Tag Archives: Veterans

Transition Stress – The Veteran’s Battle In Returning Home

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Image: “Alignable

ALIGNABLE

The numbers are staggering — two-thirds of the 245,000 former soldiers returning home annually are affected by something called Transition Stress.

This immense stress can sideline many wonderful, talented veterans, leading to everything from general aimlessness and depression to suicide.”

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“Everyone wants the best for the members of our military coming home after years of service, fighting for our country.  But so many of these wonderful, courageous and giving people come back and have MAJOR struggles — that often don’t seem to be well-addressed. Just look at the suicide rate! Of the 245,000 veterans who return home every year, at least 20 commit suicide every day.  That’s an alarming and heartbreaking statistic that needs to change.

Two people who are working to make this transition between military and civilian life much less stressful and much more successful are Alignable Power Users Julie and CJ Niehoff.  They founded and now run an incredible organization called SkillsAfterService.com, and they’re the stars of Casto’s Closeup, Episode 7.

Julie and CJ coach former members of the military on everything from the language that’s used in Corporate America or Entrepreneurial America, to the best ways to present themselves in interviews to demonstrate how their many skills can translate well to different job opportunities. Ultimately, they want to help veterans to find a purpose they can be proud of in their next job — a purpose that helps them to fully embrace this chapter of their lives.

CJ and Julie also show former soldiers how to create their own business and then grow it, if they want to go the entrepreneurial route.

In our video, we dig deep to explore many of the struggles former soldiers experience — and the solutions CJ and Julie have found to help them.


We learn that of the 245,000 soldiers each year that leave the military, a good two-thirds of them are affected by Transition Stress. In fact, this is much more common among veterans than PTSD is, though very few media outlets have reported on Transition Stress.  This immense stress can sideline many wonderful, talented veterans, leading to everything from general aimlessness and depression to suicide. 

But the good news is that the compassionate, but goal-oriented SkillsAfterService.com programs are designed to help combat Transition Stress and channel the skills and approaches needed to find or create meaningful work in the civilian world.

If you have a friend or loved one who is about to leave the military, or has left already and doesn’t know what to do next, please go to SkillsAfterService.com’s Alignable Profile.  Any former member of the military would be in great hands with CJ and Julie.

We hope you enjoy this very topical episode. Please feel free to share it widely. 

Also, for any veterans reading this story, please be sure to add our new veteran-owned business tag to your profile.

After the majority of our veterans tag their profiles, all you’ll need to do is press that tag to see who else served in the military. Then you’ll have an instant community to connect with — as business contacts, as well as new friends who share a common bond.

Thanks again for reading!”

https://www.alignable.com/blog/helping-vets-win-at-home-overcoming-major-work-related-battles

How Veterans Benefit By Volunteering After They Take Off The Uniform

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Image: VFW

MILITARY TIMES

For many veterans, volunteering can work to ease the transition to civilian life, according to a 2017 study from Saint Louis University.

The study looked at veterans volunteering with The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that partnered with other organizations to put veterans in meaningful leadership roles.

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“Ask active duty service members why they joined the military and you’ll likely get several different answers. Some joined to get away from home and travel the world, others may have joined for that enticing signing bonus, others still for the education benefits and potential skills training they’d get once transitioning back into the civilian world. Some even joined the service intending on making a career of it.

Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt in many Americans’ minds that the contributions service members make to the country is valuable. Some 64 percent of Americans look up to people who have served in the military, according to a 2019 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

In the same results, however, it was reported that many veterans find it difficult to transition back into civilian life, with more post—9/11 veterans reporting as such. Almost half of all post—9/11 veterans said it was somewhat or very difficult to do so – 32 percent and 16 percent , respectively.

For those veterans with combat experience, 46 percent said it was difficult. Compare that to just 18 percent of veterans without combat experience.

Many veterans find it difficult to secure meaningful and lasting jobs after the military. About 500,000 —or 5.5 percent — of the 8.7 million working—age veterans in America were looking for work in October, Military Times reported.

Veterans are service—minded

According to a 2018 report from the Corporation for National & Community Service, roughly 30 percent of all veterans — more than 5.6 million — volunteer and contribute roughly 630 million hours of service annually.

In 2019, some 61,000 volunteers gave 9.2 million hours of service specifically for the benefit of veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/11/09/how-veterans-can-still-serve-after-they-take-off-the-uniform/

Most Popular GI Bill Schools

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Image: (Alyssa Akers/Air Force)

MILITARY TIMES

 “A rundown of the top 20 schools ranked by the total number of GI Bill students attending each school.

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“More than half of all students receiving GI Bill benefits last year attended public colleges and universities, which were among the largest recipients of the roughly $5 billion that the Department of Veterans Affairs doled out in annual education benefits, according to VA data.

Specifically, about 59 percent of GI Bill students attended public schools; about 21 percent attended private schools and 19 percent attended for-profit schools, according to VA data for 2019, the most recent year for which it is available.

Among the Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of schools with the most GI Bill recipients, American Military University, a for-profit school owned by the American Public University System, topped the list with more than 17,000 students enrolled.

The next up was the University of Maryland Global Campus, a state school that offers online coursers available to students anywhere in the world.

Also included in the top five was Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, that includes many students who take courses online.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/education-transition/2020/09/25/most-popular-gi-bill-schools/

Veterans And “The New Collar Worker” Movement

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MILITARY TIMESBy Tom Kane

A college degree was the steppingstone to a career, but the announcement by more than 15 of the biggest names in business that they would no longer require employees to have a college degree rocked the foundation of higher education.

What this means for those transitioning from the military and for veterans is that they are setting themselves up for a successful career transition into an industry that is job rich, faster than what a college degree track offers, and provides a compensation/benefits package commensurate with what they experienced while serving.

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“Google, Apple, and IBM were just a few, and it seems that more employers are jumping on this bandwagon every day. Companies are increasingly dropping the college-degree prerequisite because they realize that time spent during academic courses does not necessarily translate to a strong work ethic, competency, and talent in the workplace. This is especially the case in the IT industry.

The tech industry is rich with career opportunities. Recruiters I have spoken to, have noted that advancements in job positions can be rapid and the salary increases accompany those advancements. To fill these jobs, New Collar Workers have become the group of career hunters most often seen in the search pool. New Collar Worker was coined in 2016 by IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty and defined as individuals who develop technical and soft skills needed to work in the contemporary tech industry through nontraditional education paths. Veterans fit the New Collar Worker definition due to their decision to travel down these pathways. Caught in today’s unemployment and underemployment situation, many veterans have a high sense of urgency to career opportunities. And given that time is money, they focus on getting credentials as quickly as possible to qualify for high-demand jobs — rather than enroll in years-long degree programs.

Employers are realizing that college degrees may not neatly map to the skills they seek in candidates. Bureau of Labor & Stats shows at least six IT job fields projected to experience higher growth rates than all other occupations. They pay at least $65,000 a year and 40% of people currently in those roles do not have a four-year degree. So clearly, there is no need to have an artificial barrier limiting tech jobs to degree-holders when so many people in those jobs lack a college degree.

Still, just because these jobs may not require a degree does not mean that they are easy. Having a verifiable skill set and competencies are vital and verification often comes from industry certifications, not certificates, earned from an authorized training provider.

Certifications versus certificates seems like a semantics issue but the two are vastly different. Certificates tend to be a subset of academic courses from degree programs, which means that they may not be actual indicators of complete professional competency. Certificates tend to be “paper trophies” for professionals. Certifications, on the other hand, go beyond the theoretical knowledge degrees of and confirm evidence-based application of skills combined with practical experience. IT certifications give hiring managers confidence that they are evaluating candidates on specialized knowledge and are ready to work on day one.

Certification training will continue following employer demands for qualified applicants and the evolution of new technologies. For many hiring leaders, one of the valuable lessons over the last decade and to applied for future recruitment, is that the talent pipeline reaches well beyond traditional college sources. Their attention is being directed towards industry approved training institutions that are producing qualified, “ready to work” candidates, who are hitting the pipeline much quicker than those sitting in classes that are not applicable to the job.

What this means for those transitioning from the military and for veterans is that they are setting themselves up for a successful career transition into an industry that is job rich, faster than what a college degree track offers, and provides a compensation/benefits package commensurate with what they experienced while serving. It runs along the same lines for spouses but another element that exists is that a certification track into the IT industry can offer spouses career opportunities perhaps not available in “military life” due to not being able to remain static in one area because of multiple relocations with changes in duty stations.

The pace of technology adoption continues to accelerate with no end in sight. And as the nature of work continues to evolve, so too will the requirements sought out in candidates. My advice to veterans: become part of the New Collar Worker movement and become the solution to the void we are seeing in the tech job recruitment market.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2020/08/22/veterans-fit-into-the-tech-industrys-new-collar-workers-movement/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tim Kane M Ed

Tim Kane is a veteran and the Military Operations Manager at New Horizons of Phoenix.

Veterans Tapped For Feedback on Education Benefits

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https://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2017/09/forever-gi-bill-is-now-law-things-you.html

MILITARY TIMES

Results from this survey will be used to improve the education benefits program based on direct feedback from respondents, according to the VA. The VSignals survey is 5 to 7 questions long and takes about three minutes to complete.

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“The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a new survey to gauge veterans’ experiences with education benefits.

The survey, which will be distributed through the department’s Veterans Signals, or VSignals, program will be emailed to a random selection of veterans or beneficiaries who have recently taken part in the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) education program.

The new survey was designed with the help of beneficiaries to improve veterans’ experiences with the program, which provides education benefits to over 900,000 veterans each year, according to the VA. The survey will assess veterans’ experiences in one of three aspects of the education benefits program: applying for benefits, enrolling in school or receiving education benefits through VBA.

“The surveys give beneficiaries an opportunity to provide direct feedback on VA’s performance. We are constantly searching for ways to better serve the nation’s veterans,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a press release.

The VSignals program has surveyed about 28.8 million people since June 2017 and uses veterans’ and beneficiaries’ feedback to improve its services where needed, according to the VBA.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/education-transition/2020/08/03/veterans-whats-your-experience-with-your-education-benefits-the-va-wants-to-know/

Navy Warns Marines And Sailors Of “Card Cracking” Scam

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(tuan_azizi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

NAVY TIMES

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is seeing an uptick in reports from sailors and Marines who have been duped in a card-cracking scam on social media — in some cases after being promised money as a gesture of gratitude for their military service.

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“The scammers are reaching out to service members through several different ways, NCIS warned.

In some cases, service members are receiving friend requests on Facebook from someone with mutual friends. The scammer then tells the service members they would like to offer them grant money to thank them for their service, or offer them money for their “debt relief.”

Another trend NCIS has witnessed is scammers connecting with service members on social media through either posts or messages, all under the guise of being a debt consolidator or business owner.

Regardless of initial contact, scammers then ask service members to share their bank login information, along with some of the security question prompts that appear on their online bank account.

“Victims have reported that after the money is deposited directly into their accounts, the scammer then asks the victim to send a portion of the money via wire or cash to a third party,” NCIS said in a recent news release.

“Victims then discover that loans have been opened in their name with the same financial institution. Any attempts to further contact the scammer are unsuccessful, leaving the victim to pay off the loan.”

These scams have resulted in “severe financial losses” for service members, NCIS said.

NCIS provided a series of recommendations to sailors, such as halting continued contact with the scammer, alerting their banks or financial institutions to lock accounts, and looking into a credit lock through credit bureaus like Equifax.

Likewise, NCIS recommended sailors inform their commands, the NCIS office, and also law enforcement authorities, and advised against sharing bank login details with anyone.

Although NCIS warned sailors last month to be aware of COVID-19-related schemes, the agency initially said it did not believe these card-cracking scams are connected to the pandemic because there had already been a rise in scams over the past year.

However, NCIS told Military Times it received an image Thursday afternoon of a scam circulating via email targeting Navy Federal Credit Union members that offered to assist them with $800 for COVID-19 relief. The email requested members to validate their Navy Federal customer data in order for the funds to clear.

“We urge the Department of the Navy family to remain vigilant of scams offering promises getting out of debt and making extra money, especially during this challenging time for our nation,” NCIS spokesman Jeff Houston said in an email to Military Times.

Service members have frequently fallen prey to scammers and lost millions of dollars as a result.

According to a December report analyzing data from the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau, active duty personnel and veterans from the Navy have been tied up in 143,718 scams totaling $62,542,897 since 2012. Those from the Marine Corps have also been involved in 57,204 scams totaling $24,976,528.”

https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2020/04/09/beware-of-thank-you-for-your-service-money-scams-ncis-warns-sailors-and-marines/

Minnesota COVID-19 Financial Assistance For Veterans

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“April 8, 2020

On March 26, 2020, the Minnesota State Legislature voted to fund a special appropriation to assist Veterans who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Programs have been activated to mitigate the economic effects COVID-19 is having on our Veterans and their families.

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“The purpose of the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Grant is to mitigate the negative effects and economic impact COVID-19 has had on Veterans and their families by providing a one-time financial relief grant in the amount of $1,000.

Applications for the disaster relief grant must be dated no earlier than March 13, 2020.  A closing date for the disaster relief grant has yet to be determined and will depend on the length of the peacetime emergency declared by the Governor of the State of Minnesota and the availability of funding.

To qualify for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant, applicants must be:

  1. A Veteran or the surviving spouse (who has not remarried) of a deceased veteran as defined by MN Statute 197.447, and
  2. A Minnesota Resident, and
  3. Have been negatively financial impacted by COVID-19.
    * Note: Two Veterans married to each other are both authorized to apply for and receive the disaster relief grant.

Application Resources:

Visit our Disaster Relief Grant page for more details and application information.

COVID-19 Special Needs Grant

The purpose of the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant is to provide one-time financial assistance to a Veteran or surviving spouse who needs assistance due to a COVID-19-related event. Any funding awarded from this grant would go directly to a vendor or creditor of the applicant, and no money awarded goes directly to an applicant or an applicant’s family member.

Applications for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant must be dated no earlier than March 13, 2020. A closing date for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant is subject to the length of the peacetime emergency declared by the Governor of the State of Minnesota, and the funding available.

To qualify for the COVID-19 Special Needs Grant, applicants must be:

  1. A Veteran or the surviving spouse (who has not remarried) of a deceased veteran as defined by MN Statute 197.447
  2. A Minnesota Resident, and  
  3. Have been negatively financial impacted by COVID-19.
    *Note: two Veterans married to each other are only authorized one COVID-19 Special Needs Grant.
Covered by COVID-19 Special Needs Grant: utility bills, auto insurance, rent/mortgage/contract for deed, security deposit, medical bills, auto loan payment, auto repairs, furnace/AC unit, home repairs (related to habitability).

Application Resources:

Visit our Special Needs Grant page for more details and application information.


Other Programs

The State Soldiers Assistance Program (SSAP) typically provides seven different programs year-round that are not tied to our COVID-19 response. Although they are not specifically intended to assist with our COVID-19 response, SSAP programs may be helpful to any Veteran or dependent who may have been affected by COVID-19.

Special Needs Grant

The purpose of the Special Needs Grant is to provide one-time financial assistance to a Veteran or surviving spouse to assist in their financial crisis and to promote stability and prevent homelessness.

Special Needs Grants are open year round. To qualify for a Special Needs Grant, applicants must be:

  1. A Veteran or the surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran as defined by MN Statute 197.447.
  2. A Minnesota Resident.
    * Note: Two Veterans married to each other are entitled to their own separate Special Needs Grants

Application Resources:

Learn more at our Special Needs Grant page.

Subsistence Assistance (Short Term Disability)

Subsistence Assistance provides financial assistance for up to six months to a Veteran or surviving spouse when they are disabled and prevented from working at their usual/normal occupation for at least 30 days, or without a disabling medical condition within one year of the Veterans death.

Subsistence Assistance is available year round, and provides help with:

  1. Shelter associated payments (rent / mortgage / room & board / property taxes / association dues / homeowners’ insurance).
  2. Utility Assistance (i.e. electric, gas, propane, water, sanitation/sewer, etc.).
  3. Healthcare Premiums
  4. Personal Needs Funds (Cash grant).

Application Resources:

Learn more at our Subsistence Assistance page.

Important Message

We understand that many County Veterans Service Offices are currently closed or operating at a reduced capacity and that situations around the state are changing daily. If you are in need of assistance with applying for any of our programs and you cannot receive assistance from your County Veterans Service Officer our Field Operations Team has staff standing by and ready to assist you. They can be reached at FO.MDVA@state.mn.us.Permalink: http://mn.gov/mdva/blog/index.jsp?id=1066-425565

Veterans And Caregivers Can Now Shop Military Commissaries On-Line

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MILITARY .COM

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said.

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“However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

Related: Your Questions Answered: New Commissary Access for Vets and Caregivers

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/02/28/online-commissary-privileges-finally-available-newly-eligible-shoppers.html

$876 Million In Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Contracting Fraud Dishonors Veterans

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Image: Georgia Tech Contracting Education Academy
PLEASE SEE https://contractingacademy.gatech.edu/tag/sdvosb/ FOR REPORT AND DETAILS

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY

The sad truth is that each time a government contract is awarded to a company falsifying its status as a SDVOSB, other veterans operating legitimate, eligible small businesses are denied opportunities that they’ve earned through their service to our nation.

It’s up to us to ensure these opportunities are safeguarded for our veterans today and tomorrow. It’s the honorable thing to do.

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“Ensuring that each veteran receives our full respect and support as he or she transitions back to civilian life is one of our duties as a nation.

While the personal sacrifice made by our veterans is impossible to measure and represents a debt that can never fully be repaid, it is vital that Americans do what we can to protect the benefits and services our nation’s veterans have earned. 

Extending opportunities to entrepreneurial veterans who have suffered service-related disabilities is one way our nation honors their extraordinary service. The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (“SDVOSB”) procurement program was established in 2003 as an extension of the federal government’s policy to maximize procurement opportunities for small businesses. The program provides opportunities for SDVOSBs by establishing a goal that at least 3 percent of all federal contracting dollars be awarded to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses each year.

Three percent of federal contracting dollars may seem like a small amount—but the reality is this program represents billions of dollars in opportunity for our nation’s veterans. Unfortunately, over the years, this program has become a lucrative target for fraud and abuse. In fact, in a sobering December 2019 report from the Government Accountability Office focused on contracting fraud with the Department of Defense, one of the most rampant forms of abuse documented relates to contractors falsely claiming eligibility for contracts set aside for small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. 

Schemes in which well-resourced, large companies either create fraudulent SDVOSBs or manipulate existing SDVOSBs to capture federal set-aside contracts for themselves are on the rise. These schemes are robbing our nation’s veterans of opportunities that they earned through their service. This is why it is critical that we understand the rules involving contracts set aside for SDVOSBs, as well as how to identify SDVOSB fraud.

First, let us look at the rules of SDVOSB procurement. In order to be eligible for a set-aside or sole-source SDVOSB contract with the federal government, a firm must meet four criteria. First, the firm must be a small business. Second, the company must be at least 51-percent owned by one or more service-disabled veterans. Third, a service-disabled veteran must hold the highest position in the company—such as the role of CEO—and be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the firm. And finally, the eligible veterans must have a service-connected disability.

It’s also worth noting that while SDVOSBs can join forces with large companies to bid on government contracts, to qualify for an SDVOSB set-aside opportunity, at least 51 percent of the net profits earned by the joint venture must be distributed to the SDVOSB and the SDVOSB needs to play the lead role as project manager on the project.

Even though these rules should be easy to understand and follow, the lure of securing set-aside government contracts worth billions of dollars is too much for some large business owners to resist, often leading some to commit fraud by creating small businesses to serve as a “pass through” entity to illegally win SDVOSB set-aside contracts. For example, the Virginia-based defense contractor ADS, Inc. and Luke Hillier, ADS’s former Chief Executive Officer, collectively agreed to pay the United States nearly $37 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by fraudulently obtaining federal set-aside contracts reserved for small businesses that ADS was ineligible to receive. Specifically, ADS settled allegations that it had established a “pass through” small business named MJL Enterprises led by a former ADS employee who happened to be a service-disabled veteran. The lawsuit further alleged that ADS managed MJL’s day-to-day operations and supplied the necessary logistical services to allow MJL to perform under its SDVOSB set-aside contracts. In turn, MJL brought in more than $70 million in small business set-aside government contracts that ADS otherwise would not have been eligible to receive.

In the case of ADS, the punishment for allegedly using a fraudulent SDVOSB was severe. Hillier’s settlement of $20 million is among the largest secured against an individual in the history of the FCA. In addition to the $20 million settlement announced by the DOJ in August 2019, the firm also paid the U.S. government a settlement of $16 million in 2017 related to the same conduct.

So, what can be done about the issue? The GAO report underscores that the Defense Department should be doing more to verify who actually owns and manages the companies that supply the agency with goods and services. That sounds great, but the reality is the complex system that includes thousands of vendor companies and hundreds of thousands of contracts and subcontracts makes this kind of additional oversight a herculean task.

Another solution is to encourage those with insider knowledge of potential SDVOSB fraud to come forward as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers with direct knowledge about the ownership and management structure of these organizations are uniquely positioned to shine a light on fraudulent schemes that may otherwise never be uncovered.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/03/03/insight-miller-disabled-vet.aspx

The Deeper Lasting Costs Of War

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Brown University “Costs of War”
Brown University “Costs of War”
Chris Ott, right, helps maneuver her son, former Marine John Thomas Doody, around their family house in September 2013. J.T., left, as everyone calls him, was shot while serving in Fallujah, Iraq., and subsequently suffered an infection and a series of strokes that left him in a coma and relying on a ventilator to survive. (Chris O’Meara/AP)

MILITARY TIMES

A new collection of studies reveals at the often unseen effects of those wars both at home and abroad ranging from fractured families, strained caregivers, increased cancer rates to mistrust of health workers, demolished infrastructure and military suicides.

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“Impact from the past two decades of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be seen in dollars spent, lives shattered by injury or trauma and dead service members carried home.

“War and Health” is a collection of ethnographies covering a range of people affected from the wars beginnings, current day and likely long-term future ripples.

In it researchers have found correlations between areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan with higher number of drone strikes are also less likely to accept polio vaccinations and other medical assistance due to mistrust of government aid.

They’ve seen increased rates of behavior incidents and low school performance among children of frequently-deployed military parents.

The reports show waves of Iraqis seeking medical care in Beirut, Lebanon with late-stage cancers because they couldn’t get early screening in Iraq, which previously boasted the leading medical care in the region.

Researchers found military suicides, increased family violence and higher numbers of substance abuse and DUIs even among non-combat service members correlated with faster-paced deployment schedules and training.

While half of all caregivers for veterans are spouses, parents or immediate family, a full one-third of caregivers are friends or neighbors who don’t qualify to receive financial compensation created in recent years to ease the burden that caregivers for vets can face.

Catherine Lutz and Andrea Mazzarino edited the collection as part of their work with the “Costs of War Project,” out of Brown University.

The project collects information on war dead, military and civilian casualties, budget figures and other measures of the costs of the conflicts in the Global War on Terror. The project began in 2011 and recently kicked off a new effort to update past reports and develop new measures by 2021, the 20th anniversary of the start of the wars.

The same project recently released and updated notice on the fiscal costs of the Global War on Terror. The release noted that an estimated $6.4 trillion had been spent between late 2001 and today, a large portion of which has been financed through deficit spending.

But, those numbers can be difficult to nail down, as noted in the report, which quotes Christopher Mann of the Congressional Research Service.

“No government-wide reporting consistently accounts for both DOD and non-DOD war costs,” he said.

Part of the Costs of War Project’s work is to pull together disparate sources to find the tally of the wars.

Their research has found that that a growing cost will be medical care.

One example included 10-year costs estimates for post-9/11 veterans with traumatic brain injuries is expected to cost $2.4 billion from 2020 to 2029.

Mazzarino spoke with Military Times about the nature of the project and what she and its contributors hope it will accomplish.

She and others have participated in media interviews and, through the Costs of War Project, have been in touch with Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT and hope to testify before Congress on their findings.

“The whole point of the project is to move beyond the academy to influencing advocacy and public policy,” Mazzarino said.

That’s not an easy task. Data-driven studies such as past reports on increasing servicemember suicides and strains on military families garnered political and public attention, but that took years and resulted in some changes in programs.

What Mazzarino and her colleagues are working with is less black-and-white and more focused on the second- and third-order effects of having a military at war on a daily basis for decades.

But, it may be that what they’re finding will have as much a long-term impact as other major war-related concerns.

“People who were serving when the war started, they’re entering old age soon,” Mazzarino said. “That’s going to come with all kinds of financial burdens to the U.S. government, especially with care for those veterans.”

And overseas, the imprint of decades of combat leave their own kind of toll.

“There are subtle and unexpected ways that the destruction of infrastructure has affected public health,” she said.

The Costs of War Project website has compiled estimates that a many as 480,000 people have died in direct war violence. They estimate far more have died due to “indirect” war violence such as when access to food, water and medical care was restricted or unavailable due to combat.

Their research estimates that more than 244,000 civilians have been killed in connection to the wars and as many as 21 million have been displaced and many are now war refugees, with substandard living conditions away from their native lands.

One harder to measure item is how the estimated $5.9 trillion spent on the wars could have been spent, the report notes. What healthcare, infrastructure or education projects were curtailed, limited or ended as a result in budget priorities to fight the wars instead?

Mazzarino has seen firsthand some of the effects of the wartime military. Her husband serves as a submariner in the Navy. That’s meant more frequent and unexpected deployments that his predecessors faced.

And she’s seen that strain on fellow military families, members and commanders.

Some similar experiences were reflected in a section titled, “It’s Not Okay: War’s Toll on Health Brought Home to Communities and Environments.”

One vignette profiled Dolores, the young wife of an infantry sergeant whose unit had seen a number of murders committed by soldiers back home and increases in domestic violence.

Those experiences had weighed heavily on her husband who returned and completed another Iraq deployment, this time being injured and later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Six years after he had returned from theater, she had become his main caregiver and had to quit her job to do that work and to advocate for his care.

The section’s authors, Jean Scandlyn and Sarah Hautzinger, wrote that many of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan they interviewed still saw themselves as deeply entangled in what had happened during their deployments.

“Assessing war’s toll on health requires that we consider the ways we all become entangled in wars seemingly distant, and how war particularly erodes wellness in domestic military communities,” they wrote.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2019/11/14/why-the-deeper-lasting-costs-of-war-is-not-reflected-just-in-dollars-and-body-counts/