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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.

 

Veteran Treatment Courts Offer Alternatives

vet treatment court

By Debbie Gregory.

Many military veterans have had life experiences that are very different from their civilian contemporaries. Depending on when and where they served, veterans may have experienced a vast array of physical, emotional and psychological injuries.

Untreated, unhealed emotional and psychological injuries lead to further veteran illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. These illnesses can lead to substance abuse, the commission of crimes, and even suicide. Special Veterans Treatment Courts seek to provide veterans suffering from these issues assistance that will help keep them from slipping into real legal problems.

Documented evidence suggests that a significant number of Vietnam veterans experienced severe problems adjusting to civilian life. So too, have many more recently minted veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Veterans Court offers opportunity for the VA, local support organizations, and local communities to offer treatment as an alternative to time in jail.

The first Veterans’ Court in the U.S. was established in 2008 in Buffalo, New York. Veterans’ Courts are modeled after Drug and Mental Health Courts, in that they promote sobriety, recovery and stability through strict court appointed measures.

Usually Veterans Courts hear cases involving misdemeanor charges, and veterans who choose to participate are assessed by a mental health professional and their treatment needs are determined. Most of them receive treatment through the VA’s health network.

Veterans Treatment Courts increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation through early and continuous judicially-supervised treatment.

Veterans Treatment Courts also provide veterans with services and benefits that aid in their successful transition back into society.

Below are some resources that may assist any veterans in need of legal assistance:

Justice For Veterans

National Association of Veteran Advocates

American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project

Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery Program

California Veterans Legal Institute

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.

Funding Approved to Treat Veterans With Hepatitis C

hep c

By Debbie Gregory.

Many veterans who fought to protect and defend our country have continued to fight in order to get the support they need from the federal government. Fortunately, help is on the way for veterans living with hepatitis C, one of the greatest threats facing those who have served.

Congress has earmarked $1.5 billion in the just-passed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat veterans with hepatitis C.

While hepatitis C has reached epidemic levels nationwide, the veteran community has a hepatitis C infection rate that is nearly double the national average. For veterans, this deadly, blood-borne disease is a leading cause of liver failure, liver damage and liver cancer. It impacts veterans disproportionately due to a variety of factors, including battlefield blood exposure, emergency transfusions and mandatory vaccinations in the era before hepatitis C testing became common. It is estimated that as many as 230,000 veterans suffer from hepatitis C, a rate five times greater than the general population.

The cost of treatment is staggering. Newer treatments using modern drugs with fewer side effects and a higher cure rate cost over $1,000 per pill. That means a full treatment cycle needed to cure hepatitis C can cost over $84,000 per patient. While the VA does get a 50% discount from the drug maker, it’s still very expensive to treat all the veterans afflicted with the disease.

Ironically, the drug that can effectively cure 99% of all people infected with the hepatitis C virus was invented by a doctor who worked for the VA. That doctor sold the drug to a private company for around $400 million in 2012. The doctor estimates it costs $1,400 to produce a full treatment regimen of the drug. This is the same medication that the company charges $42,000 for, which reflects the 50% discount.

The VA has been seeking funding from Congress for years to treat infected veterans. The Senate Appropriations Committee followed the lead of military veteran and senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and approved a budget for the that included the additional $200 million to fund critical hepatitis C treatments to make up the $1.5 billion for hepatitis C over the next two years.

The new influx of funds in this year’s budget should go a long way to provide needed treatment to seriously ill veterans and help cure many veterans who are not yet showing serious symptoms.

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: New Agent Orange Claims: By Debbie Gregory

Agent OrangeVeterans who were exposed to a blend of tactical herbicides commonly referred to as “Agent Orange” may be eligible for a variety of benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These benefits include disability compensation, healthcare, and monetary payments to survivors and dependents.

Benefits will be given to Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange because the VA and federal law presume that certain diseases and ailments found among Veterans are the result of exposure to the herbicides. The VA has amassed a list of units, commands and areas of operation that have commonality for claims of Agent Orange exposure. Under the VA’s “presumptive policy,” Veterans who served in these units, commands and areas of operation who complain of similar illnesses get a fast pass to benefits

The VA requires a medical diagnosis that confirms recognized diseases associated with Agent Orange Exposure, evidence of service in recognized service assignments, and competent evidence that the disease started within time limits specified by the VA.

If a Veteran claims to have a disease caused by Agent Orange exposure and does not fit within these parameters, he or she must show an actual connection between the disease and Agent Orange exposure during military service.

A group of Veterans,  all of whom flew on C-123 planes after the Vietnam War, have diseases and ailments that fit in the VA’s criteria for the presumptive policy. What doesn’t fit is their time and area of service.

During the war, C-123’s were used to spray Agent Orange. After the war, the same planes were used to transport cargo and personnel. Though these Veterans were not on board the planes while they were spraying the herbicide, they say that there was residue, sometimes in giant globs, still on and inside the planes. They are trying to get their claims approved and possibly their area of service added to the presumptive list.

These Veterans have had their claims repeatedly denied by the VA, despite their evidence and the significant number of them suffering with illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure.

This is an example of why it is vital for Veterans to file claims with the VA. Even though your claim could get denied, if an abundant number of Veterans with the same military background happen to suffer from similar ailments, new diseases and areas of operation could be added to the list of the presumptive policy.

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: New Agent Orange Claims: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: DOD to Review OTH Discharges: By Debbie Gregory

Discharge upgradesUp to 80,000 veterans with “Other Than Honorable” military discharges due to PTSD have been given the opportunity to petition to have their discharges upgraded.

On September 3, 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum that directed the boards for correction of military records or naval records to “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”

Secretary Hagel instructed the boards to give “liberal consideration” to any language found in medical records describing one or more symptoms that meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD or related conditions.  Liberal consideration is also to be used when veterans’ civilian providers have diagnosed PTSD. And where PTSD is reasonably determined to have existed at the time of discharge, it is to be “a mitigating factor” in the misconduct that generated an Other Than Honorable Discharge.

The generation of veterans who will most benefit from this new directive will be Vietnam Veterans. PTSD wasn’t formally recognized until 1980. Studies have estimated that as many as 30% of Vietnam Veterans suffered from PTSD at some point after the war.

An immeasurable number of Vietnam Veterans came home with PTSD, and were then punished for behaviors that are recognized today as symptoms of post-traumatic stress. With their Other Than Honorable Discharges, these veterans were not eligible for VA benefits and care. Many of these veterans also faced an uphill employment battle because of their type of discharge.

Forty years have gone by, and for many, the damage has been done. But a number of veterans, estimated as high as 80,000, could have their discharge statuses upgraded, which would possibly qualify them to receive benefits, including healthcare.

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: DOD to Review OTH Discharges: By Debbie Gregory