veteran’s VA provider.

The battle over privatization will depend on how much medical care should go outside the department’s existing infrastructure, and what counts as too much reliance on the private sector.

The Sad Story of Lance Corporal Brian Easley

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The Sad Story of Lance Corporal Brian Easley

By Debbie Gregory

Former Lance Corporal Brian Easley had fallen on hard times. The 33-year-old former Marine was barely getting by on a small monthly disability check from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Back aches, a marriage and child in quick succession, his mother’s death and mental illness started a downward spiral that Easley couldn’t escape. The last thing he needed was an issue with his disability check, but that occurred when the check mysteriously failed to materialize.

Calls to the Veterans Crisis Line and a trip to the VA’s Regional Benefits Office in Atlanta failed to resolve the issue.

Out of desperation, Easley entered a Wells Fargo bank and claimed he was carrying C-4 explosive. He took two employees hostage and alerted the authorities and the media. He had no intention of robbing the bank or hurting the hostages. His goal was to draw attention to his plight.

Diagnosed with PTSD and suffering from schizophrenia and paranoia, Easley was already on the edge. His monthly VA disability check came to $892. When July 1 2017 came and went, and the expected funds were not in the account, Easley began to panic.

That panic led the soft-spoken, shy veteran to snap.

While it turned out that his check had been garnished due to a tuition issue, he was suffering from a severe mental illness, one that should have been recognized by the VA and dealt with accordingly.

Many of the law enforcement officers who responded to the crisis at the bank were former military. Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register served on a mobile reconnaissance team in Afghanistan with the 20th Special Forces Group. Sgt. Andre Bates, the lead hostage negotiator, served in the Marine Corps, as did Joel Preston, the commander of the tactical team, and Officer Dennis Ponte, the sniper who eventually ended the situation when he took Easley’s life.

After a negotiated trade for one of the hostages was made, the logistics of the plan were being worked out. It was during that planning session that Officer Ponte made a fateful decision, and for reasons unknown, took his shot.

The contents of the backpack were a Bible, some papers, and a small machete, among other incidentals. No C-4. No surprise.

Arlington National Cemetery Is Running Out of Land

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Arlington National Cemetery Is Running Out of Land

By Debbie Gregory

Arlington National Cemetery has a finite amount of land, and it will reach burial capacity in less than 25 years unless changes are made.

Some options being considered to avoid reaching capacity include redefining eligibility criteria and availing alternative approaches such as new burial techniques or increased use of above-ground interment.

Since it was established during the Civil War, 400,000 people have been buried at the cemetery from every major American conflict. The Department of the Army controls the 624-acre cemetery.

There are only two variables that affect the future of Arlington National Cemetery: available land and the rate at which burials are requested.

Currently, the cemetery conducts up to 40 burials a week.

Based on the amount of land available, the cemetery will close for new burials in 23 years if nothing changes.

There is a possibility of expansion south of the cemetery, which will add some 40 acres and 10-15 years of accommodation.

“We continue our promise to publicly discuss this challenge in order to make the correct decision, but we cannot expand our way out of this problem,” said Arlington National Cemetery Superintendent Katharine Kelley.

Following the publication of the Report to Congress on the Capacity at Arlington National Cemetery, respondents provided their opinions on the future of Arlington National Cemetery.

The overall response revealed that in order to keep Arlington open for as long as possible, many of them would be in favor of tightening up the eligibility to limit interment to those killed in action, Medal of Honor and other high award recipients, former POWs, and those active duty service members who die on operational missions.

Respondents said that the cemetery, a symbol of military service and sacrifice, would need to undergo an overhaul of eligibility requirements in order to extend the future of active burials beyond 2055.

The leadership at Arlington has launched a more in-depth survey regarding eligibility for interment at Arlington Cemetery. If you would like to share your opinion, you can participate in the survey at https://bit.ly/2rsRAFW .

 

Special Forces Legend, “Iron Mike” Dies

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Special Forces Legend, “Iron Mike” Dies

By Debbie Gregory

Last month, the Army lost a special ops legend.

Maj. Gen. Michael D. Healy, 91, spent 35 years serving in the military, completing tours in Korea and Vietnam. Healy began his career with parachute training followed by attendance at a number of Army Colleges, including Ranger School.

Maj. Gen. Healy earned the nickname “Iron Mike” while serving as a young officer leading Army Rangers on combat patrols deep behind enemy lines in Korea in the early 1950s. The nickname, which stuck with him throughout his life, was a testament to his stamina and ability to take heavy loads, as well as helping others with their loads.

The Chicago native enlisted in the Army at the age of 19.

He entered the Korean War as a Company Commander with the Airborne Rangers, which at the time was a newly formed unit of the Army. Most of his career was spent in Vietnam, where he served five and a half tours, leading the 5th Special Forces group for almost 20 months, and earning him his first Distinguished Service Medal.

When he retired in 1981, Maj. Gen. Healy was the nation’s most senior Special Forces soldier.

Iron Mike’s legend made it to the big screen as the inspiration for John Wayne’s character, “Col. Iron Mike Kirby,” in the 1968 film “The Green Berets.”

Maj. Gen. Healy’s legacy would not be forgotten in the close-knit Special Forces community, according to Retired Sgt. 1st Class Cliff Newman, executive director of the Special Forces Association.

“He was one of the first Americans to go into Vietnam and one of the last to leave,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Healy was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, two Silver Star Medals, a Legion of Merit with three oak-leaf clusters, a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star Medal with valor device, an Air Medal with Valor device, a Navy Commendation Medal with valor device and two Purple Heart Medals. He is also a member of the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

In 2016, Maj. Gen. Healy was inducted as a Distingished Member of the Special Forces Regiment. He had a special bond with the men he lead, and was a beloved hero of the Green Berets. He always credited his success to the men he lead.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Healy said: “I would like to walk in the back gate at Fort Sheridan like I first did and say, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll go.’ But today, I’m in civilian clothes. My uniform is packed away.”

Maj. Gen. Healy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his mentor, the late Gen. Creighton Abrams.