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Beyond The ‘Broken Veteran’

Veterans SteemKR

Photo: “SteemKR”

“WAR ON THE ROCKS” By Rebecca Burgess

“The broken veteran narrative, unintentionally fueled by the tone of veteran legislation, certainly contributes to the real difficulties today’s veterans face in transitioning into civilian life.

The unexplored historical relationship between public perception, legislation, and veteran identity suggests that reframing veteran legislation and strengthening civilian identity may be the Joint Action Plan today’s veterans need to thrive after their  service.”

“January opened with President Donald Trump’s directive to the various Secretaries of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security to formulate a “Joint Action Plan” for supporting veterans in their transition to civilianhood by expanding suicide prevention resources. January ended with the viral video of a California schoolteacher lambasting present, past, and future veterans as the “freakin’ lowest of the low” — society’s permanent failures — to a classroom of underage students. Equating military recruiters to pimps, the teacher excoriated the idea that anything positive could be linked with the military.

A continent apart in more than tone, the president’s executive order and the teacher’s rant nonetheless share an underlying premise: Veterans are a uniquely afflicted group. Despite a wealth of contrary evidence and both military and civilian observers urging a change in perspective, the broken veteran narrative has had an astonishing resilience.

America does have a “veteran problem,” but perhaps not the one we’ve concentrated our popular attention on. Nor is today’s version unique to the 21st century.  Throughout U.S. history, war generations have emphasized either the challenge veterans can pose to social stability, or the challenge commercial society can pose to the disabled veteran. Legislative solutions have been framed accordingly: The particular tone of veteran legislation has historically emphasized the disadvantages, if not “brokenness,” of veterans.

In parallel, veterans have developed their own unique sense of identity. “Veteranness” has mutated from a personality trait before the Civil War to a comprehensive sense of self with its own marketing brand in the post-9/11 All Volunteer Force age.


In 1944, sociologist Willard Waller was anticipating the re-civilianizing of the nearly 16 million American servicemen of World War II, many of whom would soon be in university classrooms like his at Columbia.

As long as America had had veterans, Waller pointed out in “The Veteran Comes Back,” it has had had some type of “veteran problem.” That stood to some reason:

Our kind of democratic society is probably worse fitted than any other for handling veterans. An autocracy, caring nothing for its human materials, can use up a man and throw him away. A socialistic society that takes from each according to his abilities and gives to each according to his needs can use up a man and then care for him the rest of his life. But a democracy, a competitive democracy like ours, that cares about human values but expects every man to look out for himself, uses up a man and returns him to the competitive process, then belatedly recognizes the injustice of his procedure and makes lavish gestures of atonement in his direction.

The sociologist wasn’t praising nondemocratic forms of rule. He was highlighting how the principles around which the experiment of American democracy was organized — liberty and equality, personal responsibility, private property, and limited government — exist in some legitimate tension with how such a government ought properly to acknowledge and repay individuals who have defended it.

Waller believed the real questions about veterans resuming their civilian way of life were bound up with the psychology of the soldier. Returning the soldier to civilian life in the modern world, he argued, had to start with understanding the veteran’s attitudes against the backdrop of industrial warfare, mass conscription, and a cog-in-the-machine mentality. “We must learn what it is … to be, for a time, expendable, and then to be expendable no more.” What happens, he wondered, when the “expendable one” returns from facing death?

George Washington had puzzled over a similar difficulty. The commander of the Continental Army felt intuitively that veterans needed to maintain a sense of self after military service. In his Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, Washington recommended that veterans funnel their energies as soon as possible into active pursuits, and “prove themselves not less virtuous and useful as Citizens, than they [were] persevering and victorious as soldiers.”

Washington’s insight was that soldiers cannot simply remain ex-soldiers once their period of service is fulfilled. He knew that soldiers “walk the weird wall at the edge of civilization,” as Reed Robert Bonnadona puts it: The people who have historically been the staunchest defenders of their societies have also sometimes posed the greatest threat to it. From this juxtaposition Washington formed his idea that the citizen-turned-soldier could — and must — turn back into the citizen again.

For Washington, ex-soldiers’ veteran status was only one (temporary) part of their American identity. This was a crucial plank of his argument that the new nation could have a professional army without endangering the liberties of citizens. Alexis de Tocqueville gave the more explicit explanation several decades later, when he showed why the American soldier displays “a faithful image of the nation.” Most democratic citizens would rather reserve their passions and ambitions for civilian life than for martial grandeur, he wrote, because they think of military service as at most a passing obligation, not an identity. “They bow to their military duties, but their souls remain attached to the interests and desires they were filled with in civil life.”


In the era of Washington and Tocqueville, American veterans were not an alien faction different from society at large. Since then, however, the end of each subsequent conflict has spurred the public to think of ex-soldiers as a discrete group with certain special claims on society’s gratitude. The War of 1812 cemented the outcome of the Revolution and gave Americans a renewed sense of their independence. The public’s attention turned to appreciate the role of the Continental Army. The aging of the surviving soldiers and some public romanticizing of their persons as archetypes of national character, led to a public movement in favor of pensions for the neglected “suffering soldier.” The “suffering soldier” became such a powerful public trope that even though the Senate invoked 40 years of accepted republican principle about pension establishments being aristocratic and corruption-prone, President James Monroe signed the Revolutionary War Pension Act in 1818.  The legislation fused the idea of a service pension to the concept of public assistance for the aged poor, laying the groundwork for how the system of American military service-related benefits would evolve.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the changing face of industrialized society, technologies of war, and beliefs about the role of government have expanded each generation’s understanding of its debt to soldiers. The early practice of granting only disability pensions to war veterans grew to include professional or vocational training after World War I, to college tuition assistance and low-interest home loans after World War II.  Finally, these benefits were expanded to all who have served in uniform, whether during war or peacetime. At the same time, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs expanded the paradigm of government’s obligations to all citizens. Nevertheless, today, there are those who would extend the above-mentioned benefits even to soldiers with an “Other Than Honorable” discharge — reflecting how much veteran identity has come to be wedded to a legal status premised on the perceived cost of service. The pension/benefits narrative has corralled anyone who has worn a uniform into a unique category of society in the eyes of the public.

The way veterans have responded to their evolving status has both reflected and informed national attitudes. Largely because of the sheer numbers involved in the Civil War and, especially, in World War I, soldiers who had survived these massive conflicts, protracted campaigns, and deadlier weapons began to think of themselves more narrowly — as survivors of epic experiences who would forever have more in common with those who had seen such killing fields than with civilians who had not. John A. Casey charts this transformation in “New Men,” showing that whereas former soldiers and civilians alike once viewed military service more as an episode in a man’s life and a set of acquired skills that all could appreciate, in the post-bellum era both groups began to view service as a transformative experience that produced a new identity, one civilians couldn’t interpret.

Historians and military scholars debate exactly how different the Civil War was from prior conflicts. Casey argues that “it is the changed rhythm of war more than anything that marks it as different.” While more traditional set-piece battles marked the early campaigns of the war, the last two years witnessed nearly continuous fighting. Soldiers had no time to conceptualize what they had lived through or to recuperate. This “changed them in ways they never completely understood. All that was certain was they could not fully return to their antebellum sense of identity … They had been baptized by war and born again as new men.”

For Casey, the Civil War was when veterans and civilians changed their conception of war from an event to a liminal experience transforming the warfighter’s consciousness, analogous to religious conversion. It was Civil War veteran Oliver Wendell Holmes who likened combat to being “touched by fire,” like the Apostles. The postbellum trail of fiction and nonfiction writings authored by veterans illustrate this mindset. William Tecumseh Sherman’s “Memoirs,” Sam Watkins’s “Company Aytch,” and Ambrose Bierce’s stories all evince a struggle to find coherence in the traumatic events the authors experienced, a struggle to show the “real” war, and a sense of the inadequacy of their portrayal to make the uninitiated civilian reader “get it.”

Civil War veterans such John William De Forest (“Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty”), and Winslow Homer (“The Empty Sleeve at Newport”) also showed this literary and artistic consciousness at work. Lanier’s protagonist, Confederate veteran Phil Sterling, is a number rather than a name, his identity shattered by incarceration in a prisoner-of-war camp. Once released, the love of friends and family enables Sterling to recover his name and identity, but his combat experiences prevent him from feeling “at home.” Spectators of the same war, but not participants in it, Sterling’s loved ones cannot truly understand him.

“War literature” as a unique field of academic study is generally considered to have originated in the wake of the Civil War, Casey writes. These ex-soldiers presented wartime memories as something they alone could discuss, forging the path for how the Ernest Hemingways and other, more familiar “Lost Generation” soldier-poets of World War I wrote about war and the fighting man, establishing a now-defined genre.

Buttressing such artistic expressions, robust veterans’ associations, helped cement a national concept of “the veteran.” The Grand Army of the Republic provided a blueprint for the multiplicity of veterans associations, like the American Legion, that emerged after World War I in America and then in nearly every other country that had participated in the Great War. The visible, concrete image of the invalid veteran sans leg or arm played a significant role in transforming the concept of veteran into an enduring identity. Especially in France and America, these national associations helped solidify the public concept of the veteran as having unique needs necessitating specialized care and deserving of government support.

Cultural elements and political events played a tangible role here. Andrew J. Huebner reminds us in “The Warrior Image” that war correspondents and photography, while relevant from the Mexican War to the Civil War, swelled during WWI, though much of the imagery was censored from the public view until after the Armistice. The rise of newspaper publishing put images and accounts of struggling veterans in anybody’s hand. Meanwhile, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars held public rallies advocating for veterans’ benefits and encouraged the attenuate Bonus March, making the political presence of veterans impossible to ignore. Internationally, the Conférence Internationale des Associations de Mutilés et Anciens Combattants aimed to unite all veterans and “war invalids” of the Great War, including from former enemy countries Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria. In 1922, it boasted over 10 million members. And while many states struggled to respond to their invalid veterans, they often supplied them with free or discounted railway travel, enabling them to attend far-flung veteran rallies and reunions. The image of the permanently changed veteran was literally on the move.

It was this newer understanding of the veteran as a psychological identity, earned in the crucible of war, that Waller had in mind in 1944 when he asked what happens when “the expendable one returns.” Like Washington, Waller thought a transition back into the civilian community was both possible and essential, but he believed that post-service education would be key. Education, he argued, would give the soldier the mental tools with which to make sense of his warfighting experience juxtaposed against his perception of the civilian’s perspective.

Although Waller didn’t live to witness the effects of the 1944 GI Bill — the “Serviceman’s Readjustment Act” — the bill supported Waller’s theory and is widely considered to be one of the most successful pieces of legislation in American history (so successful that Great Society programs were patterned off it). Through its education and vocational training assistance and small business loans, the GI Bill helped millions of ex-soldiers bridge their war experience back to the civilian sector, to the net enrichment of their families and civil society. The absence of a public discussion of a postwar “veteran problem,” in comparison to the post-World War I and Civil War eras, reflects the success of the legislation.


In the decades since World War II, society has moved well past Washington and Waller’s viewpoints about post-service identity. Thanks to the cultural conflicts of the Vietnam era, the rise of identity politics, the medicalization of behavior, and the valorization of victimhood, in the era of the professionalized All-Volunteer Force, veterans are viewed as a “tribe apart.” Their increasingly medicalized image is linked to the relatively new field of neuropsychiatry. After Vietnam, Hollywood helped promulgate a perception of veterans as “walking time bombs.” This view was reinforced by  front-page stories in the New York Times proclaiming veterans to be “psychiatric casualties of war.”

In the late 1970s and 1980s, an extreme version of this diagnosis was crowned with scientific gravitas when a group of activist-psychiatrists led by the prominent Robert Jay Lifton testified that the veteran “returns as a tainted intruder … likely to seek continuing outlets for a pattern of violence to which they have become habituated.” Popular culture painted soldiers as “baby killers.” Within a generation, ex-soldiers in the public consciousness went from needing education to needing to be “rehumaniz[ed],” as Lifton put it.

Since 9/11, society has largely softened that extreme characterization of veterans. Instead of killers or victims, veterans are seen as victims, heroes, or victim-heroes. But that narrative stands in its own need of rehumanization — the modern-day perception of veterans needs to be brought down from mythologized heroes on a pedestal to the real world of public servants, adventure seekers, and bill payers who volunteer for military service. And yet, despite a fair amount of literature supporting this point, the narrative does not change much.

One reason for this is clear, and has to do with the historical originals of the concept of veteran identity. Legislation for veterans has traditionally been premised on a pension/benefits model that assumed that war — and now that any military service — adversely costs the soldier. Today’s identity-driven politics is particularly conducive to this narrative, as many in society seek to identify rights and bring about public policy outcomes specific to discrete, often historically underrepresented groups. And U.S. soldiers certainly qualify: Less than one percent of a nation’s population volunteers for active duty service. American soldiers become even intellectually underrepresented when the majority of their peers don’t know anything about them.

A second reason for the continued valorization of veterans follows from this last: Americans may have lost the robust sense of citizenship that previous generations relied on to make civilian life vibrant enough for veterans to embrace it. In the All-Volunteer Force era, perhaps it’s the civilian majority with its loose sense of civic connectedness that makes it difficult for veterans to subsume a veteran identity within the generalized civilian one. When Washington argued for former soldiers to think of themselves as fully civilian-citizens with a set of acquired military skills, many Americans felt a sense of patriotism and civic identity that shaped the calendar of their yearly activities. Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham may have over-eulogized this civic engagement in “Stump Speaking” and “County Election;” nevertheless, that strong sense seems to have weakened considerably since the 19th century. Today’s America no longer shares that identity, as suggested by factors from low voter turnout, “Man on the Street”-style public confessions of civic and historical ignorancedisinterest in civic education, to the “bowling alone” culture decried by Harvard’s Robert Putnam. In Putnam’s view, the comparably steep membership losses since the 1960s among trade unions, professional associations, chapter-based voluntary membership federations, and community groups documents “the erosion of America’s social connectedness and community involvement.” This is to say nothing of the 2016 election, whose after-action report notes the role that a hollowed-out sense of citizenship thanks to globalization played in the electoral returns.

To that first generation of Americans, citizenship wasn’t a passive label, but an active way of life. Jefferson relayed the sense of this understanding in his comment that citizenship is composed of the civic knowledge of rights, duties, and how to judge individuals worthy of public office; the practice of sound civic habits; and importantly, an informed attachment to the American regime and principles of the Constitution.

America’s political class today doesn’t exactly articulate this. As that California teacher’s rant shows, angry citizens are present in all layers of society. But we have little corresponding understanding of a robust citizenship animated by an informed attachment to American laws, principles and institutions, and the need for each generation to perpetuate them. It may not be possible — or preferable given the dynamics of today’s professional All-Volunteer Force — to return entirely to Washington’s designation of the veteran as simply the citizen. But it is both possible and pressing to return to that robust sense of citizenship that enabled citizens to be soldiers, and soldiers citizens.”

Rebecca Burgess manages the Program on American Citizenship at the American Enterprise Institute, where she focuses on veterans and their role in civil society and politics. She is the author of “Second Service: Military Veterans and Public Office.”






Managing Stress And Establishing Trust



I have learned the very hard way over several decades that mind/body balance is key in managing stress and its aftereffects as well as managing expectations.

The human physiology has not evolved to match the pace at which we live today and the technology available to us. Gadgets (or “Gadget” programs) for fitness are a fad, cost money and supply relatively little value. They espouse the quick and easy because that is what sells. Diet programs are the same.

The following 4 basics are suggested for starters. They can be efficiently achieved but not quickly and for many not easily. But they are monumentally worth the investment. Like many other challenges they require management and must be synchronous with the other elements of our life.

1. Realign a long walk with problem solving and family time to have a clear horizon and put mind and body in sync. Our bodies still require moderate exercise to function because we have not yet evolved out of your “Hunter/Gatherer/Fight/Flight” physiology.

2. Develop habits that permit the subliminal mind to work while the body rests as least 7 hours a day with sleep.

3. The human body needs a mix of lean meat and vegetables. The artificial junk clogs us up and wears us down.

4. Manage expectations – those others have for us and those we have for ourselves. We are sensitive and vulnerable creatures, designed in a complex and vastly varying ways. The pace of life these days requires cultivation of expectation management and everyone must evolve their own unique form of that art.


Americans have been tasked with the need to evolve a modern, technically astute and informed process of establishing trust in media and similar sources of information.

Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.

To an extraordinary degree the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectation contribute to it.

Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day to day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician.

And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.Mass marketing and communications has created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth.

We must come down to earth and become much more sophisticated in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust.

If we do not we run a high risk and that fact is inescapable. To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility.

Billion Dollar Federal Contractor Just One of Many Masquerading As Small Business



This spring, a company that has raked in $1.25 billion in federal contracts so far this year secured a multimillion-dollar taxpayer-backed loan intended to help small businesses cope with the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout.

And two firms it was accused of conspiring with in a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme also obtained bailout loans.


“In April, Atlantic Diving Supply, also known as ADS, Inc., obtained a Paycheck Protection Program loan worth between $2 million and $5 million, certifying, as all other loan applicants are required to do, that the “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” The federal government may fully forgive Paycheck Protection Program loans without repayment.

Although it sounds like a sleepy, beachside scuba shop, Atlantic Diving Supply was the 24th largest federal contractor in 2019, and equips the military and the Department of Homeland Security with everything from clothing to weapons to drones.

Much of its success, according to a whistleblower lawsuit, is due to fraud. The company, its former chief executive, its former general counsel, and others have separately settled that suit, which alleges the company defrauded the federal government by wrongly obtaining $2.8 billion in contracts meant to go to small businesses. The Justice Department remarked in a press release last year that the settlements “rank as the largest False Claims Act recovery based on allegations of small business contracting fraud.”

Last August, the company’s former chief executive officer, Luke M. Hillier, agreed to pay $20 million to settle accusations of his personal involvement in the scheme. Hillier maintains majority ownership of ADS, according to a 2019 Justice Department press release, and he remains chairman of ADS Tactical, Inc., ADS’s parent company, according to a corporate filing from July 20 of this year. In a related criminal case, a former Virginia state politician, who was named in the lawsuit as connected to ADS’s alleged scheme, pleaded guilty last year to defrauding the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“The actions of ADS and its affiliated entities deprived legitimate small businesses of valuable federal contracting opportunities,” said Hannibal Ware, the Small Business Administration’s inspector general, in 2017 when the government reached its first settlement with Atlantic Diving Supply. The law enforcement outcomes were prominently covered in the Washington Post.

Taken together, the settlements totaled $36 million. Yet that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the value of the Virginia Beach-based company’s federal contracts, which have been routinely worth $1 billion or more annually for the last decade. In the last fiscal year alone, the feds awarded the company contracts worth $3.2 billion—a new high for ADS. The company beat back an attempt last year by the SBA to rescind its ability to win contracts reserved for small businesses. ADS continues to obtain small business contracts in 2020.

Atlantic Diving Supply is a poster child for how savvy companies can navigate the rules governing federal small business programs in ways that can appear to break them—rules that are in some ways even looser when it comes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). And while the SBA prevents loans from going to entities that are at least 20% owned by someone with a pending criminal indictment or felony conviction within the last five years, the allegations that Atlantic Diving Supply defrauded the federal government were civil charges and were settled with no determination of fault.

Atlantic Diving Supply and Hillier did not respond to requests for comment.

Small Businesses?

Atlantic Diving Supply is not the only company with 10-figure sales numbers last year that obtained Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government.

It was one of at least 27 companies that had estimated annual sales last year of more than $1 billion that received the Small Business Administration loans, according to a review by the Anti-Corruption Data Collective (ACDC) and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). There are 2,068 PPP loan recipients with estimated annual sales of over $100 million in 2019.

These sales figures raise questions about whether such large companies were eligible to receive money through a small business rescue program. To determine eligibility, the SBA primarily applies a revenue or workforce size standard specific to each company’s primary industry.

However, POGO and ACDC found that 16,692 loan recipients exceeded the relevant size standard for their industry—standards that can vary considerably depending on which business sector a company falls in. (See “Data Methodology” for more information.)

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The loans obtained by those 16,692 companies collectively are worth at least $22 billion and up to $50 billion. (The SBA provides a range, not the specific value of each loan.) This aligns with other reports finding that large, established businesses were able to obtain loans from banks, while many mom and pop businesses have reported difficulty accessing them. Congress had directed that loans to small businesses “in operation for less than 2 years,” especially those run by women, minorities, and veterans, should take priority.

Recipients exceeding these size standards may not have necessarily committed any wrongdoing, since the SBA also uses an alternative standard that can take into account a company’s debt and liabilities. But the PPP data does not indicate if loan recipients qualified on the basis of this other standard, nor is there public data on the debt and liabilities of privately owned companies, which make up the vast majority of PPP recipients.

In fact, the Small Business Administration inspector general and Government Accountability Office have, in the past, found the agency giving loans to companies that are ineligible for them, sometimes because the actual companies benefitting are concealed or because a small entity is controlled by a larger organization.

Part of these worries stem from the scale of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was far greater than anything the SBA had ever previously administered and was executed in an extraordinarily truncated period of time. Lenders affiliated with the program doled out $525.8 billion in loans between April 3 and May 6, 2020, “an amount representing more than 20 times the largest year in SBA’s history in just 33 days,” according to its inspector general. In a lessons learned report, that watchdog further wrote that “increased loan volume, loan amounts, and expedited loan processing timeframes may make it more difficult for SBA to identify red flags in loan applications.”

“A Vision of Something Greater”

Twenty years ago, Atlantic Diving Supply was far smaller than it is today.

In 2000, the Defense Logistics Agency, which supplies the military with gear, awarded Atlantic Diving Supply with its first major contract, according to the company’s website. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, special operators like the Navy’s elite and secretive SEAL Team Six, which would eventually kill Osama bin Laden and is based near the company, would take on an increasing share of the combat in the newly declared war on terror. And the contracts to supply them flowed, many in the direction of Atlantic Diving Supply. Perhaps no single factor explains Atlantic Diving Supply’s growth more than the post-9/11 boom in military spending.

But there are other likely factors behind its success too. Hillier, the company’s former CEO and the current chairman of its parent company, worked for the Navy handling contracts in the early 1990s, according to a 2012 profile of him in the Virginia Pilot. That experience may have proved useful when Atlantic Diving Supply was spun out of his family’s business in 1999 with a focus on winning military contracts. According to Atlantic Diving Supply’s website, “Luke brought a vision of something greater for the dive shop” that his family had run since the late 1970s. Later on, Atlantic Diving Supply brought on former high-level military officers to its board of advisors.

Atlantic Diving Supply operates as a classic middle man, connecting the Pentagon and other federal customers with a wide range of goods from thousands of vendors. Illustrating that role, the company supplied defective combat boots to Somali troops battling al-Qaida-allied al-Shabab fighters. A court filing in a lawsuit over the incident said the boots were made in China and purchased by ADS from another company. A 2011 online Halloween ad posting by that company features the boots as part of a “Hot Shots / Charlie Sheen costume.”

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While that was an instance of ADS working as a subcontractor, it has directly won many other federal contracts, some exclusively set aside for small businesses. For companies working in Atlantic Diving Supply’s industry, the relevant size standard set by the SBA is its number of employees. To be considered a small business it has to employ 500 employees or fewer.

But as the company grew, it allegedly found ways to get around this. The crux of the whistleblower lawsuit against Atlantic Diving Supply, brought by an anonymous former employee and an anonymous consultant, claimed the company evaded this eligibility restriction by concealing its affiliation with a number of other companies that it actually controlled.

Had the government known the other companies were actually controlled by Atlantic Diving Supply, and totaled the combined company’s staffing numbers accordingly, Atlantic Diving Supply would have been deemed ineligible for contracts that the federal government sets aside specifically for small businesses, the whistleblower suit alleged.

The complaint details seven other businesses that were part of the alleged scheme.

For instance, the lawsuit states about a company called MJL Enterprises, “ADS has used MJL simply as a ‘pass through’ entity in order to illegally win” service-disabled veteran-owned small business set-aside contracts. It notes that MJL also was at one time based at Atlantic Diving Supply’s former address. MJL settled claims in the whistleblower lawsuit for $400,000.

The lawsuit goes on to state about another company, called Iron Brick Enterprises, that “Iron Brick shares common management with ADS” and its address is the same as another business started by Hillier.

This spring, both MJL and Iron Brick obtained Paycheck Protection Program loans. According to Small Business Administration data, MJL obtained a loan worth between $150,000 and $350,000, and Iron Brick obtained one worth between $350,000 and $1 million.

MJL and Iron Brick did not respond to requests for comment.

The whistleblower suit extensively cites the Small Business Administration’s affiliation rule, which says that if separate companies are substantially controlled by the same management, they can be seen as affiliated—in other words, as just different parts of one common entity.

The rule was recently the focus of lobbying by various interests when Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program. The coronavirus relief law creating the PPP carved out loopholes so some companies would not have to abide by the affiliation rule, and killed off a more restrictive version of the rule. The law also suspended “the ordinary requirement that borrowers must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere,” although “borrowers still must certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary,” according to the Treasury Department. This change opened the door to businesses owned by larger companies or that have wealthy investors to receive Paycheck Protection Program loans.

According to experts, there has been “confusion” over how the affiliation rule works in relation to the Paycheck Protection Program. Corporate defense attorneys say the rule will continue to be relevant for many loan recipients who may face law enforcement scrutiny and whistleblower lawsuits.

But the wheels of justice can turn slowly: Nearly six years passed between the filing of the whistleblower suit against Atlantic Diving Supply in 2013 and Hillier’s settlement.

The 105-page complaint described how “Hillier has used revenues from fraudulent SBA set-aside contracts to fund an opulent lifestyle,” including buying a Ferrari, a $4.8 million ocean-side home in 2008, and another $7.6 million home the next year.

ADS and Hillier had been active donors to political campaigns, including giving tens of thousands of dollars to a former member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, Ron Villanueva, a Republican who represented the Virginia Beach area. Villanueva is featured in the lawsuit as being intimately connected to two companies that were allegedly part of Atlantic Diving’s scheme. Both of those companies settled claims in the lawsuit for $220,000.

Villanueva pleaded guilty last year to participating “in a nine-year conspiracy involving over $80 million in fraudulently obtained government contracts,” according to a Justice Department press release. According to reporting by the Virginia Pilot, Hillier brokered introductions between Villanueva and others who were part of the fraud scheme.

“We … Own up to Mistakes”

Despite the law enforcement actions involving Atlantic Diving Supply, it doesn’t appear that the company has been hit with a tidal wave of consequences. Although, as the Washington Post first reported, the Small Business Administration rescinded Atlantic Diving Supply’s status as a small business in March 2019, the company successfully appealed, reversing the agency’s decision in May.

In theory, the Small Business Administration could have considered debarring Atlantic Diving Supply, blocking it from winning new federal contracts and loans for a period of time. “A government contractor that is suspected of willingly misrepresenting its size should be referred to SBA’s Suspension and Debarment Official (SDO) to be considered for debarment,” according to the agency’s procedures. Atlantic Diving Supply was never debarred.

The Small Business Administration would not comment.

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And while the company’s website states, “we hold each other and ourselves accountable to follow through on commitments [and] own up to mistakes,” it and its chairman’s settlements of the whistleblower lawsuit contained no admissions of wrongdoing. In their wake, the contracts have continued to flow and the company obtained a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

For Atlantic Diving Supply, the financial impact of the coronavirus and of the whistleblower lawsuit appears to have been little more than a ripple.”

Can You Make Money From A Blog?

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I have been blogging for 14 years. I have found through hard experience that it is best to divide opinions from professional assistance offerings.

I have Google Adsense and site metering on both the sites I maintain.

The Blog containing professional assistance to small business earns orders of magnitude more traffic than the opinion blog and proportionately more earnings. People want help more than they want opinions. See below graphic for traffic comparisons over 9 years. Neither site has made me rich and I did not set them up for that purpose.


Rose Covered Glasses

It took the better part of a year to build up traffic. I view blogging as an auxiliary enhancement to marketing my non-profit foundation as well as the foundations I support and staying in touch with Veteran Issues.

The most useful feature of blogging to me is a time saver. I can write an article once and send 50 clients to it in the course of my advisory work. That saves me enormous amounts of time.

I spend roughly 3 hours a day blogging and site maintenance, maintaining books and reference materials in BOX at the site free to the public. The majority of my time is devoted to counseling specific small business clients and blogging is vital to that mission.

$62,000,000,000 USAF FMS Contract For Lockheed Martin F-16’S

$19.59 – $40.59: Lockheed Martin Company/USAF T-Shirt


The Air Force awarded an eye-watering $62 billion contract for overseas F-16 customers August 14. In a world amid a pandemic, you’d think there’d be smarter things to spend $62 billion on.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, has been awarded a $62,000,000,000 ten-year, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ), fixed-price-incentive contract for new production of F-16 Foreign Military Sale (FMS) aircraft.  The total value for the initial delivery order is $4,941,105,246 and will be awarded on the same date.  The initial delivery order is for 90 aircraft, including both the pre-priced recurring core configuration costs at $2,862,797,674 and the engineering change proposal/undefinitized contract action for the non-recurring costs not-to-exceed $2,078,307,572 obligated at approximately $1,018,370,710.  Work will be primarily performed in Greenville, South Carolina; and Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed Dec. 31, 2026.  This contract involves 100% FMS to FMS partner nations and is the result of a sole-source acquisition.  FMS funds in the amount of $3,881,168,384 are being obligated at the time of award.  Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (Basic IDIQ:  FA8615-20-D-6052; initial delivery order:  FA8615-20-F-0001).

Gov’t FY End COVID-19 And Beyond Social Selling Tips

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Keep in mind social selling works best when your profile is optimized and tells your viewers what you do, who you do it for and how they can reach you. 

Social selling is not traditional selling, and it has no elements of a “hard’ sell. It is a series of soft touches designed to keep you on the radar of key players, influencers, in your niche.


“The pandemic has shut down many of the traditional face-to-face end-of-fiscal year venues for sales and business development people. More frequently they are now turning to social networks, especially LinkedIn.

If you looking at a particular agency or operating division, you should be able to look it up as a “Company” on LinkedIn. Let’s use the Defense Health Agency as an example. Look it up on LinkedIn and you’ll see the logo in the background section, the number of employees on LinkedIn, and if you have any connections at DHA, right above the employee number you will see how many 1st degree connections you have.

Click on the “See all 1,507 employees” and you go to a page with ten names, photos (if they have one), job title, and if you are a 2nd degree, the number of connections you share with each. The 1,507 represents a 10% growth from my January, 2020 Fed LinkedIn census, when there were 1,372 DHA employees on LinkedIn.

On the top navigation bar you have three other options to refine your search: Connections, Locations and All Filters.

I use the “All Filters” option which takes you to a page with other options, more if you have a paid LinkedIn membership.

Even without a paid membership you can use my two favorite options: location and job title.

Using the location for Denver, I find seventy-seven DHA employees. Adding the job title and looking for “IT,” I narrow it down to three. If I change it to San Antonio, I get three-hundred and thirty employees and twenty-eight with IT job functions.

If these are people you need to know, the first thing to do is to “Follow” each of them. When you follow someone on LinkedIn, they will be notified via their “Notification” page.

Viewing their profile is touch #1, “Following” is touch #2.

If you share enough 2nd degree connections with some of them, that may be enough of a reason to reach out and connect, but don’t send the “LinkedIn form letter.” Use something like this instead. “John, we share, eleven connections at DHA. I have been working with your agency for nearly three years. I would welcome connecting with you.”

If some of your shared connections with “John” are industry and not Feds, the odds are much better of getting a connection.

If you focus on a particular agency, posting information about that agency on your profile is a great way to demonstrate your interest. Set up a Google Alert for your agency (spelled out, not the acronym) and monitor the Google feed for articles or blog posts that would be of interest to your prospects. If the article or post has the LinkedIn “share” feature, posting is simple: click on the link, select “share as a post” and add a few comments. Point out what you found useful in the article or perhaps something left out.

If you find an article that mentions key players in the agency, hash tag both the agency and the people. This will increase views for your post.

Your activity, including finding prospects and sharing information, should increase your profile views from those you want to reach.

There are many social selling tactics, but the ones described above can help generate end-of-FY traction.”


Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at

Degree Requirements Are On The Way Out For Federal Jobs



The Office of Personnel Management released its timeline for removing degree requirements from the majority of federal job listings and moving to a more assessment-based hiring process.

Degree requirements mandated by law or absolutely necessary for the skills needed — such as lawyers and medical professionals — will remain in place.


“The transition will begin with agencies identifying a point of contact by this Friday, Aug. 7, to coordinate with OPM on the new hiring requirements.

OPM then plans to release a draft version of it’s changes to the General Schedule Qualifications Policy Aug. 21, after which the public and private sectors will have a month to offer reviews and feedback. The final policy will be released Oct. 26, with a final implementation deadline of Dec. 24.

The change in focus from degree requirements to assessment-focused hiring will have impacts for both new job applicants and current feds, as those seeking a promotion or new position that is subject to public competition may not need the previously mandated degree if they can show they have the skills needed for the job.

The shift also means that the hiring process will get more intensive for some positions, as those that currently rely on a self-certification of required skills will now have to infuse active assessments in the hiring process.

“At present, most agencies use federal resumes and an occupational questionnaire to screen applicants for minimum qualifications. A ‘deeper dive’ needs to be taken in order to address the actual competencies needed to perform work successfully,” acting OPM Director Michael Rigas wrote in a Friday memo to heads of federal agencies.

“Screening an applicant for minimum qualifications is not the same as assessing applicants for the competencies and proficiency levels necessary to perform the job. Agencies are required to use validated (i.e., job-related) assessment tools when examining applicants for competitive service positions. Assessment tools include, but are not limited to, cognitive ability tests, work samples, situational judgment tests, job knowledge tests and structured interviews.”

The federal hiring changes, mandated by a June 26 executive order, will not remove degree requirements from all positions, as those that are mandated by law or absolutely necessary for the skills needed — such as lawyers and medical professionals — will remain in place.

The changes will be designed to most especially help with positions in the emerging technologies field, where some agencies have struggled to fill positions, according to the memo.”

Partnering With Customers To Increase Sales

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The economic slump is affecting businesses at all levels, spurring companies to get creative about retaining customers.

You need actionable tips on how to increase sales at a time when people are looking to save rather than spend. No one understands this struggle more than small business owners.”


“Partner with Customers on Content

Getting insight about a specific industry that we service from one of our customers and having that individual write content for our social media posts is a great way to share different perspectives on business. Other customers are more likely to engage with the content if they know it was written by a real customer, like them. 
– Jonathan Cohen, Generated

Encourage Reviews and Testimonials

Customers that have already bought and tried our service are always encouraged to post reviews and testimonials. This is a great way for customers that already love your brand to spread the word. Reviews and testimonials prove you are a credible and trustworthy business and it offers potential customers an insight into what it’s like to buy your product or service.
– Megan Chiamos, 365 Cannabis

Cultivate Relationships

Oftentimes, when there is an economic downtown, the first expense companies cut is marketing. That is really scary for agencies like Markitors, as we can’t keep our doors open without having a number of accounts. Fortunately, many of our clients have continued to invest in SEO during this uncertain time. Having the support and trust of our clients not only supports our business but strengthens our bond with our clients.
– Nikitha Lokareddy, Markitors

Get Customers Involved 

No one quite understands the day-to-day use of our software more than the customers who use it daily. Encouraging customers to post or demonstrate how to use your product, service, or software is a great way to support your business while educating future and current customers.
– John YardleyThreads

Adapt to Fit Customer Needs

The best way to help your customers support you is by adapting your business to solve the problems they currently experience. Life is fluid, and the people offering what is needed ‘right-now’ don’t need to work so hard at pitching their customer base. I would advise businesses to look at what they could do differently to adapt to the changing needs in their market—as in that way their customer-base can better support them through sales.
– Yaniv MasjediNextiva

Incorporate the Big Picture

We ask all of our customers to help promote our business through social media and word of mouth if they enjoyed their experience with us. We also make sure that our customers appreciate that doing so will have a positive impact due to our good karma program, whereby we donate 15% of our profits to non-profit groups that work to supply clean drinking water in developing countries. When customers realize that spreading the word about our products will help us achieve that mission and not just improve our bottom line, they are generally eager to tell others about our products.
– Jessica Rose, Copper H2O

Take Part in a Group Brainstorm

Brainstorming is often the glue that holds everything together. Therefore, your team members must feel as if they’re connected when they’re working remotely, and throwing around some innovative ideas is a great way to keep everyone on the same page! Stay on task with a messenger service like Slack or via regular Zoom calls. You can set up channels, and then brainstorm away in the comments. That way, everyone can respond during their own time and working hours. Be sure to set up a channel for fun things, like that new puppy or your marketing director’s kitchen remodel.
– Blake SuttonElectrical Knowledge

Cultivate Community

When consumers are looking to support a local business, they want to support an actual small business in their community: their neighbors. People have seen the small business apocalypse and have seen the effects first hand. A new social awareness has come to the forefront in the minds of everyone who’s ever stopped in at the “corner store” for something on the way home. The person giving the referral already has confidence in the business, and the business owner will go above and beyond for their new customer with gratitude. This circle will inevitably lead to a higher level of service and better quality of goods, leading to more referrals and good reviews.
– Melissa MohrMohr Coaching and Development


 Brett  Farmiloe

Brett Farmiloe is the Founder & CEO of Markitors, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses to customers through organic search. He enjoys converting insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands.Brett FarmiloeFounder & CEO, Markitors

“Father Soldier Son” Documentary Brutally Honest Window To War-Shaped Family

Image: “Father Soldier Son


One of the first lines of the new Netflix documentary “Father Soldier Son” comes from a wide-eyed, seven-year-old boy. He’s explaining why his Army Ranger dad is in Afghanistan.

There’s something about hearing a sentence like that from such a small voice that breaks your heart — and this movie has moments like that in spades.


“He said if he’s not doing this right now then we’ll have bullets flying over our heads at night,” Joey says innocently, speaking to someone just out of frame.

“Father Soldier Son” is the emotional result of a 10-year project directed by The New York Times’ Leslye Davis and Catrin Einhorn, which provides viewers with a painfully honest window into the life of a military family that has been permanently changed by the war in Afghanistan.

The film follows Sgt. 1st Class Brian Eisch, a single father who finds his identity in service to his country, but worries if he’s doing the right thing for his kids; Isaac, the oldest son who we quickly come to learn is carrying the weight of the world on his young shoulders; and Joey, the youngest of the family, who looks at his dad with such overwhelming, unbridled adoration that sometimes it’s difficult to watch.

When we first meet them, Brian is coming home for a two week break after spending six months in Afghanistan. Holding homemade signs and small American flags, bursting with anticipation, the two young boys — 12-year-old Isaac and 7-year-old Joey — can barely contain themselves while waiting in the airport to see their dad. And when they finally do, the reunion is everything you hope it will be.

The two boys, crying, sprint to Brian the second they lay eyes on him.

Strangers around them start clapping at the sight of the young, handsome soldier scooping his kids into his arms.

Isaac melts into his dad, seemingly letting down his guard for the first time since he said goodbye six months before.

But the two weeks they have together flies by. Brian is back in Afghanistan soon after. He tells the camera that his “biggest fear” is letting deployment change him, and not being the “same fun dad” when he comes home to his kids.

Brian is later injured after getting shot in the leg during a raid on a Taliban-held village. He comes home, determined to heal and keep his leg, and hopes to get back to the way things were despite constant pain that he says almost has him in tears.

And in the background, we watch as the weight on Isaac’s shoulders grows heavier.

He’s constantly hovering nearby in case his dad needs him, eager to make things easier if he can, despite barely being taller than the wheelchair he’s pushing. He admits at one point that his dad’s injury “kinda messed me up a little.”

Like so many other kids whose childhoods are shaped by a war they can’t understand, it’s clear Isaac has had to grow up faster than he should have.

A few months after Brian’s injury, Isaac says he’s feeling “really patriotic,” and that he wants “to help, a lot.”

“I can handle it,” he says.

But as the years go by, the little boy we first met in a Ranger t-shirt four times his size grows wary. Brian ultimately loses his leg, and at one point tells a stranger asking about his service that the cost was worth it. But Isaac isn’t so sure.

Davis, one of the filmmakers, told Task & Purpose in an interview that she and Einhorn want viewers to “interrogate their own ideas and preconceived notions about a family like Brian Eisch’s,” and reflect on the values we put on things like masculinity, duty, service, and parenting.

“We want people to examine the long-term costs of war,” Davis explained.

“Father Soldier Son” isn’t about just one family — it’s about thousands of families just like the Eischs. It’s about sons who join the service because their fathers want them to, and parents who struggle to find their place in the world when the one thing they believed they were made to do is no longer an option. The film asks but does not offer an answer on what kind of impact that can have on children.

It’s about the every-day moments you don’t see in the emotional military homecoming videos on Facebook — like when Joey is crying in frustration because he thinks he’d be better at wrestling if only his dad hadn’t gotten shot and was able to get on the mat with him. Or when Brian’s fiancé says he isn’t engaging with their family but she can’t figure out why, or when Brian says he feels like a burden on the military because he’s not “mission-capable” anymore.

You can’t help but feel heartbroken when you realize that, despite his best efforts, Brian’s biggest fear is coming true — he’s not the same care-free, fun dad he was years earlier.

“Father Soldier Son” will make you smile through life’s greatest joys, and break your heart with unspeakable tragedy. It’s a must-see film that demands empathy and self-reflection, and forces viewers to confront how a war almost 20 years old has ravaged families around the world, and how it will continue to do so.

The film showcases the resilience and determination so often found in U.S. service members who feel called to serve something bigger than themselves. Most do so with pride. But the film may leave you asking: at what cost?”

Father Soldier Son is currently streaming on Netflix.

5 Driving Factors in Forming a Small Government Contracting Company




This article will suggest factors to consider in determining if the time is right for you to form a small business federal government contracting company.
Small business federal government contracting is not rocket science – to succeed one must take what one does well in the commercial marketplace or what experience leads one to believe one can plan successfully as a commercial enterprise and then apply it in a slightly different manner from a business perspective to accommodate federal government contracting requirements.
Very few companies enter federal government contracting without some commercial experience and success or prior professional employment.  Very few start ups entertain initially contracting exclusively to the federal government without commercial work or other employment to sustain operations while the more lengthy government procurement process is being pursued.


There is often confusion regarding the definition of the term, “Contractor” in government work. The term is used in a conflicting manner to describe companies, individuals and business relationships. It has different connotations within corporations as opposed to government agencies, and is often confused with terms like “Subcontractor”, “Supplier” or “Vendor”.
The article linked below defines the term, “Contractor” and discusses the regulatory factors and practical considerations related to use of the term from a small business federal government contracting perspective:


Consider carefully a product or service area in which you have experience and talent as well as for which there is a demand.  Make it in a field in which you would enjoy a long term involvement.  Then give your small business company concept the following test:

1. Do you have a product or service niche in mind?

2. Do you believe you have a market for 1 above and the means to reach it?

3. Are you willing to develop a business plan using the tool kit linked below to validate 1 and 2 above before you launch?

If the answer to the above questions is “Yes”, take the actions indicated above, observe the results, and make an informed decision on whether or not to proceed.


Executing the below process establishes the firm officially on paper and commits the owner(s) to the enterprise:
For the majority of individuals who are starting single person or no more than 2 or 3 person operations, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered with the state and with the federal government is recommended.

It will separate personal assets from company assets and protect them. When product or services sales begin generating revenue an LLC has many tax advantages.  It can be registered as Sub Chapter ‘S’ for tax purposes and revenue and the expenses can be passed through to personal tax returns, paying no taxes as a company. The double taxation issue prevalent with many of the other types of incorporation is avoided with a Sub chapter “S” LLC. An LLC assists in limits your personal liability for debt and court judgments that may not fall in your favor.

Representing the business as a company allows pursuing financing as an enterprise. You can think of a creative name for your LLC and you can complete the articles of incorporation necessary to bring your enterprise into existence. The term, “LLC” must conclude the name of your company if you decide to form such an organization.

Free instructions for registering in your state and federally with the IRS are available at the second, vertical, Box Net “References” cube in the left margin of the sites referenced above.  You will receive tax and employer identification numbers by registering your business.
A very common mistake is not generating and executing an operating agreement among the founders of there is more than one person involved in forming the company. An operating agreement, is a separate document, not controlled or required by the state or the federal government, but very important to your company.

It should be a simple,  straightforward document  you and the prospective partner(s) can draft  yourselves addressing such  matters as % of ownership, how revenue will  be distributed and other  general matters, as well as who can commit the  company in the form of  credit cards, employment offers and who signs  checks on the company  account and other administrative matters. Buying out a partner should also be covered as well as adding new members if the need arises down the road.

I have seen many enterprises fail or go through terrifically hard times   due to lack of an operating agreement. The parties should sign it after a review by a lawyer. It should then be notarized and made an official   part of the company file. You can download a generic operating agreement at the second, vertical, Box Net “References” cube in the left margin of the sites linked above.  It is for an LLC but you could modify it for other types of corporations.  You can feel free to borrow from the sample or supplement it as you see fit. It is fairly comprehensive in order to cover most business situations and there may be elements of the example you feel are not necessary.


You will not be able to go it alone.
Evolving niches and industry teaming leading to larger projects as part of multiple company efforts is a necessity in forming a small government contracting business, particularly in the services venue.

Synergism is paramount in teaming with any size company, whether in a lead or subcontracting role. There should be technical, management and market segment similarities between you and any company with whom you are considering teaming. Your prospective team member ideally will not be a direct competitor; rather a business in a related field with whom you share a mutual need for each other’s contributions in pursuing   large-scale projects.

Relationships must be developed with primes and other small businesses that can help you, team with you and keep you in mind as they search for success. That takes time, patience and open-minded, out of the box thinking. It also takes more than a   Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), a teaming agreement (TA) and a proposal   to succeed. It takes dynamic marketing and communication with strong   partners and hard, innovative work. Nice buzz words you say – but it is the truth and you have to find what that truth means to you.


Carefully consider the 5 factors noted above when evaluating the formation of a small business government contracting company. For additional details on any of the factors, please see the free book at this site: