Category Archives: veterans

The Rewards of Mentoring – Helping Success Stories Like “Thunder Road”

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It was a pleasure to assist with the business plan for “Thunder Road” seven years ago.

Today it is a vital, growing organization, serving veterans, the disabled and a tri-state community out of Decorah, Iowa.

Photo:  Michelle McLain-Kruse at “Thunder Road”

Thunder Road

PLEASE ENJOY THE VIDEO BELOW

http://www.thunderrode.org/

 

Driving School Scammed VA out of $4M in Vet Tuition

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“FEDERAL TIMES”

“Alliance School of Trucking enrolled veterans to attend the school and instructed them to claim tuition and fees funding from the VA through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

[They] then told the veterans they wouldn’t have to attend the classes, but could still collect housing and books fees supplied by the VA, while tuition payments were disbursed directly to the school.

According to an April 6 federal indictment, Alliance School of Trucking owner Emmit Marshall, 50, of Woodland Hills, and the school’s director, Robert Waggoner, 54  created student files with fake documents and submitted bogus enrollment certifications, netting the school $2.35 million in tuition fees and another $1.96 million in education benfits — like housing and, in some cases, books — paid to veterans from 2011 to 2015.

“The VA offers generous benefits to veterans who have put their lives on the line to safeguard America,” said acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown in a statement. “Fraud schemes, particularly those involving schooling for veterans, compromise the system designed to help veterans after they complete their service. Taxpayers who fund these programs also suffer when benefit programs are subject to waste, abuse and fraud.”

Agents with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General arrested Waggoner on April 13 and Miller was scheduled to turn himself in on April 18.

The pair is expected to be arraigned in U.S. District Court for the District of Central California on a nine-count indictment of wire fraud. If convicted, Miller and Waggoner could face a maximum 20-year sentence in federal prison for each count.”

http://www.federaltimes.com/articles/truck-driving-school-owner-arrested-for-scamming-va-out-of-4m-in-vet-tuition-truck-driving-school-owner-arrested-for-scamming-va-out-of-4m-in-vet-tuition-truck-driving-school-owner-arrested-for-scamming-va-out-of-4m-in-vet-tuition

 

National Service Narrows Military-Civilian Divide

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Basic Training Photo Credit: Spc. Emily R. Martin/Army

“AIR FORCE TIMES”
“Since 1974, America has depended on an all-volunteer military for our national defense.
Even in the face of 15 years of war (and counting), the all-volunteer force has proven to be sustainable at the present levels with relatively little adjustment to its selection criteria.
Overall, this force has performed magnificently, in many cases exceeding the expectations of the original architects and surprising many of the naysayers.
While this is good news, especially for those who abhor a draft, it has not been without unintended consequences.

Our nation today faces a growing military-civilian divide, both cultural and societal. Less than one-half of one percent of Americans currently serve in uniform, while the 99-plus percent realize the benefit while bearing none of the burden. Not only do most American families have no one in the military, most do not even know someone who is now serving. This is especially true within the higher economic strata, to include the majority of our nation’s lawmakers.

As a result, most Americans know little or nothing about what life is like for our military families who serve and sacrifice on our behalf. This does not make for a healthy society.

One ray of hope to offset this divide has been a growing interest in national service in a civilian capacity as a way to get more Americans involved. Only about one in four young Americans can even meet the requirements for military service, which makes non-military service options even more important.

While there is much to be said for requiring all young people to serve a year or more in some capacity of national service, that is simply a non-starter in today’s environment. It turns out, however, that a purely voluntary program is already enormously successful.

In fact, demand for very poorly paid national service positions, such as those supported by AmeriCorps, exceeds the availability of these positions many times over. There is an increasing thirst among our nation’s 18- to 24-year-old population to get involved in something bigger than themselves, and, yes, altruistically to “make a difference” in this world.

National service in a civilian capacity still requires a degree of sacrifice on the part of its participants, including financial deprivation and what we might call the “opportunity cost” of a year or more of their lives. The benefits, however, far outweigh these costs, and that’s one reason the demand is so high.

One need look no further than the “greatest generation” and what they subsequently achieved for themselves and for the nation as a direct result of their having served in World War II.

Of course, these veterans, as today’s, were “battle hardened,” which is not likely to be the case for those engaging in civilian national service.

The real benefit to those who served came in the form of maturity, self-discipline, management and leadership experience, and the camaraderie that derived from shared experience, especially with teammates of diverse backgrounds to which they might never have otherwise been exposed.

The thousands of businesses who have been hiring our current generation of veterans have quickly discovered it is not an act of charity, rather it’s the smartest thing that they could be doing for their enterprises. The same can be said for those who hire young Americans coming out of a year or more of national service.

The benefits of national service are legion. What makes the case more compelling is that, by doing their share, these young men and women are actually helping to bridge the military-civilian divide and adding to the moral fiber of our communities and our nation.

We’re stronger as a nation because so many of our young men and women selflessly serve, whether in uniform or in a civilian capacity. Both contribute to “providing for the common defense.”

The recently released federal budget proposal, however, would wipe out this critical element of our national strength by zeroing out both AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the little-known federal agency that runs national service programs, including AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

This proposal ignores the enormous return on investment that these very small budget lines represent, especially in comparison to the defense budget, which these programs actually complement.

This would be a tragic outcome for both the nation and those individuals in national service.

There is nothing partisan about national service, which for over eight decades has enjoyed bipartisan support at all levels of government. The Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act of 2009 came about following the 2008 election campaign during which both John McCain and Barack Obama gave their enthusiastic endorsement of national service.

The subsequent passage of that legislation significantly increased the number of AmeriCorps positions available for young Americans to serve their country. We must not lose this momentum.

The signatories to this piece have all proudly served our country in uniform. We strongly believe that a national civilian service program is a vital component of our strength as a nation. We urge the administration to rethink this small, but critical, budget item, and we urge our congressional representatives to ensure that both the AmeriCorps program and the Corporation for National and Community Service are fully funded.
Air Force Gen. John A. Shaud (ret.)
Army Gen. William G. T. Tuttle (ret.)
Salisbury is chairman of the Critical Issues RoundTable, an informal non-partisan group of retired senior military leaders who meet regularly in Washington to discuss contemporary issues of national importance. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Military Times or its staff.
Co-signers:
Army Lt. Gen. Henry J. Hatch (ret.)
Navy Rear Adm. Cameron Fraser (ret.)
Navy Rear Adm. David T. Hart Jr. (ret.)
Army Maj. Gen. Leo M. Childs (ret.)
Army Brig. Gen. Clarke M. Brintnall (ret.)
Army Brig. Gen. Gerald E. Galloway (ret.)
Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Hemingway (ret.)
Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. John A. Hurley (ret.)
Army Brig. Gen. Richard L. Reynard (ret.)
Army Brig. Gen. Anthony A. Smith (ret.)
G. Kim Wincup
Army Col. Charles B. Giasson (ret.)
Army Reserve Col. Herman E. Bulls
Army Col. George W. Sibert (ret.)
Army Col. John P. Walsh Jr. (ret.)
Army Col. Francis A. Waskowicz (ret.)
Army Lt. Col. William T. Marriott III (ret.)
Army Lt. Col. Palmer McGrew (ret.)
Army Capt. Douglas A. Cohn (ret.)
Army Capt. Joan S. Grey (ret.)
Glen L. Archer III
Jan C. Scruggs”

New Website Competes VA Hospitals

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Image:  “Cartoon Stock”

“MILITARY TIMES”

“WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs wants its medical centers to compete over patients, and they’re launching a new online tool to make comparison shopping for health care easier.

The new “access to care” site, launched Wednesday but expected to be refined significantly over the next few weeks, will allow veterans to see how regional VA health centers stack up against each other on wait times, available services and customer satisfaction.

Poonam Alaigh, acting under secretary for health at the department, said the goal is to both increase transparency over the state of VA health services and provide veterans a way to better customize their own care.

Would-be patients willing to travel significant distances can find regional offices with shorter average wait times for primary and specialty care than nearby facilities. Individuals in metro areas can choose between sites based on customer response ratings.

“There’s competition now,” she said. “They’re going to start losing patients if they don’t start watching the patient experience piece.”

The site is the latest step in a three-year response to the 2014 VA wait-times scandal that forced the resignation of several senior department officials, including then VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Hospital administrators were found to have manipulated wait-time data to better meet department standards, and in some cases gain bonuses for facility improvements.

Alaigh dismissed concerns about the new public comparison site creating similar incentives for dishonesty, saying the focus is on accountability and public awareness. And she said unrelated to the site, VA has implemented new data-monitoring algorithms to detect similar manipulation in the future.

But she acknowledged the site will highlight “the good and bad” of current facility performance.

For example, on the site now, visitors can track wait times for new patient primary care appointments for every VA facility in the greater Phoenix area, the center of the 2014 scandal. For the VA clinic in nearby Anthem, Arizona, the average wait is 11 days. For the clinic in Casa Grande south of the city, it’s 56 days.

“I want to use this to help build accountability,” she said. “I don’t want this to be a punitive thing. It also has to be a tool for us to redirect resources to needed areas.”

The site also includes comparisons of standardized health data to other regional, non-VA hospitals, although only a small number of VA sites are currently listed. Alaigh said more will be added in coming weeks.

So will a feedback button for veterans to ask questions about facility offerings and better contact information to help veterans contact medical centers. Alaigh called the site “rushed” and “far from perfect” but said officials wanted to get the available data in veterans hands as quickly as possible.

VA officials for years have promised both better access to medical treatments at department clinics and better customer service throughout the agency, but have received mixed reviews on the work so far from veterans groups and lawmakers.

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/va-website-medical-care-access-competition

 

 

New Campaign to Highlight Strong Women Vets (VIDEO)

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Women Veterans

Image:  “Military Times”

“MILITARY TIMES”

“Women now total nearly 11 percent of veterans in America, and roughly 20 percent of all veterans under the age of 50.

It [the campaign] features short stories on four women: a former helicopter door gunner and amputee, a refugee-turned-soldier-turned-dentist, an airman who later pursued acting, and a breast cancer survivor who became a physical fitness coach.

The #ShesBadass campaign, launched on the last day of Women’s History Month, includes stories of women veterans discussing their service, post-military life and challenges. The group, whose stated goal is to change public perceptions of veterans in America, released a new online video Friday to spread that message.

“When I tell people I’m a veteran, I kind of get that look: ‘Which country?’” said Tigon Abalos, one of the veterans featured in the video. “I have to say ‘U.S. Army veteran.’”

The campaign comes amid dramatic changes for women service members in recent years, including the opening of all combat jobs to women and the recent nude photo sharing scandal that has highlighted issues of misogyny and harassment in the ranks.

Got Your 6 Director of Content Kate Hoit, an Iraq War veteran, said she hopes the video serves as wake-up call for the public and a resource for her peers.

“My goal was to help defy stereotypes and put a face to a new generation of veterans. And I think we accomplished our goal,” she said.

“So the next time someone says, ‘You were in the military? But you’re so small,’ or ‘you don’t look like a veteran,’ just show them this video. And then tell them to kindly f*** off.”

Lawmakers and veterans groups have lobbied for better Veterans Affairs services in recent years as those numbers have risen, but advocates say the department still needs major changes in aging hospitals and outdated policies to fully embrace the needs of women veterans.

Got Your 6 officials are also hoping that women currently serving and out of the military will use the #ShesBadass hashtag on social media to share their own stories, bringing more public attention to their role in their communities.

Got Your 6’s newest public service campaign wants to remind Americans that military women aren’t just a key part of America’s fighting force.

They’re also badass.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/gy6-campaign-badass-women-veterans

 

Army Vet: “Disgraceful Gun Bill Endangers Veterans”

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(Photo: M. Spencer Green, AP)

“USA TODAY”  By Lindsey Donovan

“Every day, 20 veterans take their lives — not surprisingly, two-thirds of them use a gun.

Yet in the midst of this crisis, our elected officials voted to remove from the background check system nearly 170,000 records of veterans with severe mental illnesses.

These veterans will now be able to purchase and possess firearms, even if they have been determined to be incapable of managing their own affairs.

I am a proud veteran of the Army. The seven Army Values are a part of my moral DNA. Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are at the heart of who I am today.

These values serve as the backbone to every servicemember who has served or is still serving in our armed forces, and they deserve better than what our federal lawmakers have given them. Instead of protecting our most vulnerable veterans — men and women with severe mental illness — the House recently passed a bill that made it easier for them to get guns.

Our veteran population is facing a devastating suicide crisis

How did we get to a point where the gun lobby’s bottom line means more to our lawmakers than the health and safety of those who have bravely served this country?

This issue hits the raw nerve of individuals who have lost their husbands, wives, children and friends to suicide. For me, it’s personal. Though I am a proud veteran, I am also the proud wife of a U.S. soldier. My husband has completed three combat tours in Iraq and a fourth in Afghanistan. Anyone who has been a witness to what multiple wars and deployments can do to soldiers and their families knows that war is hell. We send them over to do a mission and welcome them back expecting them to go on as usual. But it never works that way. Transitioning back to “normal” is sometimes too much to endure and for some, in the blink of an eye, it can seem like the only way out is through the barrel of a gun.

My own experience is what fuels me to speak out and urge our lawmakers to take a stand against this very dangerous bill. Shortly after my husband’s last deployment, a soldier who served in his unit died by suicide with a gun. It happened a few days after we saw that soldier. The shock I felt was indescribable. And the pain and sorrow I felt for those left behind, I hope to never feel again. To this day I still think about that individual. I don’t so much concentrate on the why, but the how. It was the gun, a deadly means to a tragic end.

In basic training, I was assigned a “battle buddy.” We were each other’s keeper; we had a duty to one another, a bond cemented by a shared experience. I look at my fellow veterans in the same terms, staying true to the Warrior Ethos of “I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Granting access to firearms to veterans who have been deemed mentally incompetent by the Department of Veterans Affairs is not looking out for the men and women who so courageously served our country. It is a disgrace, and it is far from patriotic.

As a gun owner, a veteran and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, I know this is not a Second Amendment issue. This is an issue about common sense. This is an issue about moral courage and fortitude to stand up and fight to keep our most vulnerable veterans safe from gun violence. The House bill on veterans is the second attempt to roll back gun laws in Congress. Just last month, President Trump signed a law reversing a requirement that the Social Security Administration submit records of mentally impaired recipients to the gun background-check system.

I won’t sit idly by and watch this latest affront to our safety. Our veterans deserve better, our active-duty military deserves better, than lawmakers who cater to the gun lobby and ignore the crisis of veterans and suicide. The well-being of our veterans should be the priority, and our lawmakers should reject this dangerous legislation.”

“Lindsey Donovan, an Army veteran married to an active-duty soldier, is a volunteer leader for the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/03/29/gun-bill-endangers-mentally-ill-veterans-suicide-army-vet-column/99740790/

Veteran Employment Bill Passes Senate

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Veterans Job Search

“MILITARY .COM”

“Through the U.S. Department of Labor, the HIRE Vets Act would allow businesses to display “HIRE Vets Medallions” on products and marketing materials.

These medallions would be awarded as part of a two-tiered system — Gold and Platinum — associated with specific hiring and retention goals each year.

Rep. Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, announced Monday that the U.S. Senate has passed his bill, HR 244, the Hire Vets Act of 2017.

The bill already passed the House of Representatives in February. Cook had reintroduced this bipartisan bill earlier this year. It was introduced last Congress and passed the House with unanimous support, but was unable to pass the Senate before the end of the year. The bill now heads back to the House for final passage as the Senate made minor technical changes to it.

This legislation would promote private sector recruiting, hiring and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program, according to Cook’s office.

Specifically, it would create an awards program recognizing the meaningful and verifiable efforts undertaken by employers to hire and retain veterans. The program is designed to be self-funded.

“The HIRE Vets Act is an opportunity for Americans to see which companies truly live up to the employment promises they make to veterans,” Cook said. “Veterans who serve this country honorably shouldn’t struggle to find employment, and this bill creates an innovative system to encourage and recognize employers who make veterans a priority in their hiring practices.

“I’m grateful this bipartisan bill has passed so resoundingly in both the House and the Senate. I expect it to quickly receive final approval from the House and look forward to it being signed into law soon.”

The program also establishes similar tiered awards for small and mid-sized businesses with less than 500 employees. To ensure proper oversight, the Secretary of Labor would be required to provide Congress with annual reports on the success of the program with regard to veteran employment and retention results.

A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired as a colonel after 26 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He represents the 8th District, which includes all of the High Desert, in the House of Representatives.”

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/03/28/veteran-employment-bill-passes-senate.html

Veterans Administration Wants Veteran-Owned Businesses Offering Cyber Security Services

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“FIFTH DOMAIN CYBER”

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is exploring the availability of verified service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and veteran-owned small businesses that are capable of providing enterprise network defense support

The VA Technology Acquisition Center seeks interested parties that could perform key functions to support overall VA information security and privacy.

In a request for information posted to FedBizOpps on March 22, the VA Technology Acquisition Center seeks interested parties that could perform key functions to support overall VA information security and privacy postures; align VA security and privacy policies with federal guidelines and best practices; enable VA business processes through security integration; and promote a secure environment for employees and contractors.

Services expected would include project management, reporting and data calls, threat intelligence, security analysis, deep dive analysis, forensic analysis, security configuration services and research and development. 

Responses are due to George Govich at George.govich@va.gov no later than 12 p.m. EST on Friday, March 31.

The entire RFI (and the required summaries and performance of work statement for interested contractors) can be found on FBO.gov.”

http://fifthdomain.com/2017/03/27/va-wants-info-on-vets-offering-cybersecurity-services/

 

VA Finalizes Benefits for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Victims

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“MILITARY TIMES”

“Former service members exposed to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune over a 35-year period can now apply for veterans disability benefits, under a new federal rule finalized Tuesday.

The move is expected to affect as many as 900,000 veterans and cost more than $2 billion over the next five years.

In a statement, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin called the move “a demonstration of our commitment to care for those who have served our nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service.”

It comes after years of lawsuits and lobbying by veterans groups who said tens of thousands of troops and their families were exposed to unhealthy levels of contaminants from leaky fuel tanks and other chemical sources while serving at the North Carolina base from the early 1950s to the late 1980s.

In 2012, Congress passed a law providing free medical care for troops and family members who lived at the base and later developed one of 15 illnesses. But that measure did not include the authority to extend VA disability benefits to those veterans.

The new rule will allow that, for veterans who suffer from one of eight diseases that VA officials have said are definitely connected to adult exposure to the water contamination. Those issues are leukemia, aplastic anemia (and other myelodysplastic syndromes), bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Parkinson’s disease.

Labeling the illnesses as presumptive conditions allows veterans to provide only proof of their medical status, and not evidence the conditions are linked to a specific event or exposure.

VA officials will accept applications from any service member who spent at least 30 cumulative days at the base, whether that service was on active-duty, reserve or National Guard status.

Veterans have a year to file the benefits claims, and and if approved will receive payouts from their date of filing. ”

For more information, visit the VA web page.

 

 

U.S. Xpress Offers Truck Driver Apprenticeship Program for Vets

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U.S. XPress Apprenticeship Program

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“U.S. Xpress launched its Military Recruitment Initiative back in July 2016 as part of the company’s commitment to providing veterans with an opportunity to start a new career in the growing logistics industry.

Don Davis and his wife, Rebekah nearly doubled their combined income when the two military veterans became commercial truck drivers and started making long-haul trips between Chicago and the East Coast for the Chattanooga-based U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

“We’re used to being away from home in the military,” said Dan Davis, a 33-year-old veteran of the Army and Navy who twice served in Iraq. “Truck driving is definitely a great career if you don’t mind spending time by yourself, which a lot of us did in the military.”

Davis used his GI bill to get his commercial drivers license through a truck driving school and continues to receive GI benefits to supplement his income through a veterans apprenticeship program that U.S. Xpress joined last month.

As part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill Apprenticeship Program, veterans may receive tax-free educational benefits while training with U.S. Xpress to become truck drivers or diesel technicians. Participants can receive up to $25,700 from the Veterans Administration over a two-year period, depending on their years of military service, on top of their salary from U.S. Xpress.

Professional truck drivers can usually expect to earn between $50,000 and $70,000 based upon which driving opportunity the veteran qualifies for at U.S. Xpress. Combined with the GI Bill benefits, military veterans in the apprenticeship program can earn up to $82,000 in their first year with the company.

If a veteran chooses to enter the program as a diesel technician, they can expect to earn between $35,000 and $50,000 depending upon experience and performance.

The GI bill benefits, which typically take 90 days or so to process, are granted tax-free to the recipients.

Wayne Roy, a 31-year-old Marine who served from 2004 to 2008 as a motor mechanic in the military, joined U.S. Xpress last August after going through truck driving school and is able to supplement his drivers’ pay with what is left on his GI Bill.

“I love to travel, and this helps me make this transition into what I hope to make my career,” Roy said.

U.S. Xpress hopes more veterans use their GI Bill benefits to go into truck driving. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry needs at least 25,000 more truck drivers, and the shortage of drivers is likely to increase as qualified drivers age and retire and the demand for truck shipments increases along with the economy.

“We value the strong work ethic and leadership experience veterans can bring to our company,” said Eric Fuller, chief operating officer for U.S. Xpress. “Beyond that, veterans have a sense of productivity, accountability and a ‘can-do’ attitude that will serve them well in trucking, which is why we look to hire veterans in every aspect of our company.”

U.S. Xpress launched its Military Recruitment Initiative back in July 2016 as part of the company’s commitment to providing veterans with an opportunity to start a new career in the growing logistics industry.

“Our veterans have always played an essential role in keeping our country strong, and now, we want veterans to put their skills to work as a U.S. Xpress truck driver and serve our country in a new way — one that will help keep the transportation industry moving forward and our economy strong,” said Fuller.

“I truly believe our new apprenticeship program will help make this possible by giving veterans added financial stability as they transition out of the military and into a new career.”

https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/u-s-xpress-offers-apprenticeship-program-for-vets-to-fill-truck-driver-jobs-1.457208#.WL296W_yvcs