American Veteran News 05.04.16

VETERANS CLAIM VERBAL ABUSE, RIGHTS VIOLATED AT AUGUSTA VA HOSPITAL — WCSH — AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Two veterans have made allegations that their rights were violated when they were admitted for treatment at the VA Maine Healthcare facility in Augusta. Both veterans say that when they tried to file complaints, those complaints got lost in bureaucracy. David Slagger filed a complaint more than a year ago against a worker whom he says acted aggressively and was verbally abusive. He only just recently received a response from the hospital.
Slagger is a disabled veteran with a brain injury and PTSD. He initially sought help for feelings of hopelessness at a VA clinic in Bangor on February 18, 2015 and was taken to the Emergency Room at St. Joseph Hospital. After waiting eight hours there, he says he agreed to be taken to Togus in Augusta.


INSIDER REASON WHY VETERANS AFFAIRS NOW PAYS HEALTH INSURANCE — DISABLEDVETERANS.ORG — The Department of Veterans Affairs now pays for health insurance for certain veterans but the majority of eligible veterans have no idea.

When asked, two-thirds of veterans who are eligible for coverage within Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment had no idea. A survey I ran yesterday showed 67 percent of veterans who answered were totally unaware of the option.

One veteran even wrote in that he asked about it but his counselor flatly told him no, “My schools requires it, but was told it won’t be covered since I can get care at the VA. I’m 35-40 miles from the nearest hospital (also a large city and major traffic).”

So how can it be that insurance coverage is held secret?


SUICIDE IS MORE THAN JUST A VETERAN PROBLEM — T&P — No one benefits when we treat veteran suicide differently from the American suicide crisis.

No number is as wrought with consequence in the veterans community as 22, which has become a rallying cry for a wide range of groups and concerned individuals seeking to reduce the daily veteran suicide rate. At the same time, no number is so misleading or misunderstood.

Now veterans have a reason to look beyond 22, to a new number: 24.

On April 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics released a new study that reinforces that the suicide crisis in America is not limited to veterans. Over the last 15 years, researchers found, the national suicide rate has risen by 24%, surging across nearly every age group and demographic. In 2014 alone, 42,773 Americans died by suicide.


THIS ARMY RANGER LEGEND WILL LIVE FOREVER IN HIS HOMETOWN — T&P — Col. Darby, the original commander of the Army Rangers, will never be forgotten thanks to this bronze statue unveiled in his hometown.

This past weekend marked the 71st anniversary of the death of Col. William O. Darby, the original commander of the U.S. Army Rangers.

On Saturday, April 30, Darby’s life was commemorated in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the town where he was born.

The beloved hometown hero was honored with an unveiling of a memorial bronze statue of Darby on a 1942 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The sculpture was based on a photograph taken by fellow Ranger Phil Stern just after the invasion of North Africa on Nov. 8, 1942. The photograph was later published on the January 1943 cover of Newsweek magazine.

Accompanied by a police escort and a motorcycle brigade of rangers, the Darby statue entered town with grand fanfare. In the crowd was veteran Kenneth Vaught who was overcome with emotion as he recalled escorting Darby’s casket to Fort Smith cemetery 65 years ago from Cisterna.

“[He was] my idol,” Vaught told Channel 5 KFSM-TV in Fort Smith. “I was in the military too, but nothing equal to him.”


3 VETERANS EXPLAIN HOW THEY LANDED THEIR DREAM JOBS WITH BLIZZARD — T&P — Hirepurpose chatted with three vets to find out what makes Blizzard such a great place to work and how they got there.

Named one of Fortune magazine’s Best Places to Work, Blizzard inspires great pride in their employees — 96% are proud to say they work at the gaming company behind such hits as the World of Warcraft.

Among those employees who have found happiness at work with Blizzard are a number of veterans, who found that following their passions and putting their military skills to work helped them land jobs with a company that gives them a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Hirepurpose chatted with three vets to find out what makes Blizzard such a great place to work, and what advice they’d give to others who’d like to follow in their footsteps.


CREATIVELY DEMONSTRATING APPRECIATION FOR VETERANS — MILCOM — When we think about ways to give back to the veteran community and show our appreciation, we often turn to the standard monetary contributions and volunteer opportunities, but there are more creative ways to show our appreciation as well. One example of such an endeavor is the organization Pinups for Vets.

I recently had the founder of Pinups for Vets, Gina Elise, on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast, and I was surprised and inspired by what she had to share. Gina started the organization in 2006 as a way to give back to the veteran community. After seeing images of veterans alone in hospital beds, and watching reports on the news of the severe injuries sustained by our troops fighting in Iraq, she became convinced that she had to do something to help raise funds to support our hospitalized veterans.


US DEPT. OF LABOR LAUNCHES JOB SITE FOR VETERANS — WTNH — WASHINGTON – The US Department of Labor has launched a new website that offers veterans various employment services.

According to the Labor Department, the new website brings together job banks, state employment offices, American Job Centers, opportunities in top-trending industry sectors, and employer assistance in a single online location.

“There are many resources for veterans seeking employment and for those employers eager to hire veterans, but it’s often difficult for both groups to know where to start,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Mike Michaud. “Veterans.gov brings those resources together in one place, making it an effective first stop on the path to meaningful employment.”

Labor officials say that the site has become a “first stop” in the employment search process for veterans, transitioning service members, and their spouses. It will also be a valuable resource for employers seeking to hire veterans and their spouses.


VETERAN ADMITS LYING FOR OVER $121,000 IN BENEFITS — THE BLADE — An Army veteran who received more than $121,000 in benefits intended for low-income, disabled veterans admitted in federal court Monday that he lied in his application for benefits about his income and ability to work.

Antonio Estrada, 65, of Toledo pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary to theft of government money and property of more than $1,000. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Noah Hood, an assistant U.S. attorney, said that Estrada’s sentencing is expected to be between 10 months and 16 months.

Estrada, who served in the Army from November, 1969, to June, 1971, collected $121,156 in monthly pension payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs between April 1, 2006, and Feb. 28, 2014, after reporting he had zero income and zero assets.

Mr. Hood said in reality Estrada was working on remodeling projects for several contractors. Had the VA known about his income and ability to work, it would not have provided the benefit, Mr. Hood said.

Estrada, who is to be sentenced Aug. 30, said he applied for benefits after being treated at a VA clinic and being told he was entitled to pension based on his medical issues.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Courts/2016/05/03/Veteran-admits-lying-for-over-121-000-in-benefits.html#azLkgWyrU5cjHxq1.99


GREENBAY VETERAN DIES OF OVERDOSE IN VA TREATMENT CENTER — WBAY — A Fox Valley family, furious about the unexpected death of a son and brother, is demanding changes from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Former U.S. Army Ranger Cole Schuler, 26, was found dead of an overdose while in a drug treatment program for veterans at a VA center in Milwaukee.

“He was a go-getter,” said Adrea Allgeyer, Cole Schuler’s sister. “He excelled in almost everything that he did.”

The Schuler family reached out to Target 2 Investigates. When we started asking questions, we discovered a federal investigation was being launched into the VA in Milwaukee, even before Schuler died.

The events leading up to the death of Cole Schuler started last fall, when he told his sister Adrea he was ready to get treatment for his heroin addiction.

Adrea didn’t think twice. On Oct. 21, she drove her Army veteran brother to the Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee.

On Nov. 8, in the middle of the night, police knocked on the door of Adrea’s Kaukauna home.

“And told me that they were there on behalf of Cole Schuler and that he had passed away,” Adrea said.

Cole Schuler’s mother was devastated.


BILL WOULD END TAX PENALTY ON VETS WITH FORGIVEN STUDENT LOANS — MILCOM — Permanently disabled veterans or survivors of veterans who have their student debt forgiven would avoid taxes on the “income” under legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate.

By law, forgiven student debt is counted as income by the Internal Revenue Service, resulting in veterans or their survivors and others being hit with a tax bill — something that Derek Fronabarger, policy director of Student Veterans of America, calls “unconscionable” to do to a family during a time of grief.

“This bill aims at changing this tax issue so that those families who have already paid the ultimate price are not additionally saddled by a discharged student loan tax,” he said. “SVA fully supports this bill and hopes to see it move forward quickly.”


DISABLED VETERAN PAYS IT FORWARD — LIVINGSTON DAILY — Retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvin Groff survived three overseas conflicts — Granada, Panama and Desert Storm — but he paid a hefty physical price. During Desert Storm he developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from breathing in smoke from burning oil fields and dust.

Now decades later, Groff is deeply involved in supporting his fellow disabled veterans.

The Livingston County Veterans Council named Groff the Veteran of the Year for his dedication to community service.

“All I would say is I would do it again if I was physically able,” Groff said of Desert Storm.

“That is why I do everything I do for veterans in the county,” he said.

As commander of Disabled American Veterans A. Reed J. Daprato Chapter 125 in Howell, Groff participates in fundraisers to support veterans in need, visits veterans in senior housing just to talk and listen to stories, and supports veterans’ causes in other ways.


VETERANS AFFAIRS: IT WAS JUST ARMED ROBBERY, NO BIG DEAL — RED STATE — The Department of Veterans Affairs has been putting on a master class in impunity. We have seen VA employees assist in armed robbery, possess controlled substances and commit a sex offense – yet they have not been fired.

There are some questions that shouldn’t have to be asked. However, during a committee hearing last week we challenged current VA Health Under Secretary David Shulkin to explain why the VA continues to employ an individual charged with armed robbery at the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in Puerto Rico.

Initially Under Secretary Shulkin told us the individual was no longer working for the VA. Later during the same hearing, we learned the employee was in fact still employed and working for the VA. The VA explained in a later press release: “As is true in private-sector employment, a Federal employee generally cannot be terminated for off-duty misconduct unless there is a clear connection between the misconduct and the individual’s employment.”


10 BEST TECH SECTOR JOBS FOR 2016 — MILCOM — With their problem-solving skills, as well as their focus on decision making and taking the initiative, quite a lot of veterans find they fit well in the tech sector. It helps that network administration and related duties are jobs in the military, and many service members are accustomed to basically learning the ropes during their military careers.

For veterans looking to transition into the tech sector, consider the following jobs that Information Week listed in their “10 Best Tech Jobs for 2016” article. Most of these jobs will require additional training and education, but are a logical career progression for those of you well-versed in computers, or simply working hard to achieve your aspirations. If you are still trying to figure out your career plan, consider this list while you take classes and pursue your education. If you are past that phase, get that resume ready and land yourself one of these top jobs.


VA NAMES NEW DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF — FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — Two senior officials who oversee issues of personnel and accountability at the Veterans Affairs Department are taking on new jobs within the VA.

Gina Farrisee, assistant secretary for human resources and administration at the VA, will become the department’s new deputy chief of staff. Meghan Flanz, deputy general counsel for legal operations and accountability at the VA, will take Farrisee’s place as the assistant HR secretary, a VA spokesperson confirmed.

The deputy chief of staff position had previously been vacant, the spokesperson said.


APPRECIATING VETERANS AND THEIR ONGOING EFFORTS — MILCOM — As military appreciation month reminds us to show our appreciation for the men and women of the armed forces, many of us veterans are reminded of the void we feel when not serving our country the way we once did. We appreciate the respect this month brings with it for active service men and women as well as veterans, but it’s also a time for self-contemplation. We start thinking about finding a community like we had, and considering what more we could be doing to help the communities we live in. As a veteran, what are you doing?

While there are many answers to what you could be doing and we would love to hear about all of the great options in the comments, what follows are some examples of how veterans are contributing to society and their fellow veterans. Let us take a moment to appreciate these veterans who are giving back, and consider how we too can make a difference.


SENATE CAVES TO ALL OF UNION’S DEMANDS ON VETERANS AFFAIRS FIRING BILL — DAILY CALLER — All of a federal employee union’s objections were removed from a Senate bill designed to help the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) discipline bad employees, making it politically easier for the bill to pass, but indicating it may not be doing the very thing it’s supposed to.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) sent a letter April 18 asking taxpayer-funded employees to pressure Sen. Johnny Isakson , chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Isakson is a Georgia Republican.

“I strongly urge you to oppose the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs omnibus bill in its current form,” president J. David Cox wrote. “No less than the future of the VA health care system is at stake here.”

He enumerated four accountability measures that caused him to oppose the bill. Days later, Democrats joined Republicans to announce a final version they planned to introduce. A Daily Caller News Foundation computer analysis of the two texts showed all four measures had been walked back, while virtually no other changes were made.

The result was a VA employment reform bill that backtracked on measures dealing with the vast majority of the workforce, leaving mainly restrictions on Senior Executive Service (SES) members, who represent only one in 1,000 VA employees.

To THE VETERANS VOICE

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