American Veteran News 07.13.16

MILITARY BURIAL HONORS FOR VETERANS — TIMES-TRIBUNE — Planning funerals can be overwhelming for families. The members of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) want family members to know what to expect with military funeral honors. The DAV wants families to know what choices of military funeral honors are available. To make it easier when a veteran dies, a copy of his or her discharge papers (DD Form 214) to prove eligibility should be on hand. It’s extremely critical for family members who want military funeral honors to tell the funeral director. Simply telling the funeral home that the deceased was a veteran does not initiate burial honors. Burial honors have to be requested!

Members of the DAV are constantly told, by families of veterans, that survivors were unaware of what honors were available or how to get them. Burial honors are not automatic, and must be requested.

Funeral directors know the channels to request the burial honors. The elements of military honors performed by the DAV and include, honors at the funeral service and grave site, twenty-one gun salute, playing taps, folding the American flag and presenting the flag to the family. Burials with military funeral honors can be conducted at any cemetery.

The DAV wants to honor every eligible service member and make sure honors are presented to veterans and their families.

VETERANS GUIDE TO SPECIALLY ADAPTED HOUSING GRANTS — MILCOM — This is not your grandparent’s SAH grant. Bigger dollar amounts and automatic eligibility for some make the benefit more practical for today’s disabled veterans.

John Swanson is a disabled veteran confined to a wheelchair. His 20-year quest for an adapted home of his own ended happily in June 2014. He received the maximum grant amount and applied the funds to the creation of a custom-built dream home in California.

Why did it take 20 years? Frankly, John didn’t know how to go about accessing the benefits he’d earned. Sometimes it takes a village. With the combined efforts of his iFreedom Direct® loan officer, his real estate agent, and a national builder, John was finally able to obtain an SAH grant and say “good-bye” to apartment living.

What is a Specially Adapted Housing Grant?

Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs can help veterans with certain permanent and total service-connected disabilities live more independently and barrier-free in their own homes. Grants of up to $67,555 are awarded to eligible disabled veterans to help build or modify homes to best suit their needs.

An SAH grant can be used to:

Build a specially adapted home on suitable land to be owned or already owned

Remodel an existing home to make it suitable for specially adapted housing

Apply the grant toward the unpaid mortgage balance of an adapted home already owned by a veteran who obtained or remodeled the home without VA grant assistance

What Alterations does an SAH Grant Cover?

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE HEALTHCARE PROMISES MADE TO VETS — T&P — What the report should’ve addressed is the affordability of healthcare promises made to veterans.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in trouble and under attack. This shouldn’t be groundbreaking news to anyone — it has been for a long time. With the release of the final report from the Commission on Care — the blue-ribbon panel established to make recommendations to improve VA healthcare services — more fodder has been given to critics who seek to privatize much of how VA serves patients. The report was released last week and much of what it offers is old news — essentially, it serves to give ammunition to viewpoints already held by different stakeholders.

The Koch brothers-funded Concerned Veterans for America believes the final report doesn’t go far enough to privatize VA health care. The American Federation of Government Employees believes the report goes much too far, claiming it will “…destroy the veterans’ healthcare system…”. Disabled American Veterans agreed with some parts of the report, while also expressing concerns about proposals that would privatize some VA healthcare functions. These three perspectives are mostly remarkable for how unremarkable they are, following up on previous statements made by each organization before the report was even released.

WHY TRUMP’S PLAN FOR PRIVATE DOCTORS FOR VETERANS IS CONTROVERSIAL — CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR — As he moves toward the general election, Donald Trump is reiterating a focus on veterans’ issues, wading into what has often been a fraught debate about how best to reform the healthcare provided to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We made a promise to these heroes. You defend America, and America will defend you,” Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, said in a speech on Monday in Virginia Beach, Va., the Associated Press reports.

Trump’s 10-point plan calls for veterans to be allowed to seek government-funded private medical care, while also criticizing the Obama administration for the 2014 VA scandal where many veterans faced long wait times for care.

The speech could also serve a broader public relations function for Trump, who has faced a slew of controversies around his statements involving veterans – including criticizing Arizona’s Republican Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam; comments that seemed to equate Trump’s own experience at a military boarding school with military service itself; and questions about his donations to veterans’ charities.

Under the plan he unveiled last fall, eligible veterans would be able to bring a veterans’ identification card to any private doctor or facility that accepts Medicare and receive immediate treatment. “The guiding principle of the Trump plan is ensuring veterans have convenient access to the best quality care,” the plan says.

VETERANS SUICIDE PREVENTION DOCUMENTARY TO SHOW MESSAGE OF HOPE — MLIVE — MUSKEGON, MI — Suicide has killed more American veterans than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In order to raise awareness about the impact of PTSD and traumatic brain injury on combat veterans, the Muskegon County Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Treatment Court and LST 393 collaborated to offer a free documentary screening on the same weekend as Bike Time and Rebel Road.

“Project 22” follows a 6,500-mile motorcycle trip taken by two combat-wounded veterans, as they interview researchers, healthcare providers and veterans, many of whom either contemplated or attempted suicide.

The film will be shown on the deck of the historic vessel on July 15 at 5 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. The LST 393 Veterans Museum is located at the Mart Dock adjacent to Heritage Landing in downtown Muskegon.

WHY IS BLUMENTHAL BACKING GI BILL CUTS? — HARTFORD COURANT — In January 2015 I was proud of Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s leadership passing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The legislation provided better access to mental health care critical to veterans. Now I am confused why Sen. Blumenthal hasn’t joined the fight to defend the Post-9/11 GI Bill of 2008.

I joined the Marines in December 2000 to secure a better future for myself. I served two combat tours in Baghdad and Ramadi alongside others who put their lives on hold with the promise of the GI Bill. This long-standing education benefit was a much needed reboot of the original 1944 law to support the 2.8 million veterans who have served since Sept. 11.

Now the GI Bill is at risk. Under Sen. Blumenthal’s leadership, the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee is pushing forward a vote on the Veterans First Act, which would include a massive $3.4 billion cut to the GI Bill over the next five years. The senator is asking Connecticut veterans to cut $91 per month from their budget — that’s a big chunk of a student-veterans’ grocery bill.

THE PORTRAYAL OF VETERANS IN ‘ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK’ IS APPALLING — T&P — For a show that positions itself as challenging stereotypes, the new season of “Orange is the New Black” does a huge disservice to the veteran identity.

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers on season four of “Orange is the New Black.”

Season four of “Orange is the New Black” — the highly praised Netflix series based on the true story of Piper Kerman’s 15-month stint in a minimum security prison — was released to wide anticipation on June 17. The show has won countless awards, and The Washington Post calls it, “the best TV show about prison ever made.”

Like many 20-something millennial women, I’m a huge fan of the show. I was popcorn ready when season four dropped — excited to reconnect with my favorite characters (Poussey Washington, Taystee, and Red Reznikov, to name a few) and burning with curiosity about how the cliffhangers from last season would pan out.

AMERICAN FORK RESIDENTS UPSET OVER VANDALISM TO VETERAN MEMORIAL — KSL — AMERICAN FORK — You’ll often find Kevin Barnes visiting the American Fork cemetery. The cemetery is one of Barnes’ responsibilities, as he is a member of the city council.

It is also where his son, Nathan, is buried.

“Nathan is our son, who was killed in Iraq. It will be nine years ago, this Sunday the 17th,” Barnes said.

There is a veteran’s monument for each specific conflict since World War I at the cemetery. But the one that honors those who have fought in the War on Terror was defaced sometime early Friday morning.

When Barnes heard about the vandalism to the memorial, it hurt even more.

“It is a personal insult to us, to him and to every person who has ever put on the uniform and served our country,” Barnes said.

American Fork resident Frank Volpe is upset as well. A native New Yorker, he was in New York City on September 11th and offered his expertise as a painter to help clean it up.

“It just made me mad to see something like this tagged,” Volpe said. “I am a veteran myself and I saw it on KSL. I live close by and I just thought I had to come and clean it.”

On Monday afternoon, Dalton Memorial Company stopped by and sandblasted away the remaining damage to help restore this monument as a tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

FOR VA WHISTLEBLOWER, TRUTH IS PARAMOUNT — GCU TODAY — Turning away from trouble was never an option for GCU adjunct professor Brandon Coleman.

It wasn’t when he was actively serving his country in the U.S. Marine Corps, and it wasn’t when he witnessed the suffering of suicidal combat veterans while working for the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Even after he was placed on leave from the VA after filing a formal complaint about veterans whose cries for help he said were ignored, Coleman wouldn’t be silenced.

“There was nothing being done,” said Coleman. “Those on the brink of suicide were falling through the cracks.”

On Friday, the VA whistleblower whose relentless efforts to tell the truth ignited a national investigation that revealed systemic, life-threatening problems at the VA, shared his riveting story with GCU faculty and staff members.

VA HOSPITAL RECOVERING FROM PSYCHIATRIST SHORTAGE — FREDERICK NEWS-POST — The Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center is recovering from a shortage of psychiatrists that nearly closed its inpatient mental health wing in April.

Administrators at the medical center in West Virginia also oversee local community-based clinics, including the Veterans Affairs clinic at Fort Detrick.

Dr. Mark Mann, chief of mental health services at the medical center, said a new psychiatrist joined the team Monday. The center has also hired a head psychiatrist.

In April, the inpatient psychiatric unit’s capacity was reduced from 19 beds to eight beds because the center did not have enough psychiatrists on staff.

The hospital had four full-time inpatient psychiatrists, but had vacancies for at least six more.

“We had a few retirements that led to that,” Medical Center Director Timothy J. Cooke said at a public question-and-answer session at the hospital Monday.

Though hospital leadership initially decided to close the unit, a second decision was made the next day, April 8, to keep it open at reduced capacity.

VETERANS WAITING ON VA HOSPITAL WAIT TIMES TO IMPROVE — TIME WARNER BUFFALO — BUFFALO, N.Y. — Improving veterans’ access to health care has been the main focus for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs this year.

Long wait times and secret lists have plagued the headlines for the Veteran Affairs hospitals across the country.

“The recent years has been a great wakeup call for us to go back to our basics, our foundation, what makes us great, and that is focusing on taking care of the veteran, listening to the veteran, participating with the veteran, listening to our staff, participating with our staff,” said Brian Stiller, the WNY VA Medical Center Director.

At the VA Western New York Health Care System, administrators have hired more doctors and support staff, to decrease wait times.

“We have a lot more medical support assistants, so a lot of face-to-face administrative staff to help veterans when they’re coming in, when they’re checking in. We’ve been very, very aggressive hiring providers, specialty providers to build robust systems. We’ve also engaged the University in working with the residency programs to bring over more providers and staff to care for our veterans,” said Kim Kwietniewski, WNY VA Geriatrics and Extended Care Rehab Medicine Manager.

According to National VA data on wait times, more than 95 percent of visits at the Western New York VA in May were within less than 30 days. That’s a decrease from more than 98 percent last August.

However, local officials say that’s because of an increase in patients using their services.

FAMOUS VETERANS: KURT VONNEGUT — MILCOM — One name you’ll often hear among groups of writers and anyone discussing the best authors of all time is Kurt Vonnegut, the man who wrote Slaughterhouse Five. Known for his flair for satire as well as his grim and ironic humor, he has made such lists as Time’s “All-Time 100 Novels” and Modern Library’s “100 Best Novels.”

Many readers include Vonnegut among their favorites, and the people who have not read his work have likely at least heard of him or his books. Slaughterhouse Five, probably his most well-known novel, was about Vonnegut’s experience as a World War II prisoner of war (POW), so it should come as no surprise that he was indeed a veteran, and served in the army from 1943 to 1945.

WISCONSIN CONTINUES PARTNERSHIP WITH VETERANS ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION, RANKED ONE OF WORST IN NATION — CT CAP TIMES — TOMAH — Wisconsin continues to contract with a nonprofit organization to house homeless veterans despite the group being ranked one of the worst charities in the country for how it raises and spends money.

The Veterans Assistance Foundation, a nonprofit based in Tomah, has received millions of taxpayer dollars from the federal and state government since its founding in 1994. Since at least 2003, it has hired a for-profit company to solicit donations from the public, with only about 11 percent of the funds raised, on average, going directly to veterans.

The foundation was ranked as one the 25 worst charities in the country in a 2013 report by The Tampa Bay Times and the national Center for Investigative Reporting, but it continues to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars it raises from the public to a private fundraising company. The public has given more than $12 million to VAF since 2003.

The VAF has also been given a “C minus” grade by the American Institute on Philanthropy’s Charity Watch report because of its fundraising practices. According to that report, it costs the group $83 to raise $100. The standard cost among nonprofits should be $35, said David Borochoff, president of the American Institute on Philanthropy, a nonprofit charity watchdog group based in Chicago.

HOW ONE MARINE WENT FROM THE CORPS TO HIS DREAM JOB WITH A TOP FORTUNE 500 COMPANY — T&P — Marine veteran Scott Flanagan explains why he chose to work for Amgen, and how other veterans can follow in his footsteps.

Editor’s Note: The following story highlights a veteran who works at Amgen. Committed to filling its ranks with talented members of the military community, Amgen is a Hirepurpose client. Learn more here.

As one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, in 2016, Amgen was named one of Fortune magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies, as well as one of Fast Company’s 500 Most Innovative Companies.

One way Amgen stays at the top is by hiring employees who share its core values, which serve as the compass on its mission to serve patients. These core values include being ethical, working in teams, and trusting and respecting each other. Among those who’ve found themselves gravitating to Amgen, in part, because of their shared values, are military veterans.

3 REASONS MILITARY VETERANS MAKE TOPNOTCH EMPLOYEES — MILCOM — Politicians call them heroes and strangers thank them for their service.

But when their enlistment comes to an end, veterans need more than a pat on the back as they return to civilian life. They need jobs.

And increasingly, they seem to be getting them because the unemployment rate among veterans has been on the decline in recent years. In May, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.4 percent, down from 5 percent for the same month in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That compares to a 4.7 percent overall unemployment rate.

“I think in the last several years there has been a focus on the importance of hiring veterans and many businesses have taken that to heart,” says Nick Baucom, a U.S. Marine veteran who makes hiring veterans a priority for his company, Two Marines Moving (

10 VIETNAM VETERANS SET SAIL ALONG CALIFORNIA COAST IN MILITARY PATROL BOAT — FOX NEWS LATINO — San Diego – Ten Vietnam War veterans on Tuesday here began a month-long journey along the California coast on board an historic military patrol boat used during that armed conflict and similar to the vessel popularized by the film “Apocalypse Now.”

“This is the only active fastboat in the country if not the world,” Mark Gallant, the representative of the San Diego Maritine Museum, told EFE regarding the vessel, a PCF-816 built in 1968 to be used by the Navy to patrol the Vietnamese coast and halt the infiltration of weapons by the enemy during the war.

Now, the historic boat will travel the California coastline for a month crewed by sailors who operated boats of this kind during the Vietnam War.

Thus, members of the public who visit each of the nine ports where the boat will dock will be able to hear firsthand the stories of that conflict from the crew, as well as to learn about the missions and the areas where such boats were used by U.S. forces during the war.


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