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Veterans’ Preference Hiring Program

The-Veterans-Preference-Point-System

By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans’ Preference gives those who are disabled, served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns preference over others in hiring for virtually all federal government jobs for veterans. While veterans’ preference does not guarantee jobs for military veterans, it does show our nation’s gratitude by giving them a leg up.

Veterans’ Preference was enacted at the end of the Civil War to aid disabled veterans. It was greatly expanded after World War I, allowing able-bodied, honorably discharged veterans, widows of deceased veterans and wives of severely disabled ones to take advantage of the assistance. Under the Obama administration, federal agencies established hiring goals that has resulted in one-third of new federal hires being veterans.

The program works on a point system, with 100 being the highest score. Typically, applicants receive points by either taking a test or through an evaluation of their education and experience. Disabled veterans got extra 10 points added to that score, while other former soldiers received 5 points. In the case of a tie, veterans are placed ahead of non-veterans. In addition, veterans with more serious service-related disabilities are placed at the top of the list, as long as they achieved a passing grade of 70 points.

Hiring officials cannot pass over veterans in the top category to hire more qualified non-veterans.

Younger veterans born since 1980 are about 15 times more likely than non-veterans of the same age to hold federal jobs.

Veterans’ Preference is a powerful hiring tool that can help veterans reach the veteran employers of the federal workforce.

Although it only directly benefited about one-tenth of veterans in the past, nearly one-third of recent veterans have federal jobs, many more than would have them in the absence of preferential hiring.

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

Most Disabled Veterans Don’t Have Access to Full VA Caregiver Support

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By Debbie Gregory.

Family caregivers sacrifice so much of themselves in order to give their loved ones the highest quality of life possible. Yet most people are unaware of who these caregivers are and the role they play and the unique obstacles they face, especially those who are caring for a disabled veteran.

Veterans who were injured after Sept. 11, 2001 and require at-home care have access to for the full package of caregiver supports through the VA. However, this is not true for veterans who were severely injured prior to 2001.

Veteran service organizations such as Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are working with the VA and Congress to change this policy, in the hopes of expanding VA caregiver benefits, such as training and education, financial stipends, health insurance and respite care to all veterans, regardless of when they served.

Of the 5.5 million caregivers who provide support to current and former service members, roughly 80%, (4.4 million) are caring for veterans from military service prior to 2001. The majority of caregivers are spouses who receive very little in the way of benefits or support.

Expanding the VA’s caregiver support program is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, as family caregivers not only enhance the quality of life for those they care for, but also save the government significantly in long-term health care costs.

And with some 57% of veteran caregivers over the age of 55, they are more likely to experience health concerns of their own, which could result in increased strain on both the veteran and the caregiver.

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

Shulkin Backs Off Plan to Cut Benefits of Elderly Veterans

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By Debbie Gregory.

It’s good to know that Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has announced that he wants to avoid any policy changes that will hurt the most vulnerable veterans, those who are part of the Individual Unemployability (IU) program.

“The budget is a process, and it became clear this (plan) would hurt some veterans,” he said. “I’m really concerned about that … I’m not going to support policies that hurt veterans.”

President Donald Trump’s $186.5 billion VA budget for fiscal 2018 has provisions that would dramatically change eligibility rules for the IU program, affecting some 210,000 veterans over the age of 60, at least 7,000 of whom are over 80.

Under current rules, the IU program awards payouts at the 100 percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if their actual rating decision is less than that. The change would make them ineligible once they reach Social Security’s retirement age

Although the move would save $3.2 billion just in its first year, the cost to the veterans currently qualified for UI would be enormous. IU payouts can total almost $20,000 a year.

American Legion officials praised the administration “for coming to their senses and committing to protect the Individual Unemployability program that provides for our most vulnerable veterans and their families.”

Shulkin is still committed to looking for ways to be more efficient with taxpayer funds, but not at the expense of veterans’ financial health.

We at Military Connection applaud these actions! Our veterans deserve all of the benefits they receive.

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

Wrongfully Collected Money to be Returned to Some Veterans

disabled vets

By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans who had to medically retire from the military because of combat-related injuries during the last two decades have lost out on thousands of dollars in severance pay because the Defense Department improperly taxed those payments.

And for some veterans of these veterans who were shortchanged millions by the government, it took an act of Congress to finally get the money they were owed.

Luckily, the nonprofit National Veterans Legal Services Program stepped up to go to bat for these disabled American veterans.

“It literally takes an act of Congress to try to right this historic wrong that was done to them,” said Thomas Moore, a lawyer with the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

“We have estimated that it’s about 14,000 veterans, and the total amount taken from these veterans we’ve estimated as about $78 million,” Moore said.

Both houses of Congress unanimously passed H.R. 5015, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016, before Congress wrapped up its legislative session. Once the bill is signed into law, the veterans will be allowed to file an amended tax return to get their money.

The accounting error related to taxes and disability severance payments might stem from the system’s shortcomings when identifying disability severance payments (DSP) categories. While combat-injured vets receiving DSP aren’t supposed to be taxed on that payment, the government does withhold taxes on disability severance payments for service members who are separated because of non-combat-related injuries.

Sen. Warner said he takes comfort knowing the bill is heading to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“It is unbelievable that Congress needed to act to clear up this issue,” Warner said.

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

Debt of Honor Pays Tribute to Disabled Veterans

debt of honor

By Debbie Gregory.

Disabled veterans hold a unique place in the history of the United States, and Debt of Honor is a powerful documentary by Ric Burns that tells their story.

The film relays the history of wounded veterans in all of our major wars. During the Revolutionary War era, half of those wounded died. Today, the statistics reflect that 8 out of 9 wounded will survive. Advances in field medicine have resulted in this huge increase in survival. But it also means that more service members are coming home disabled. Increased numbers of veterans are coming home with severe injuries, suffering from PTSD, TBI, burn injuries, and loss of limbs.

The documentary examines how governmental and societal attitudes towards disabled veterans have changed over time. Since we haven’t had a national draft since 1973, the armed services are made up of volunteers, the 1%, who put their lives on the line to defend the nation.

The documentary shares first-hand accounts of wounded warriors Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth, Pvt. J.R. Martinez, Col. Gregory Gadson, to name just a few.

Those who return from war must have men and women waiting for them at home who will stand with them as they work to take back their lives. Young men and women who engaged in relentless combat in Iraq and Afghanistan were wounded by IEDs, roadside bombs, and ambushes.

Those with obvious physical wounds returned home to military hospitals and VA medical centers to begin the lifetime journey of rehabilitation. Many of those suffering from PTSD and TBI have gone undiagnosed and untreated.

Wounded World War II veterans visited wounded Korean War veterans. Wounded Korean War veterans visited wounded Vietnam veterans. As new wounded warriors arrived home from Iraq and Afghanistan, they face the same fears and concerns that veterans had returning from Europe, the Pacific, Korea, and Vietnam.

Today, with the United States fighting the longest war in its history, it has become imperative to create a bridge between civilians and soldiers, forging ties between those who serve and those they protect.

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

 

 

Britain’s Prince Harry Salutes All Who Serve

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By Debbie Gregory.

Britain’s Prince Harry was greeted by cheers when he entered Wells Field House at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to officially launch the 2016 Invictus Games. The Prince, who is the Patron for the games, was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, and they all “high-fived” the athletes who had lined up to meet them.

The inaugural Invictus Games took place last year in London, England, using the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women worldwide.

In May 2012, Prince Harry met with five injured service members in Washington, D.C., before accepting a humanitarian award for his charity work with wounded warriors. He then attended the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado, which is where the idea for the Invictus Games was born.

“I saw the power that sport could play in the recovery of both mind and body,” he said. “I left Colorado with a determination to broaden this to an international audience.”

Prince Harry attributed the 10 years he spent in the British army as life-changing. He did two tours of duty in Afghanistan and shared a flight home with three British soldiers in comas and a Danish soldier who had been killed in action. That’s when the reality of war really sunk in.

“From that moment, I knew I had the responsibility to help all veterans who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries to lead healthy and dignified lives after service,” he said.

The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It embodies the fighting spirit of the wounded, injured and sick service personnel and what these tenacious men and women can achieve, post injury.

“The games epitomized the very best of the human spirit — men and women who had not only adjusted to life, but embraced it, proving what can be achieved post-injury rather than focusing on what cannot,” Prince Harry said.

Joining Prince Harry on his trip to the U.S. were two competitors from the British Armed Forces team who took part in last year’s Games.

Mickaela Richards, from the Royal Navy, won three medals at the 2014 Invictus Games. A former Captain with the Army in the Royal Engineers, Rob Cromey-Hawke won two Gold medals in the cycling event.

“Sport has played such a huge part in my recovery. The Games last year taught me that I don’t need to be defined by my injuries and that I can achieve as much as I did when I was in the military. In fact, it’s inspired me to do more and more with my life,” said Cromey-Hawke.

The 2016 Invictus Games will take place in Orlando, Florida May 8th-12th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

 

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

Military Connection: Paid Sick Days for Federally Employed Vets?

Bill for Paid sick days

Newly proposed legislation will make it possible for wounded Veterans, newly hired by the federal governmentto start their jobs with multiple weeks of paid sick leave.

On January 13, 2015, Massachusetts Representative Stephen Lynch introduced H.R. 313. The bill would amend Title 5, United States Code, providing paid leave to any new federal employee who is a servicedisabled Veteran, rated at a minimum of 30% disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The measure, if passed, would give service-disabled Veterans 104 hours of paid sick time after they enter the federal workforce. New federal employees who are not service-disabled Veterans begin their federal careers with zero hours of sick time, and accrue hours over time. The bill would also allow the Veterans to carry over any of the 104 hours they do not use in a given year.

“It is unacceptable that our wounded warrior federal employees, who are just starting out in the federal workforce, are often faced with the difficult choice of having to take unpaid leave to attend their VA appointments or miss their medical visits,” said Rep. Lynch.

Along with Lynch, six additional members of the House have signed on as co-sponsors: Representatives G.K. Butterfield (NC), Gerry Connolly (VA), Elijah Cummings (MD), Blake Farenthold (TX), Walter Jones (NC), and Delegate Eleanor Norton (DC).

“These men and women have made incredible sacrifices to defend our freedom and have been wounded as a result,” Rep. Jones said in a statement. “They deserve an adequate amount of time to tend to their wounds while beginning a new chapter in their careers after they leave the military.”

The proposed legislation has also been backed by the Federal Managers Association. Representative from the group have admitted to seeing first-hand the struggle that service-disabled Veterans have when trying to juggle the job with their necessary medical appointments. Compounding the problem is the narrow scheduling windows at VA medical facilities. The group feels that supporting this bill is the right thing to do.

Senators Jon Tester (MT) and Jerry Moran (TX) also plan to introduce similar legislation in the Senate soon.

You can keep track of H.R. 313 and other Veteran legislation at www.congress.gov or www.Govtrack.usYou are encouraged to contact your elected officials and let them know how you want them to vote on your behalf.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Paid Sick Days for Federally Employed Vets? By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA to Upgrade Claims Process: By Debbie Gregory

VA claimsIn an effort to better serve Veterans and their families, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the launch of a new uniformed disability claims form that will take place next year.

It used to be that a Veteran or survivor did not have to use a specified form to seek compensation or other benefits from VA.  Claims or appeals (Notice of Disagreement) could be submitted on any piece of paper, which caused delays due to missing information.

By standardizing the process that Veterans use to file claims and initiate appeals, the VA hopes to make the process easier for Veterans and survivors. The new standardized forms eliminate applicant guesswork, which in the past has led to insufficient information or proof of eligibility. Applications were denied or sent back to the applicant for more information or correction. This laborious process has done much to tie up the system, as well as delay benefits for deserving Veterans.

The standardized form for all disability claims can more efficiently identify what the Veteran is claiming or appealing. This should allow the VA to rapidly proceed to the next step in the evidence-gathering and decision-making process. Speeding up this part of the process will save administrative processing time and expedite the delivery of earned benefits to Veterans.

“We must do everything that we can to make it as fast and easy as possible for Veterans and their survivors to file for and receive an accurate decision on their claim,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said. “Our Veterans and survivors will know, at the outset of the claims process, what is needed, which removes subjective interpretation from the process. We want to eliminate any barriers that make it difficult for our Veterans or survivors to receive benefits to which they are entitled.”

The new process will also include standardization of the informal claims process by employing a new “Intent to File a Claim” form, which gives applicants one year to compile the necessary documentation or evidence in order to support the claim, while preserving an effective date of claim.

The VA’s new standardized forms and upgraded process are scheduled to go into effect in March of 2015.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA to Upgrade Claims Process: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Wounded Warrior SurveyOn September 16, 2014, the Wounded Warrior Project released the results of their 2014 Annual Alumni Survey. The organization surveyed more than 21,000 wounded Veterans in an effort to determine the areas where these Veterans struggle after they separate from the Military. The intention is that the data provided by the survey can be used to improve support and benefits for wounded Veterans.

The survey found that the two most common problems in accessing both physical and mental healthcare were 1. Difficulty in scheduling appointments,  and 2. Inconsistent treatment due to canceled appointments and switches in providers. The survey found that this was not just among VA healthcare patients, but among Veterans seen by private providers as well.

The survey revealed that the primary type of current health insurance or coverage cited included Veterans Affairs at 59.2%. This stat was up from 52.7% in 2013.

The percentage of Veterans receiving VA disability benefits is 72%, which is up from 62.8% in 2013.

The number of Veterans with a VA disability rating of 80% or higher rose to 42.6% in 2014, up from 36.2% in 2013.

The study also found that the top five reported injuries and health problems experienced during post-9/11 service were:

  1. Sleep disorders (75.8%)
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder (75.2%)
  3. Back, neck, and shoulder problems (72.3%)
  4. Depression (67.1%)
  5. Anxiety (64.2%) or

Other important findings from the survey include:

  • The unemployment rate for respondents in the labor force is 13.9%
  • 82.3% of warriors are overweight or obese
  • 75% of warriors reported the memory of an upsetting military experience has haunted them in the past month.
  • 59.2% of warriors say talking with another veteran is in their top five ways for coping with stress
  • 43.2% of warriors report having a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Wounded Warrior Project has conducted this survey. The data will allow the organization to identify trends and compare this data with surveys from other military populations.

Download Survey Here.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Wheelchair Games: By Debbie Gregory

Veteran wheelchair gamesThe National Veterans Wheelchair Games is an annual event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). More than 500 Veterans compete in seventeen sporting events, including basketball, bowling, softball, hand-cycling, air pistol and rugby.

The games, currently running in Philadelphia through August 17th, are part of a sports and rehabilitation program for military Veterans who use wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries, amputations *or* certain neurological problems. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games attract more than 500 athletes each year, making this event the largest annual wheelchair sports competition in the world. This year’s event in

The VA and its partners in the games are committed to improving the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities and promoting better health through athletic competition. While previous games have produced a number of national and world-class champions, the games also provide opportunities for newly-disabled Veterans to gain sports skills and be exposed to other wheelchair athletes.

The public is welcomed to attend the games and support these heroes as they compete for gold. Admission is free at all of the events at venues across Philadelphia. Service members, Veterans, Military families and the general public are invited and encouraged to cheer for the brave men and women participating in this year’s games.

For a complete list and schedule of events, down load the pdf here.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Veteran Wheelchair Games:   By Debbie Gregory