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Memberships in Veteran Service Organizations on the Decline

legion

By Debbie Gregory.

There appears to be a lack of interest from younger veterans when it comes to joining legacy groups like the AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.

Membership is certainly on the decline with the deaths of WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans, and as their membership ages and declines, these organizations need young bloods to maintain the political clout they have built up, and they need to be able to “pass the torch” in order to maintain the ground they have gained.

According to the VFW and American Legion, only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join their organizations have done so. Don’t these veterans want to be around other veterans?

Of course they do. So why aren’t veterans from more recent conflicts signing up like their parents and grandparents did?

Perhaps the transitioning servicemembers of the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram generation are gravitating towards the groups that they perceive to be a better fit, such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

Let’s face it, when most young people think of these groups, they don’t picture many of their peers being present.

So what should the legacy organizations do to reach out and attract younger veterans? First of all, they can communicate via email, vs. snail mail. They can make sure that they are as welcoming to female veterans as they are to male veterans.

Perhaps an updated look with a few flat screen televisions and a fresh coat of paint is in order. They can host events that will attract the younger crowd; out with the Bingo night and in with college fairs, career days, and veteran service officer Q&As.

“A lot of these kids really don’t know what the VFW is,” said one VFW Commander, Robert Webber.

Webber said VFW members reach out to newer/younger veterans every time there is a function or they are out in public.

“We explain to them that we are a family-oriented group and we try to help them,” Webber said. “We have a service officer that can help them with paperwork and medical problems.”

If veterans’ organizations like the VFW and the American Legion want to survive the next twenty years, they need to prioritize women, present a united front pulling from the entire population of veterans and tackle charitable efforts together.

Perhaps if they all joined forces as one group, they would have enough experienced officers, personnel, and funding to tackle their biggest issues. Nobody would be left out of the discussion and everyone would have the ability to help.

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.

 

Clinton and Trump to Address Military and Veteran Issues

clinton trump

By Debbie Gregory.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will be the host of the September 7th live televised “town hall” style forum featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They will take questions on national security, military affairs and veterans issues from NBC News and an audience comprised mainly of military veterans and active service members.

“IAVA is proud to lead this historic event for our veterans community and all Americans,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of IAVA said.

The event comes just days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and three weeks before the first official debate between the Democratic and Republican nominees on September 27.

The event will be broadcast in primetime on both NBC and MSNBC and focus exclusively on issues the next president will have to confront as Commander-in-Chief.

“IAVA members world-wide, 93 percent of whom say they’ll be voting in November, and many deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, are ready to hear from the candidates and hold them accountable,” Rieckhoff said.

Clinton and Trump will appear back-to-back in the one-hour event. In addition to questions about the size of the military and fixing the Veterans’ Affairs Department, the two will separately discuss national security.

Preparedness to be commander in chief has become a major issue in the presidential race, with Clinton and Trump questioning each other’s fitness. Trump said Clinton “lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face.”

Clinton, meanwhile, has touted the endorsements of a growing number of Republican military and national security figures who question Trump’s temperament and knowledge of international affairs.

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.

Survey Reveals Increase in Post-9/11 Veterans who have Considered Suicide

su

By Debbie Gregory.

A new survey of more than 3000 post-9/11 veterans by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) revealed an increase over a previous study in the number who contemplated suicide since joining the service. IAVA is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

The survey found that 40 percent of veterans polled had considered suicide at least once after they joined the military, up from 30 percent in 2014. Many of those survey also expressed feelings that the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments aren’t doing enough to address the suicide problem, as well as addressing mental health injuries, with 80 percent believing their peers aren’t getting the care they need.

“It shows that mental health challenges and access to care continue to impact veterans in all facets of their lives,” IAVA CEO Paul Reickhoff said in a release accompanying the survey results.

The statistic on veteran suicide is typically quotes as 22 veterans each day, which is a national tragedy.

Nearly 60 percent said a family or friend suggested they seek mental health treatment and 77 percent said they sought help because of these suggestions.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of non-profit organizations that are working to address veteran suicides and eliminate them. Many of them have been formed by veterans who are looking out for their brother and sisters. Many of them are working to destigmatize mental health issues and show that asking for help is truly courageous.

The passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act of 2015 was a landmark, bi-partisan effort that showed America its politicians can work together, and that veterans’ issues are everyone’s issues.

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.

Uber Demonstrates Good Corporate Citizenship through $1 Million Donation

ubermil

By Debbie Gregory.

Uber has reached its goal of signing up 50,000 U.S. veterans as drivers. And to celebrate, the company is making a very generous donation to a number of veterans groups.

Uber is giving $1 million to a select few military organizations, including our friends at Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Homes for our Troops. Also receiving funds will be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The funding comes directly from Uber, based on recommendations from the company’s UberMilitary Advisory Board, which includes former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

September, 2014 saw the launch of UberMilitary, giving former service members an opportunity to earn a flexible income. One of the goals of the campaign was to work with veterans and “empower them as entrepreneurs and small business owners.” Nearly half of the veterans who have signed up have started driving with the company, and Uber said it’s now focused on “getting more folks on the road.”

Emil Michael, senior vice president, spent stints in public service as a White House fellow and as an aide to Gates. After seeing how difficult it was for some veterans to find jobs upon leaving the armed forces, Michael said, he saw how Uber could fill a need.

“The thing that was missing was an income-earning opportunity that was extremely flexible,” Michael said. “When you come back, maybe you’re studying for your next degree, maybe you have medical issues.”

In addition to getting more veterans driving, the company is building a special savings program that will offer expanded and unique rewards to members of the UberMilitary community.

Uber also hopes to broaden its service to military passengers, and is possibly going to launch a program that will pay more to drivers will when they start or end a trip at a military base.

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.

Veterans Groups, Lawmakers Oppose GI Bill Cuts for Veterans Housing Benefits

gi bill cuts

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran advocates and House lawmakers rallied on Capitol Hill to oppose cuts to the Post 9/11 GI Bill Veterans Housing benefit for dependents that they say would break a “sacred” trust.

While the move would result in a savings of approximately $773 million over the next 10 years, Rep. Tim Walz, (D-Minn.) said, “This goes back on a promise that all of us here are unwilling to break. In the entire federal budget, there is nowhere else to fund [veterans] programs? That cannot stand.”

Officials from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) said the move goes back on a promise made to those families that the full benefit would be available when they need it, and for the first time pulls money out of the GI Bill to fund outside programs.

Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of IAVA, said, “This is about keeping a promise, investing in the future, about retention and recruiting and morale. Find the money somewhere else. Either you’re with us or against us.”

“When we ask our troops to make a promise to us to run into battle, we don’t accept it when they turn around and say, ‘You know what, now that the bullets are flying the cost is a little bit high,” Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said. “So how dare we decide years later after we’ve made this promise, after people have enlisted or stayed in the military partly partially because of this benefit, to say, ‘You know what, we decide it’s too expensive, you cost us too much.’”

But officials from Student Veterans of America (SVA) said that the issue isn’t that black and white. Derek Fronabarger, SVA’s director of policy, challenged the idea that the legislative proposal amounts to “cuts” in veterans housing benefits, saying that the cuts will impact dependents, not servicemembers.

And the savings from the change would go to pay for a host of other programs, resulting in a difficult choice, pro or con.

Walz suggested Congress instead cut bonuses to VA employees, which have been deep in scandal over wrongdoing for the past two years. But Walz said he will vote against the entire omnibus bill if the reduction in housing stipends remains.

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.

Why Younger Vets Are Not Joining Established VSO’s

old folks

By Debbie Gregory.

Why is there a lack of interest from younger veterans when it comes to joining legacy groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion? Could it be that these organizations are waiting for this younger generation of veterans to just walk in and join like their fathers and grandfathers before them? Or perhaps these veterans are looking for community connections that fit their needs, not the needs of older veterans.

As their membership ages and declines, these organizations need young bloods to maintain the political clout they have built up, and they need to be able to “pass the torch” in order to maintain the ground they have gained.

The VFW and American Legion report that only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join have done so. Don’t these veterans want to be around other veterans?

Of course they do.

But these service members are the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram generation, and are gravitating toward groups such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, The Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

Younger veterans say the traditional organizations differ in many ways from groups that appeal to them.

To attract younger veterans, these organizations can take a few simple steps that will yield great results. First of all, they can communicate via email, vs. snail mail. They can make sure that they are as welcoming to female veterans as they are to male veterans.

Perhaps an updated look with a few flat screen televisions and a fresh coat of paint is in order. They can host events that will attract the younger crowd; out with the Bingo night and in with college fairs, career days, and veteran service officer Q&As.

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.

Iraq/Afghanistan Vets Seek Out Their Own Connections

team rubicon

By Debbie Gregory.

Younger veterans are looking for community connections that fit their needs, not the needs of older veterans.

These young vets often feel disconnected from legacy groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. The timing couldn’t be worse, as legacy groups are desperate to bolster their numbers to make up for an aging membership that has significantly declined over the years.

Both the VFW and American Legion say Vietnam-era veterans make up the largest portion of their membership. Only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join the VFW have done so.

Today’s returning service members, the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram generation, are gravitating toward groups such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, The Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

Younger veterans say the traditional organizations differ in many ways from groups that appeal to them, including the types of advocacy they do and their ways of communication: “snail mail” versus email.

But over the years, the VFW and American Legion have built up political clout in D.C., and they need to be able to “pass the torch” in order to maintain the ground they have gained.

“We have some posts that are experiencing great success in recruiting younger veterans,” says VFW Communications Manager Randi Law. For example, a VFW post in Denver has veteran yoga classes and is hosting veteran art exhibits. “Many of our posts… recognize that the younger generation doesn’t want to sit in a dingy environment swapping war stories. They want to be engaged and continue working for their community.”

“These up-and-coming veterans’ groups are extremely important, but I think that in a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons they turn to the local VFW for the support they need,” Law says. “We’ve been around a long time, so we offer a solid support system in thousands of communities across America.”

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.