PetSmart® Launches Fourth Annual Patriotic Service Offerings Benefitting PetSmart Charities®-Supported Veterans’ Service Dog Programs

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To Kick-Off Military Appreciation Month, $1 from Select PetSmart Grooming, Dog Training and PetsHotel®Services to be Donated to Support Veterans Programs Aimed at Restoring Independence

May is National Military Appreciation Month, and PetSmart, the nation’s leading pet specialty retailer, is pleased to offer a selection of patriotic-themed pet services to honor the sacrifices made by the nation’s servicemen and women. Now through July 5, 2017, $1 from select grooming, dog training and PetsHotel boarding services will be donated to PetSmart Charities to support service dog programs and initiatives that help veterans with disabilities and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) restore their physical and emotional independence.

“The PetSmart Patriotic Service offerings are just one way to show our appreciation for veterans for their selfless acts of service to our country,” said Joanna Zucker, vice president of Services for PetSmart. “By working collaboratively with PetSmart Charities, we’re helping veterans who need it to connect with service dog programs and experience the healing powers and companionship of pets first-hand.”

The following philanthropic patriotic services* are available at PetSmart stores across the U.S. now through July 5, 2017, with $1 from each service purchased supporting PetSmart Charities-funded programs aimed at supporting veterans:

  • Treat your pet to a grooming upgrade with a patriotic add-on service, including Top Dog, Top Pup, FURminator® Deshedding Services, CHI® and Pawdicure services offered in PetSmart’s Grooming Salons
  • Show your pup’s patriotism with a yellow “Support our Troops” ribbon stencil by Pet Expressions**, a unique service offered in PetSmart’s Grooming Salons
  • Sign up for a six-week PetSmart Dog Training class
  • Register for an all-inclusive PetsHotel Package

Over the past three years, through shoppers’ purchases of these and similar services that give back, PetSmart and PetSmart Charities have donated more than $400,000 to veterans’ programs.

This year’s funding supports programs to train service dogs that can help veterans with physical disabilities complete everyday tasks that may now be challenging. As well, according to a study funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative(HABRI), animal-assisted interventions and support can reduce people’s stress, depression, anxiety and help with conditions like PTSD among veterans. In a separate study, it was found that service dogs can reduce nightmare frequency, lower feelings of social isolation and increase levels of well-being.

“The unconditional love and attention that pets can provide has extraordinary health benefits to both everyday pet parents and those requiring support from pet-assisted service or therapy programs,” said David Haworth, DVM, Ph.D., president of PetSmart Charities and chair of the Research Working Group at HABRI. “The power of pets can truly improve our quality of life and well-being. With the donations through these PetSmart philanthropic services, we expect to help enhance the lives of military veterans.”

PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, recently expanded its mission to include finding lifelong, loving homes for all pets by supporting programs and thought leadership that bring people and pets together. This new mission allows the organization to support animal welfare organizations in more ways than ever before, and even reach other nonprofits that help connect people and pets. The new “Enhancing the Quality of Life Through Pets” grant category, open year-round for applications, supports programs that train pets to become services animals for people who need it most, including military veterans with disabilities or PTSD.

Continue onto BusinessWire to read the complete article.

Veteran Kayla Blood Takes on Monster Jam World Finals® in Soldier Fortune®

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Kayla Blood in soldier uniform smiling

A mom, Monster Jam® driver and military veteran, Kayla Blood is a force to be reckoned with. She proudly served in the Louisiana Army National Guard for six years and now brings her tenacity to the dirt, competing in Monster Jam competitions around the world.

Kayla competes in Soldier Fortune®, a camo-clad, tank-inspired Monster Jam truck dedicated to the thousands of men and women in the U.S. Military around the world. During her six years of service in the Louisiana National Guard, Kayla served full-time in Force Protection. Just as her unit received word of deployment to Afghanistan, Kayla learned she was pregnant with her son and had to stay home in Louisiana. While she wanted to serve overseas, her son is her greatest blessing, and the Guard helped lead her to so many great experiences.

Kayla is also the first female National Guard veteran driver for Monster Jam, crashing through glass ceilings as she competes in a male-dominated sport. Kayla never turns down a competition, and her signature move if an attempt goes awry? Military pushups on the wreckage.

“I want to win fair and square,” says Kayla on competing against men. “I love being able to show little girls watching that they can do whatever they set out to do and to never back down from a challenge.”

Kayla Blood took her fiercely competitive talents to Monster Jam World Finals®, the series marquee event, which took place in Orlando May 21-22, 2022. Each year, Monster Jam World Finals highlights the best of the best in Skills, Racing, High Jump and Freestyle competitions. Drivers pull out their best moves and risk it all for the championship title.

“It’s truly an honor to drive Soldier Fortune in competitions around the world and to have done so at Monster Jam World Finals,” says Kayla. “Representing the brave men and women who have served the United States is a something I take great pride in doing.”

For more information on Monster Jam World Finals and Kayla Blood, visit MonsterJam.com/WorldFinals.

Can soldiers consume CBD energy drinks?

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U.S. Soldier drinking Rockstar beverage with hemp leaves in the background

by Sarah Sicard, MilitaryTimes

Rockstar has become the latest in a string of energy drink companies to add a hemp-infused beverage to their offerings, so consumers can chill out while they rage.

But soldiers beware, these drinks have a slim chance of causing you to pop positive on a drug test.

“A single use of some hemp products may result in a positive drug test result for THC,” Matt Leonard, Army spokesperson, told Military Times.

“[Regulation] AR 600-85 prohibits soldiers from using products made or derived from hemp, including CBD, regardless of the product’s claimed or actual THC concentration and whether such product may be lawfully bought, sold, or used in the civilian marketplace,” Leonard said.

Hemp plants contain more cannabidiol (CBD) than cannabis, which contains more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although it’s unlikely, there’s no guarantee that hemp or CBD users will avoid showing positive for THC, which is what the Army tests.

“No test currently exists to identify the source of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a urine sample to determine if it was derived from illegal marijuana, or other products such as hemp energy drinks or Cannabidiol (CBD) infused products,” Leonard added.

“Hence, to protect the integrity of the Army’s drug testing program the only type of hemp products authorized within the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Regulation (AR) 600-85 are those used as a durable good (eg. rope or clothing).”

So soldiers should avoid the hemp, unless you’re taking up twine-braiding or decide go on a hippie handmade hemp clothing bender. But it seems easy enough to abstain. These drinks aren’t exactly designed to keep the average soldier awake on duty.

Rockstar Unplugged, which comes in three flavors — blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber — isn’t meant to keep an exhausted person alert.

Click here to read the complete article posted on Yahoo!News.

Arkansas veterans honored as motorcyclists travel cross country

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motorcyclists honor veterans in Arkansas

By Jade Jackson, THV11

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas — A large American flag hung by the local fire department blows with the wind as motorcyclists ride over a hill to the River Valley Veterans Memorial Park in Russellville.

They are riding as part of ‘Run for the Wall’, and are stopping to rest and eat at the memorial park along their journey. ‘Run for the Wall’ is an annual motorcycle ride in the United States that features parades around the country supporting Veterans and patriots traveling from Ontario, California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

They ride across the country to remember those Veterans missing in action, killed in action, or others who are prisoners of war.

Their ride through Arkansas counts as day 5 for them traveling from the West Coast to the east. While resting, they also honored the veterans remembered at the memorial.

“It’s the longest and hardest ride through the entire journey. We have a lot of miles to put in,” said Christina Roulston, the Arkansas state coordinator for ‘Run for the Wall’.

Roulston said the stop in Russellville is a new one. They usually stop for lunch in Coal Hill, Arkansas but the usual organization they work with has veterans who are aging and dealing with health problems. So unfortunately they weren’t able to feed them this year.

Click here to read the full article on THV11.

Retired Army captain runs 44 miles in effort to raise awareness for veterans’ mental health

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Kyle Butters crosses finsish line carrying a U.S. flag

By Bradley Bennett, Cincinnati News

In Pasadena, Maryland, Retired Army Capt. Kyle Butters could be seen running and carrying an American flag for an important cause last weekend. “This flag has been everywhere from Afghanistan (to) Kuwait (to) Turkey,” Butters said.

More than just sentimental value, the flag he carries is the symbol of freedom and sacrifice. Butters ran 44 miles total.
It’s all to raise awareness about mental health issues facing veterans.” It’s affected me personally.

I was medically retired from the Army due to mental health issues. I’ve also lost soldiers to suicide throughout my time in the Army (and) even since I’ve been out of the Army,” Butters said. Starting in his own Pasadena neighborhood, Butters ran 4 miles every four hours for a total of 22 miles a day to represent the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.

”They think that during the COVID pandemic, that (it has) gone up by as much as 20%,” Butters said. “I chose to use running as my platform because not every veteran has the physical ability to do what I do, and people pay attention when you do big distances. ”He’s raising money with the run — more than $12,000 — to support the Infinite Hero Organization. ”They provide grants to veterans and also to research causes, whether it’s brain injury, PTSD, even physical disabilities,” Butters said. Butters said he’ll be back at it again next year and hopes this is something that can spread to other states with the ultimate goal of normalizing tough conversations that could save lives.

Read the complete article here.

New Minnesota Veterans Law promises to ‘protect and support’ those who served

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A man wearing appearing with half civilian clothing and the other half of a military uniform

By Dana Thiede, Kare 11 NBC

Vowing to make good on Minnesota’s duty to “protect and support” those who have served in the military, Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday signed the new state Veterans Bill into law.

The legislation, which passed through both the House and Senate nearly unanimously, was written to end and prevent future veteran homelessness, fund veterans’ homes and cemeteries around the state, and award bonuses to Gold Star families who have sacrificed while their loved ones were serving.

“This bill makes good on our duty to protect and support our veterans during and after their service – and it demonstrates that we can come together in a bipartisan way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families,” said Governor Walz in a released statement. “As a 24-year veteran of the National Guard, this is a bill that’s close to my heart. I know that this is going to have a real impact for our veterans and I’m proud to sign it into law.”

The new Veterans Law includes:

  • $5.4 million that will fund a grant to provide assistance to veterans and former service members and their families who are homeless or in danger of homelessness.
  • $1.7 million annually to fund temporary housing options for vets experiencing homelessness and to increase outreach activities to end homelessness.
  • $10.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and $16.5 million in 2023 for the design, construction, furnishing, and equipping of new veterans homes to support vets in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston, Minnesota.
  • Nearly $25 million in fiscal year 2023 to fund service bonuses to post 9/11 era vets and Gold Star families.

“Minnesota’s more than 304,000 Veterans know that their voices were heard and their service honored with the historic passing of this first-ever Veterans Omnibus Bill,” said Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke.

Along with support for Minnesota’s veterans, the new Veterans Law also provides $4 million for enlistment incentives designed to retain trained and ready members of the Minnesota National Guard over fiscal years 2023-2025.

Click here to read the full article on Kare 11 NBC.

Diversity in the Healthcare Industry, at Every Step

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business man and woman in office giving a high five

Abbott and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) recently announced a $37.5 million initiative to empower diverse small businesses to help create a more diverse healthcare supply chain. The initiative will provide diverse small-business owners with the tailored solutions, support and resources they need to grow, compete and create jobs – enabling greater diversity in healthcare and a more inclusive supply chain for Abbott and other healthcare companies.

This work advances Abbott and LISC’s shared commitment to create a more diverse healthcare industry and generate jobs and stronger economies in underinvested communities.

This funding opportunity is open to qualified diverse small businesses and offers support through:

  • Growth capital: interest-free capital to help businesses overcome hurdles to expansion, such as investing in management systems to comply with regulatory and environmental requirements
  • Business loans: flexible, affordable loans that would not typically be available through conventional lenders
  • Tailored coaching and technical assistance: targeted, customized support, including help with fulfilling investment and loan requirements and identifying and addressing specific business challenges

Eligible diverse small businesses for program participation and funding must be:

  • Diverse-owned, defined as those that are majority owned by people of color (including Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans), women, veterans, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ, and other historically underrepresented groups;
  • In business for more than two years and are based in the U.S. with an annual revenue of $250,000 or more; and
  • Focused on manufacturing nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices or other health technologies, or offering business-to-business products and services that the healthcare industry can use.
  • Sole proprietors are not eligible for the program.

For more information about this initiative, please visit the LISC site. And to learn more about Abbott’s work to support a more diverse supply chain, visit Abbott’s site.

Military Makeover: Meet Our New Military Makeover Family

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Military couple pose together with red white and blue cutain backdrop with a Military Makeover logo inserted above left

On our special milestone 30th Military Makeover, we are proud to be honoring not one, but two deserving veterans on our upcoming season, and a love story unlike any we’ve told before!

Childhood sweethearts, Justin and Kristie Ziegler, first met in 8h grade in South Florida. Fast forward to the 10th grade, Justin joined the same cheerleading team Kristie was already a part of, they ended up spending hours and hours training together. The team’s coach noticed the chemistry and encouraged them to go on a date together. The couple have been together ever since – supporting one another through each of their hardships and challenges, and even decided to join the Air Force together.

Justin and Kristie married just before Kristie left for basic training in 2003. They were stationed together at Travis Air Force Base in California.

Staff Sergeant Justin Ziegler was assigned to the 60th CES Wing as a Fire Protection Technician. He was soon deployed to Afghanistan to support “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Justin was immediately responsible for the safety of over 2000 troops, as well as over $750 million worth of Aircraft.

Justin’s duties as a Lead EMT and Crew Chief within the fire department, whether on deployment or at Travis Air Force Base, involved being a 1st Responder to medical emergencies which often resulted in encountering traumatic and stressful events; from car accidents and cardiac arrests, to shootings, house fires and wildland fires. Being a first responder to all medical emergencies, including suicides of fellow troop members, took a heavy toll on Justin and opened his eyes to the crippling levels of stress, trauma and PTSD that military service members experience.

Senior Airman Kristie Ziegler quickly emerged as a rising star and natural leader after completing her formal training as a Dietary Technician, and was awarded Airman of the year in 2006 for her dedicated service. When Kristie deployed to Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan her role would change dramatically, providing treatment to soldiers wounded in battle, as well as local civilians who had been wounded or hurt. One of the hardest and most heartbreaking struggles of her career was treating young children who had been injured in bombings; witnessing sights no human on this planet should ever be forced to endure.

Life as a young married couple together in the military was challenging for Justin and Kristie, with deployments separating them from one another for long periods, and both witnessing many tragic events and loss of life. While they still struggle with PTSD, the support and love they give one another has provided the foundation for a loving home for their two children and pets.

For our landmark 30th Military Makeover, and with the support of our devoted partners, we cannot wait to provide a “forever home” for two heroic and deserving military veterans!

Tune in to Military Makeover Thurs. & Fri. at 7:30 a.m. (ET/PT)

The before and after photos will be posted after the Big Reveal, so you will see the family reaction to their newly updated home. Stay tuned!

About the Hosts

Montel Williams: Montel began his professional career in the United States Marine Corps, becoming the first black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Williams earned a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs and served in the military for a total of 22 years. He is best known as the Emmy Award-winning host of The Montel Williams Show, which aired nationally for seventeen years. Along with being a New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Montel is a passionate advocate for veterans, education and health. He serves on the board of directors for the Fisher House Foundation and the Anne Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Montel is thrilled to be a part of Military Makeover, relishing the opportunity to give back to his fellow veterans.

Art Edmonds:  Art Edmonds is a TV host, spokesperson and voiceover talent with over 17 years of experience. He is currently best known as the co-host of the TV series Military Makeover.

Since the show’s inception, Edmonds teamed with the late, great R.Lee Ermey, famed character actor and veteran, to give a complete home makeover to a deserving wounded U.S. veteran and his family. Now Art serves on the series alongside talk show legend and prominent veteran advocate Montel Williams to give back to our service men and women.

Art’s prominent narration credits includes three seasons on the Nat Geo Wild top-rated series Swamp Men for three seasons, docudrama series Planet Xtreme on The Weather Channel and two seasons on the Nat Geo Wild series Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER.

Jennifer Bertrand: Jennifer Bertrand is best known as the winner of HGTV’s popular series Design Star, drawing over 5 million viewers thanks to her no-nonsense, accessible approach to making positive and impactful design changes without breaking the bank. After taking the competition by storm, Jennifer moved on to host her own show, Paint Over! with Jennifer Bertrand, featuring families in transition and in desperate need of help.

Bertrand currently is the designer on the series Military Makeover, airing on Lifetime TV, and has appeared in countless media outlets such as USA TodayThe New York Post, Rachel Ray Magazine, Life & Style Magazine, InStyle Magazine and is a frequent contributor to NBC.

Read more at MilitaryMakeover.TV

February is National Salute to Veteran Patients Month

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The purpose of the National Salute to Veteran Patients Program is to pay tribute and express appreciation to Veterans, increase community awareness of the role of the VA medical center and encourage citizens to visit hospitalized Veterans, and to become involved as volunteers.

The week of February 14 each year is your opportunity to say thank you to a special group of men and women, more than 98,000 Veterans of the U.S. armed services who are cared for every day in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, outpatient clinics, domiciliaries, and nursing homes.

During the National Salute, VA invites individuals, Veterans groups, military personnel, civic organizations, businesses, schools, local media, celebrities and sports stars to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers. The activities and events include special ward visits and valentine distributions; photo opportunities; school essay contests; special recreation activities and Veteran recognition programs.

Volunteers are a priceless asset to the Nation’s Veterans and to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The week also provides an opportunity for the community to become acquainted with the volunteer opportunities within the medical center. To locate your nearest Virginia VA facility to see how you can volunteer click here.

Source: VA

The Leading Cause of Blindness for Veterans

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blind veteran witha cane crossing the street

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for veterans over 60. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.

The disease damages your eye’s optic nerve. It usually happens when fluid pressure builds up in the front part of your eye. That extra fluid increases the pressure on the optic nerve. It can reduce blood flow to the optic nerve, causing damage and visual field loss.

Some forms of glaucoma can damage the optic nerve from reduced blood flow, even when the eye pressure is in the normal range during the eye exam. This can happen when the eye pressure becomes high at other times of the day and the patient does not feel the pressure elevation.

It can also happen when blood flow to the optic nerve becomes reduced below a critical level. That can happen during periods of very low blood pressure, even during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea can adversely affect glaucoma in some patients who take their hypertension medications right before bedtime, it can cause the blood pressure to drop too low during hours of sleep, and may also reduce the delivery of oxygen to the optic nerve.

VA research provides valuable tools for vision treatment

VA is at the forefront of vision research and glaucoma is one of its top priorities. A current study by Dr. Markus Kuehn is a Bioassay to Predict the Development and Progression of Glaucoma. The VA Rehabilitation, Research, and Development Division sponsors the study.

The project uses the recent discovery that glaucoma affects the development of a cellular autoimmune response that can further reduce vision. The investigators are testing if the strength of the reaction from a blood sample is predictive of future loss of vision and quality of life of the patient.

Using artificial intelligence to diagnose glaucoma severity

Another Iowa City VA study by Drs. Randy Kardon, Mona Garvin, Ray Wang, Young Kwon Johannes Ledolter and Michael Wall is using a new type of artificial intelligence of image analysis. This intelligence is called a deep learning variational encoder. It diagnoses the severity of glaucoma, detects the earliest signs of worsening vision and its response to treatment.

They are also relating the eye imaging to Veteran quality of life.

Early identification of patients at high risk to develop vision loss allows more aggressive treatment before the damage occurs. The development of a predictive assay and new types of eye imaging analysis will provide eye care providers with valuable new tools to preserve the quality of life for Veterans.

Veterans enrolled in VA health care can schedule appointments directly with Ophthalmology or Optometry without a referral from primary care. Schedule an eye exam at your VA health care facility today.

Source: va.gov

2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live

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Close up of male hand packing property in cardboard box with spouse in the background

With Veterans Day approaching and the veteran unemployment rate falling to 3.9% from the average of 6.5% in 2020, the personal-finance website WalletHub recently released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live.

The report compares the 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, ranging from the share of military skill-related jobs to housing affordability and the availability of VA health facilities.

WalletHub also released the results of its 2021 Military Money Survey, which revealed that 77% of Americans agree that military families experience more financial stress than the average family.

To help with that, WalletHub’s editors selected 2021’s Best Military Credit Cards, which provide hundreds of dollars in annual savings potential.

Best Cities for Veterans
1. Tampa, FL
2. Austin, TX
3. Scottsdale, AZ
4. Raleigh, NC
5. Gilbert, AZ
6. Lincoln, NE
7. Madison, WI
8. Virginia Beach, VA
9. Orlando, FL
10. Boise, ID

Worst Cities for Veterans
91. Philadelphia, PA
92. North Las Vegas, NV
93. Cleveland, OH
94. San Bernardino, CA
95. Toledo, OH
96. Jersey City, NJ
97. Baltimore, MD
98. Memphis, TN
99. Newark, NJ
100. Detroit, MI

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-veterans/8156

Q&A with WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez

What makes a city good or bad for veterans?

“How good or bad a city is for veterans depends on multiple factors, including the rates of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, as well as the city’s retirement-friendliness and how good its VA facilities are. All cities should be quick to take care of veterans’ needs, considering how much veterans have sacrificed to serve the country and keep it safe. However, some cities spend an appropriate amount of money on veterans affairs while others do not, either because they lack the funds to do so or because they do not put a high priority on veterans in the budget,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “While cities do have a responsibility to their veterans, so does the federal government. We spend an enormous amount of money on national defense and military operations, yet comparatively little on helping veterans once their service is done. It is distressing that there are tens of thousands of homeless veterans; that number should be reduced to zero.”

What can we do to reduce the financial stress on military families?

“The best way to reduce the financial stress on military families is by making sure that anyone in a war zone does not have to worry about their family’s basic living expenses while they’re fighting for our country. We should also improve financial education for members of the military community,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “Military families can undergo a tremendous amount of financial stress, especially when one parent is on the front lines and cannot be involved with managing the family’s finances. Plus, service members who are in active conflicts put their lives at risk, which risks even more of a financial burden on their family in the event that they die or end up with a disability. The least we can do for our military families is to take care of their basic needs.”

Does the military do enough to teach financial literacy?

“The military unfortunately does not do enough to promote financial literacy among service members. Not only do 76% of Americans agree that the military is lacking when it comes to financial literacy education, according to WalletHub’s 2021 Military Money Survey, but nearly 2 in 3 people think it’s a national security issue. Financially literate people who serve in the military can worry less about money problems and focus more on their duties, and are also less susceptible to coercion by foreign powers,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “But it’s important to remember that the military is not alone in its financial literacy deficiency. Most employers and big organizations in the U.S. fail to provide adequate information as well. Even schools don’t give students enough financial education.”

How are veterans impacted by COVID-19?

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to a big spike in veteran unemployment, but has now recovered to 3.9%, not too far above the nearly historic low of 3.2% seen in 2019,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The pandemic is certain to increase homelessness among veterans, adding to the more than 37,000 veterans who were already homeless before it even started. There are millions of veterans who are over age 65, too, and the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among people in that age group.”

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    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
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