US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King (Ret.) Receives Customized ELAN Smart Home from the Gary Sinise Foundation

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Master Sgt. Cedric King

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA, June, 2017 — On July 25, 2012, during his third deployment in Afghanistan, US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King’s platoon conducted a reconnaissance of a possible explosive distributor in an Afghan village.

As they approached the target, they fell under machine gun fire. Once the firefight ended, Cedric proceeded forward, only to step on a pressure plate improvised explosive device (IED). The blast lifted him from his feet, resulting in the loss of both of his legs and disfigurement of his right hand.

When the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) learned about King’s service, they decided to honor his bravery with a newly built, completely customized specially adapted smart home. The residence, based in Atlanta, relies on an ELAN Entertainment & Control System to enable control and automation of the home’s audio, video, lighting, security, and more.

“Core Brands’ Regional Sales Manager Jason Davis asked us if we could provide our services to Gary Sinise Foundation for this project, and we were honored to do so,” said Phillip Ampel of Atlanta Audio and Automation, the integration firm responsible for the project. “We built a sophisticated smart home that is highly functional, and jam-packed with exciting entertainment features. It truly offers Cedric and his family an elevated level of freedom — and fun.”

One ELAN gSC10 controller serves as the brains of the system, and is accessible through two ELAN TP7 touch panels in the master suite and living room, as wellSmart Home as an ELAN HR200 remote which they use for controlling the home’s surround-sound audio system. King can also use the ELAN App on his smartphone device to easily and simply make any adjustments throughout the home.

Atlanta Audio and Automation integrated an extensive Lutron lighting and climate system into the ELAN platform, enabling the King family to control the lighting — or automate its functionality — instantly. “The Lutron system includes lighting control through 24 dimmers and two Lutron thermostats,” Atlanta Audio & Automation explained. “It is so much easier to access all of three systems from the easy-to-use ELAN interface. King does not need to physically walk into each room to turn the lights on or off. It’s as simple as a tap on a screen.”

Atlanta Audio & Automation also integrated a security system with 6 IP cameras placed throughout the property to be accessed instantly through ELAN. “It was important for King to be able to easily manage the residence’s indoor and outdoor security feeds,” AAA commented. “ELAN is the ideal platform for checking in on security from anywhere and anytime. He could be in the living room checking out video of his backyard on a centrally located touch panel, or out-and-about watching from the ELAN Mobile App.”

In addition to its customized convenience, AAA tricked out the home with an entertainment system for the King family to enjoy. They designed an extensive multi-room audio and video system, enabled through an ELAN S1616A Multi-Room Controller, that distributes music and video to six different locations throughout the home. The entertainment system includes a surround sound system including Niles DS7HD and DS7FX in-ceiling speakers and three Sunfire HRS10 subwoofers.

For the King family’s outdoor enjoyment Atlanta Audio & Automation installed a waterproof Séura television on the patio. “Séura’s Outdoor Waterproof TV is completely functional outside, in any weather,” AAA said. “It’s a fantastic addition to their entertainment system.”

Since King relies heavily on his home’s technology for independence, Smart HomeAAA made sure to protect the equipment with a Panamax M4315-PRO Power Power Conditioner with key components protected by a Furman F1500 Uninterruptible Power Supply. Both feature BlueBOLT remote energy management. “Aside from the danger of catastrophic surges, ‘dirty power’ can interrupt high-end electronics so they won’t work as they should,” Atlanta Audio & Automation commented. “The Furman and Panamax products ensure that we can guarantee clean power, and as an integrator, I can check in on it or troubleshoot it remotely.”

According to Judy Otter, Executive Director of the Gary Sinise Foundation, the home checks off all of the boxes for the King family. “We are honored to recognize Cedric’s service with this customized specially adapted smart home that really does give him a new level of independence,” she said. “Since his injury, Cedric has persevered, earning numerous medals and awards, he’s run marathons, and even climbed mountains. Cedric is a true inspiration and an American hero.”

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About ELAN

ELAN, from Core Brands, develops an award-winning line of whole-house entertainment and control solutions distributed through a comprehensive channel of select dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and countries worldwide. The new ELAN 8 update was honored with the “2017 Human Interface Product of the Year” award from the Consumer Technology Association’s Mark of Excellence Award Program Committee at CES 2017. To learn more, visit elanhomesystems.com.

 

About Core Brands

Anchored by the ELAN Smart Home Control Platform, Core Brands combines the strengths of its iconic control, audio, power management, connectivity and video distribution brands – ELAN®, SpeakerCraft®, Gefen®, Niles®, Panamax®, Proficient®, Furman®, Sunfire® and Xantech® – to deliver a portfolio of connected home and commercial solutions to its channel partners and end users. For further information, visit corebrands.com.

 

Resources for Veterans Struggling with Substance Use Addiction

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veteran seeking help from nurse for addiction

If you’re struggling with substance use problems, you’re not alone. Many veterans have problems with the use of alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, and prescription medicines.

We’re here to help.

Find out how to get support for substance use problems through VA.

What services does VA provide for veterans with substance use problems?

We provide many options for veterans seeking treatment for substance use problems ranging from unhealthy alcohol use to life-threatening addiction.

The services we offer you depend on your specific needs.

We offer proven medication options, like:

  • Medically managed detoxification to stop substance use safely, and services to get stable
  • Drug substitution therapies and newer medicines to reduce cravings (like methadone and buprenorphine for opiate addiction)
  • Nicotine replacement or other medicines for stopping tobacco use
  • We offer counseling and other therapy options, like:
  • Short-term outpatient counseling
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Self-help groups
  • Residential (live-in) care
  • Continuing care and relapse prevention (making sure you don’t slip back into the same substance use problems)
  • Special programs for veterans with specific concerns (like women veterans, returning combat veterans, and homeless veterans)
  •  
    We also offer treatment and support for health conditions that can be related to substance use problems, like:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Learn more about treatment programs for substance use problems
  • How do I access VA services for substance use problems?

    The VA health care program covers services to treat substance use problems. To access these services, first apply for VA health care. Once you’ve signed up and have a VA primary care provider, talk to them about your substance use. Your provider can help you get screened for substance use problems and related issues (like PTSD or depression)—and can offer treatment and support as needed.

    If you don’t have a VA primary care provider or have never been seen in a VA hospital or clinic:

    Call our general information hotline at 800-827-1000, or contact your local VA medical center. If you served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or Operation New Dawn (OND), call your local VA medical center, and ask to speak to the OEF/OIF/OND coordinator.

    What if I don’t have VA health care benefits?

    You may still be able to get care:

    If you’ve served in a combat zone, get free private counseling, alcohol and drug assessment, and other support at one of our 300 community Vet Centers.

    If you’re homeless or at risk of becoming homeless:

    Visit our website to learn about VA programs for veterans who are homeless or contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A trained VA counselor will offer information about VA homeless programs, health care, and other services in your area. The call is free and confidential (private).

    Call or visit your local VA Community Resource and Referral Center. Even if you don’t qualify for VA health care, our staff can help you find non-VA resources you may qualify for in your community.

    Where can I find more information and support?

    Go to our Make the Connection website at maketheconnection.net to hear stories from Veterans about their own experiences with overcoming drug and alcohol problems, and to get access to more resources and support. Visit our self-help resources guide to get links to books, web resources, and mobile applications that have been reviewed and recommended by VA experts.

    Visit the resources section of our VA website to find more trusted resources outside VA that can offer information and support.

    Download our Stay Quit Coach mobile app—designed to help veterans with PTSD quit smoking. We based this app on steps proven to work to help people quit smoking. It includes tools to control cravings and manage smoking triggers, messages to keep you going, medication reminders, and more.

    Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Helping Other Vets Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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    By Annie Nelson, Founder, American Soldier Network

    Throughout my life, I have been blessed to befriend some amazing men and women in military communities. They often do not just serve our nation while on active duty, but continue to do so long after they hang up their uniforms. Many of them strive to support their fellow veterans with their free time, some through their employers, and still others as entrepreneurs who create new businesses that serve our nation.

    I was fortunate to recently interview two of those veterans who are successful entrepreneurs – Scott Brauer a retired Navy SEAL, and Mark Holtzapple, PhD, a professor at Texas A&M. They have partnered up on a new business called NozeSealTM that addresses sleep apnea, a growing critical health concern for active-duty members, veterans, their families and friends.

    I sat down with Scott and Mark to ask them a few questions about their latest endeavor below:

    Annie Nelson: Scott, why is sleep apnea such a hot topic?

    Brauer: Annie, there are over 25 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, and likely another 10 million undiagnosed. The situation has been getting worse, especially within the military. A recent study shows that since 2005, there is a 30-fold increase in active-duty military members diagnosed with sleep apnea. In general, sleep disorders originate from a wide range of common issues found in the veteran community, such as sleep deprivation, chronic stress, depression, anxiety, pain, tinnitus, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), toxic pollution, emotional trauma, substance abuse and even substance withdrawal.

    Nelson: What are the health impacts of sleep apnea?

    Brauer: Poor sleep leads to many negative health effects, such as obesity, depression, irritability, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower sex drive, suppressed immune function, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. New studies are emphasizing the negative effects of sleep apnea on the health of the heart and the brain. A recent study showed that patients with severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had a significant increase in the number of both fatal and non-fatal cardiac events. The risk factor was nearly 3 times higher than normal! A key intervention for patients with severe OSA is treatment with positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy for greater than 4 hours per night, which significantly reduces incidences of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular events.

    Nelson: What are the challenges with PAP therapy?

    women holding up attached large breathing device
    The old way to sleep. Photo: Igor Kraguljac, DP Cinematographer & Photographer

    Brauer: Frankly, it can be a nightmare for many. The most frequently reported reason for discontinuing PAP therapy are side effects – leaks, discomfort and pain, facial marks and rashes, hair damage, anxiety and claustrophobia – which are experienced by approximately two-thirds of PAP users. By far, the most common complaint is leaks. Patients attempt to correct leaks by over-tightening the straps holding the mask in place, leading to the other side effects previously mentioned. Additionally, the PAP device compensates for leaks with higher air flow rates, which reduces nasal humidity contributing to nasal irritation, dryness and congestion. Leaking masks can cause eye irritation, infections and even swallowing air from increased PAP air pressures. All of these difficulties lead nearly half of those prescribed to use a PAP device to not comply with their doctor’s therapy, often quitting entirely.

    Nelson: How can we improve PAP compliance?

    Brauer: Results improve significantly by fitting masks properly and modifying a patient’s usual sleep position to reduce leaks. Minimalist masks – like a nasal mask or nasal pillow – can reduce air leakage and diminish claustrophobia. To improve comfort, seals and quietness, manufacturers continue to develop innovations for PAP masks and comfort accessories that minimize contact. Some of these innovative solutions include new nasal pillows, cushions, liners, wraps and accessories that eliminate headgear.

    Nelson: Mark, what led you to invent NozeSeal?

    Holtzapple: On my honeymoon, my wife informed me that I gasp for air in my sleep. Like most spouses, being woken nightly by snoring and gasping does not contribute to a happy marriage. After some prompting from my wife, I took a sleep study. Finally, after some struggles getting a proper diagnosis for sleep apnea, I received a PAP of my own. I quickly learned just how uncomfortable they are. On my second night, frustrated by excessive leaks, I threw my mask against the wall and shattered it!

    Fortunately, on the third night, my respiratory therapist gave me a nasal pillow to try. It leaked, but in a manageable way. I invented a way to hold the nasal pillow in place during the night using an adhesive that stuck it to my nose, keeping it in place all night! After many refinements and filing some global patents for our highly engineered, yet simple and elegant solution, the NozeSealTM adhesive strip was born! Since last fall, Scott and I have assembled a terrific team to scale up our business for the many patients who suffer from sleep apnea.

    Nelson: What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?

    Holtzapple: Nearly every week, our NozeSeal team gets a new 5-star review like this one:

    “I have suffered with uncomfortable CPAP masks for years and have had my sleep destroyed. NozeSeal is the best product on the market. No strap marks or bruises on my nose, no painful magnet attachments, no hair loss from head gear friction and no constant adjustments to eliminate mask air leakage. I can finally sleep in comfort and turn over as often as I need to with ease. I am so happy!!!!”

    These heart-felt messages truly inspire us to do our best every day to make a difference in patients struggling with sleep apnea!

    Nelson: What can folks expect from NozeSealTM?

    Holtzapple: The NozeSealTM adhesive strip is easy-to-use, inexpensive and compatible with any commercially available nasal pillow. We are blessed to deliver on our motto: “No Leaks, No Straps, Just a Great Night’s Sleep.” Please try one of our trial packs!

    Just a few months ago, I learned of a young USMC veteran, married with a wife and young children. One day he was at the Houston Astro’s baseball game and the very next morning, he never woke up. He had passed away from sleep apnea. This is a silent killer, one to be taken seriously. Men and women alike should not brush it off. I’m thankful we have people like Mark and Scott who are striving to make this condition easier to live and sleep with. To learn more, visit NozeSeal.com.

     

     

    Getting Help for Combat Stress

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    Young depressed military man talking about emotional problems with psychotherapist at doctor's office

    Learning to recognize the signs of combat stress in yourself, another service member or a family member who has returned from a war zone can help you call on the right resources to begin the healing process.

    Combat stress and stress injuries

    Combat stress is the natural response of the body and brain to the stressors of combat, traumatic experiences and the wear and tear of extended and demanding operations. Although there are many causes and signs of combat stress, certain key symptoms are common in most cases:

    • Problems sleeping
    • Uncharacteristic irritability or angry outbursts
    • Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
    • Signs of depression such as apathy, changes in appetite, loss of interest in hobbies or activities or poor hygiene
    • Physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches and pains, nausea, diarrhea or constipation
    • Other changes in behavior, personality or thinking

    Combat stress sometimes leads to stress injuries, which can cause physical changes to the brain that alter the way it processes information and handles stress.

    You should be aware of the following when dealing with a stress injury:

    • Stress injuries can change the way a person functions mentally, emotionally, behaviorally and physically.
    • The likelihood of having a combat stress injury rises as combat exposure increases.
    • The earlier you identify the signs of a stress injury, the faster a full recovery can occur.
    • If left untreated, a stress injury may develop into more chronic and hard-to-treat problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • There is no guaranteed way to prevent or protect yourself from a stress injury, but there are things you can do to help yourself and others recover.

    Stress reactions

    Different people handle stress — and combat stress — differently, and it’s not clear why one person may have a more severe reaction than another.

    Here’s what you need to know about stress reactions:

    • Stress reactions can last from a few days to a few weeks to as long as a year.
    • Delayed stress reactions can surface long after a traumatic incident or extended exposure to difficult conditions has occurred.
    • An inability to adapt to everyday life after returning from deployment can be a reaction to combat stress.

    How to get help

    If you or someone you know is suffering from a combat stress injury, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible. Reach out to one of the following resources if you have symptoms of combat stress or stress injury, or if you are experiencing severe stress reactions:

    • Combat Stress Control Teams provide on-site support during deployment.
    • Your unit chaplain may offer counseling and guidance on many issues that affect deployed or returning service members and their families.
    • The Department of Veterans Affairs has readjustment counseling for combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty, at community-based Vet Centers.
    • TRICARE provides medical counseling services either at a military treatment facility or through a network provider in your area. Contact your primary care manager or your regional TRICARE office for a referral.
    • The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence provides free resources on traumatic brain injury to help service members, veterans, family members and health care providers. Resources include educational materials, fact sheets, clinical recommendations and much more.
    • Veterans Crisis Line offers confidential support 24/7/365 and is staffed by qualified responders from the Department of Veterans Affairs — some of whom have served in the military themselves. Call 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting to 838255.
    • Non-military support channels such as community-based or religious programs can offer guidance and help in your recovery.

    If you are suffering from combat stress, you are not alone. Reach out to get the help and treatment you need to be able to live your life fully.

    Source: Military OneSource

    Kyle Carpenter: Worth the Sacrifice

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    Kyle Carpenter speaks in to microphone

    By Kellie Speed

    U.S. Marine William “Kyle” Carpenter wants you to know that you were worth his sacrifice.

    The sacrifice the 31-year-old is referring to is the life-threatening injuries he sustained 11 years ago. On that fateful November 21st day in Afghanistan, a Taliban hand grenade was thrown on the roof he and fellow Marine Nick Eufrazio were holding post on. Instead of running from the explosive, Carpenter heroically jumped on the grenade, saving both of their lives.

    While they each sustained grievous injuries (Eufrazio suffering a traumatic brain injury and Carpenter having to undergo more than 40 surgeries to reconstruct his face, right arm and other body parts at Walter Reed Medical Center), Carpenter says he is “just so happy we are both alive today.”

    In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Carpenter the nation’s highest military decoration for valor in combat – the Congressional Medal of Honor – and he became the youngest living recipient.

    Today, he embraces life to the fullest with a contagiously inspirational attitude, making the most of every day – whether it be skydiving, running the Marine Corps marathon, writing a book or helping to plan his wedding this fall.

    U.S. Veterans Magazine had the honor and privilege of catching up with the decorated Marine by phone to reflect on that fateful day on November 21, 2010, discuss his long and arduous road to recovery and why he considers the Medal of Honor a “beautiful burden.”

    USVM: Can you tell us why you initially decided to enlist in the Marine Corps back in 2009?

    Carpenter: I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to do something for a greater purpose while still young and able, and I wanted to do something that would push me to an unknown limit. Even with everything that has happened, I got exactly what I wanted. Despite the long, dark and painful nights, it has been a beautiful journey. After everything I have been through, I feel like I am more thankful than ever. Perspective has been the most powerful parts of my journey. It has been a process and evolution through many years. If you work at it over time, you will realize the silver linings and blessings in life. Today, I look at a glass as half full and keep myself in check because you remember a time when you could see it only as half empty.

    USVM: Can you take us back to November 21, 2010, and tell us what you remember about the day when you saved the life of your close friend and fellow Marine Nick Eufrazio?

    Carpenter: Nick is an incredibly beautiful person. He was a very junior Marine like me and was extremely smart and confident at what he was doing. It was his first combat deployment, but he was our point man. Having never deployed on a combat deployment, he led our entire squad, which was 70-75 percent Iraq veterans. I will always be honored to have served with him.

    I had just turned 21 a few weeks before we were on that roof. We started getting attacked in the morning at daybreak. I remember rolling over in my sleeping bag, hearing gunfire and saying to myself, “it’s just another day in Afghanistan.” Right before the grenade came, Nick and I had been on post for four hours and it was so close to the next shift that one of the guys was putting on his gear to get to us. I just remember the final few seconds before I felt like I got hit really hard in the face. Nick and I had been going over scenarios of getting attacked. We had been getting attacked the entire 24 hours before and we had very few sandbags to protect us on the post so we were not in the best position. I remember we were going over if they came down from this alleyway, this is how we would react. You can never be fully prepared for combat scenarios, but we were just trying to get that one second jump and a little more clarity what we would do. The last thing I remember, I asked Nick what he would do if a grenade came up on the roof and he said, “I’m jumping off this roof.” I said, “Dude, I’m right behind you.” Then I felt like I got hit hard in the face.

    Even though I don’t remember seeing the grenade or hearing it land, as I struggled to put the pieces together of what had happened, I realized I was profusely bleeding out. I thought about my family and my mom specifically, and said a quick prayer for forgiveness. That allowed me to truly believe and know, as darkness was closing in and I was getting extremely tired, those were my final moments.

    USVM: You call that your “Alive Day.” Tell us about that perspective and how you remain so positive.

    Carpenter: When I woke up five weeks later after my injury and realized those were not my final moments and that even though I had a two-page long list of injuries, I still woke up. I truly do feel like every single day is a bonus round. I slowly started to realize that what happened and my injury were a necessary steppingstone that I had to go through to pave way to that bigger purpose.

    It was that kitchen counter moment I talk about in my book, You Are Worth It: Building A Life Worth Fighting For, when I had to realize the past is truly the past. When you get knocked down in life, whether it takes a day or a year to heal, you have to realize, and it’s a tough life lesson, you only have two options – that is, to get up and take that one small step forward or you are going to sit at that kitchen counter for the rest of your life. You can only move forward and look forward. Once you do that, just like the saying goes, all good things come to an end – the same goes for the bad. Stay positive, search for those silver linings and blessings and realize what you do have. Not only will you get back on your feet, but you can and will come out on the other side of that struggle better and stronger than when you started out.

    USVM: When you reflect now, did you ever think you would be capable of doing what you did?

    Carpenter: Still, 11 years later, I cannot believe I did what I did. Over the years, I have transitioned my thinking; I don’t really care if I can’t remember the details of those few seconds, I am just glad I woke up and did what I did. I realized that’s the beauty of the human spirit. There are so many amazing and courageous people out there. Many don’t know it because their time hasn’t come yet, but the smallest acts can be lifesaving.

    USVM: Can you tell us what the Medal of Honor means to you personally?

    Carpenter: The Medal of Honor represents more than words could ever express. First off, it’s not my award and never has been and never will be an individual recognition. Beyond that, it represents my journey of suffering and injury; it represents the Marines that were there with me in Afghanistan serving and sacrificing; it represents the children of Afghanistan longing to read but living in too much fear and oppression; it represents all of the people around the world that wake up every day and hope today’s sunrise will be a little more hopeful than the day before; it represents the Marines and troops that didn’t make it home; and it represents all Americans. It’s very heavy, but it’s a beautiful burden and one that I am very honored and humbled to be recognized with.

    Kyle Carpenter is an American former marine, bestselling author and motivational speaker. Follow him on Instagram @chiksdigscars or YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsL5sNtcRgmG-YPsrEo9q_w.

    Serving the Called — Letter From the Editor

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    Kellie Pickler featured cover story

    Merriam-Webster defines military service as “time spent serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc…” A simple, literal definition whose meaning goes so much deeper.

    Service is at the heart of every facet of the military, no matter which branch you serve.

    You might hear servicemembers and veterans alike speak of being ‘called to serve,’ or inspired to be of service in any capacity to their fellow man, their country and the greater good.

    It’s this devotion to serving others – and the sacrifice it requires – that puts us in awe of our veterans, military members, spouses and families. It’s why we can never thank them enough.

    Our cover story, singer Kellie Pickler, is attempting to do just that by serving those who have been called. By partnering with the USO (United Service Organizations), Pickler, alongside other celebrities, gets the chance to give back to a community that means the world to her.

    “They have enabled me to be a part of something that matters,” Pickler shares.

    “Working with the USO, it’s really all about keeping the families connected and keeping our servicemen and women connected with their loved ones. We take a piece of home to them.” Read more about Picker’s mission to serve on page 88.

    If you’re preparing to transition from service, or have already started a new job, check out these 10 career tips on page 25 to keep you on a positive course.

    Kat Castagnoli headshot
    Kat Castagnoli, Managing Editor, U.S. Veterans Magazine

    Looking for new career options? Consider putting your military experience to work in the electronics industry on page 28.

    If you’re a recruiter, check out these 3 tips companies need to successfully attract and hire veterans on page 36.

    Maybe offering a work-from-home option could be a draw, as most employees want to continue working from home on page 38 in these postpandemic times.

    In honor of all of those who have served or are serving, we here at U.S. Veterans Magazine are proud to provide the information, content and stories that continue to serve you and your career and business needs.

    PAWS for Veterans Passes House Legislation

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    Senator is standing at podium that displays the text Pass Paws

    By Natalie Rodgers

    The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, adorably nicknamed the PAWS, was reintroduced as a bill earlier this year and just made its second pass through the House this past May in a bipartisan unanimous vote.

    The bill would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to run a five-year test program that would assign service dogs to veterans with PTSD, trauma and other post-deployment mental health issues. The grants issued by the VA under this program would cover the cost of providing the dogs to veterans as well as the cost to train the puppies. The reintroduced February bill has additionally been amended to classify veterans with mental illnesses but no mobility impairments to qualify, should PAWS pass.

    Representative Steve Stivers, (pictured) who served with the Ohio National Guard in Iraq, was inspired to create the bill after a mutual veteran friend of his expressed how much his own service dog that helped him with his recovery, allowing him to return to normal activities that were once too difficult to perform.

    “I’ve heard countless individuals who’ve told me that working with a service dog has given them their freedom,” Representative Stivers said in a statement to the American Legion. “These men and women fought to protect the American way of life…with the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, we can make sure they’re able to enjoy the things they fought to make possible.”

     Steve Stivers, R-Ohio pets service dog
    UNITED STATES – May 13: Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, greets Phoenix, a service dog, during a news conference highlighting the passage of H.R. 1448, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act in Washington on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

    On average, about 20 U.S. veterans die by suicide every day, with many of these suicides resulting from post-service mental health issues. Outside of that, PTSD is estimated by the VA to affect anywhere between 11 percent and 30 percent of veterans who serve in conflict.

    However, in a joint study done by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University, evidence shows that veterans with service dogs experience fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, a lower risk of substance abuse and a healthier mental state.

    “The results these veterans and their dogs achieve and the bond they share is remarkable,” said Mikie Sherrill, supporting representative and Navy veteran. “I’m so proud that we’ve passed this program through the House once more. Now, we need to keep up the pressure to ensure it passes in the Senate and gets signed into law.”

    From here, the bill will go on to the Senate to be voted on before making its way to President Biden for signing.

    Sources: The American Legion, sherrill.house.gov, congress.gov

    Pentagon to require COVID vaccine for all troops by Sept. 15

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    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon will require members of the U.S. military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. That deadline could be pushed up if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise.

    “I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the Food and Drug Administration “whichever comes first,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says in the memo to troops, warning them to prepare for the requirement. He added that if infection rates rise and potentially affect military readiness, “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so. To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force.”

    The memo is expected to go out Monday.

    Austin’s decision comes a bit more than a week after President Joe Biden told defense officials to develop a plan requiring troops to get shots as part of a broader campaign to increase vaccinations in the federal workforce. It reflects similar decisions by governments and companies around the world, as nations struggle with the highly contagious delta variant that has sent new U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths surging to heights not see since the peaks last winter.

    Austin said in his memo says that the military services will have the next few weeks to prepare, determine how many vaccines they need, and how this mandate will be implemented. The additional time, however, also is a nod to the bitter political divisiveness over the vaccine and the knowledge that making it mandatory will likely trigger opposition from vaccine opponents across the state and federal governments, Congress and the American population.

    It also provides time for the FDA to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month. Without that formal approval, Austin would need a waiver from Biden to make the shots mandatory.

    Troops often live and work closely together in barracks and on ships, increasing the risks of rapid spreading. And any large outbreak of the virus in the military could affect America’s ability to defend itself in any national security crisis.

    Read the complete article posted on AP News.

    Recognizing the Symptoms of PTSD

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    People who live through a traumatic event sometimes suffer its effects long after the real danger has passed. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

    While PTSD is often associated with combat veterans, any survivor of a natural disaster, physical abuse or other traumatic event may suffer from it. The good news is that with professional help, PTSD is treatable.

    But the first steps in getting help are learning the risk factors, recognizing the symptoms and understanding the treatment options.

    Knowing the risk factors

    Several factors play a role in developing PTSD, such as individual personality, severity of the event, proximity to the event, the people involved in the event, duration of the trauma and the amount of support the person receives afterward.

    You may be at higher risk if you:
     

    • Were directly involved in the traumatic event
    • Were injured or had a near-death experience
    • Survived an especially long-lasting or severe traumatic event
    • Truly believed your life or that of someone around you was in danger
    • Had a strong emotional or physical reaction during the event
    • Received little or no support following the event
    • Have multiple other sources of stress in your life

    Recognizing the symptoms

    Just as individual reactions to trauma vary, PTSD symptoms also differ from person to person. Symptoms may appear immediately after a traumatic event or they may appear weeks, months or even years later.

    Although the symptoms of a “typical” stress reaction can resemble those of PTSD, true PTSD symptoms continue for a prolonged time period and often interfere with a person’s daily routines and commitments.

    While only a trained medical professional can diagnose PTSD, possible signs of the disorder include:

    Re-experiencing trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder frequently includes flashbacks, or moments in which the person relives the initial traumatic event or re-experiences the intense feelings of fear that surrounded it.

    Avoidance/numbness. As a result of flashbacks or other negative feelings, people suffering from PTSD may avoid conversations or situations that remind them of the frightening event they survived.

    Hyper arousal. Feeling constantly on edge, feeling irritable and having difficulty sleeping or concentrating are all possible signs of PTSD.

    Children can also suffer from PTSD. In children, PTSD symptoms may differ from those seen in adults and may include trouble sleeping, acting out or regression in toilet training, speech or behavior. Parents of a child with PTSD may notice the child’s artwork or pretend play involves dark or violent themes or details.

    Understanding the treatment options

    Even suspecting you have PTSD is reason enough to get a professional opinion, especially when free help is available around the clock to service members and their families.

    If you’re not sure whom to talk to, start with any of the following:

    • Military treatment facility or covered services.You can locate the nearest military treatment facility and covered services in the civilian community near you through the TRICARE website.
    • Your healthcare provider.If you receive health care in the community through a civilian provider, you can start by talking to your doctor.
    • Local Department of Veterans Affairs hospital.If you are eligible to receive care through a VA hospital or clinic, find the nearest facility through the Veterans Health Administration website.
    • Military Crisis Line.If you or anyone you know ever experiences thoughts of suicide, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. The Military Crisis Line staff can connect you with mental health support and crisis counseling services for a wide range of issues.

    Remember, you are not alone. Free help is available 24/7 to service members and their families. Seeking help is a sign of strength that helps to protect your loved ones, your career, and your mental and physical health.

    Source: Militaryonesource.mil

    Navy Federal Credit Union Report Reveals New Financial Habits for Military Families During the Pandemic

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    Military Spouse, husband in fatigues and daughter pose casually in frontyard

    Navy Federal Credit Union recently released a new report on the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on military families.

    The survey of more than 1,100 active duty servicemembers, veterans and military spouses illustrates the new financial habits military families picked up, their financial plans for the coming months, differences in saving and spending across generations, and the disparate impact of the pandemic on military spouses.

    Household Expenses and New Financial Habits

    As a result of the pandemic, Navy Federal found that the majority of military households cut expenses and adopted new financial habits in 2020, with 89 percent of respondents indicating that they spent less on an expense in 2020. The most common expenses cut include:

  • Vacation travel (63 percent)
  • Eating out (58 percent
  • Entertainment (57 percent)
  • Self-care (41 percent)
  • Clothing (40 percent)
  •  
    Military families did more than just cut back on their spending though, with 77 percent indicating that the upheaval of 2020 caused them to embrace at least one new financial habit. The most common new financial habits reported were:

  • 43 percent cut back on daily spending
  • 36 percent kept track of finances more closely
  • 27 percent established or added to an emergency savings fund
  • 26 percent paid off credit card bill monthly
  • 25 percent used digital/contactless payment
  • 23 percent maintained a monthly budget
  • 20 percent set up autopay for bills or recurring payments
  •  
    “The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every facet of our lives, and our members have taken this turmoil in stride and adapted their financial habits to face this new challenge,” said Clay Stackhouse, a retired Marine Corps colonel and regional outreach manager at Navy Federal. “At Navy Federal, we’re passionate about supporting military communities and dedicating resources to ensure they have financial tools and knowledge needed to meet their financial goals. Our proactive approach and ongoing dedication to our members allowed us to support military families during this challenging time.”

    Military Families Re-emerge: Summer Spending and Travel

    As more Americans are vaccinated and it becomes safe to travel; dine out at restaurants, shop or visit entertainment venues; and see family and friends, most military families plan to re-emerge this summer and start spending again. Overall, 69 percent of military families report they plan to do more or just as much in summer 2021 as they did in past summers. Similarly, 64 percent report they will spend either more money or just as much money as usual this summer. Still, a significant portion of military households plan to maintain their pandemic spending habits, with 35 percent indicating they will spend less than in past summers. Other key findings regarding summer include:

  • Military families report they plan to travel more frequently (43 percent), go out to restaurants and bars (31 percent) and shop in-person at stores (25 percent).
  • More active duty servicemembers (34 percent) plan to go out and do more things this summer than in the past than veterans (21 percent) and military spouses (23 percent).
  • Most military families plan to bring back vacation travel (60 percent).
  •  
    Differences Across Generations and the Impact on Spouses

    When looking at different age groups of servicemembers, veterans and spouses, differences begin to emerge across generations when it comes to pandemic spending, new financial habits and post-pandemic outlook. Navy Federal found that:

  • The younger you are, the more likely you were to pick up a new financial habit
    1. 18-34 (86 percent)
      35-54 (76 percent)
      55+ (66 percent)
  • Younger people in the military community are more likely to have increased the amount of food they have ordered for delivery or pickup
    1. 18-34 (46 percent)
      35-54 (33 percent)
      55+ (36 percent)
  • Younger people report feeling high levels of uncertainty or feeling stuck more so than older generations
    1. 18-34 (26 percent)
      35-54 (21 percent)
      55+ (12 percent)

    Additionally, the research study showed that military spouses experienced a greater impact from the pandemic, and its effects will likely last, even as the pandemic wanes:

  • Of households who reported they cut childcare expenses in 2020, 55 percent indicate they plan on delaying or not bringing back this expense.
  • 46 percent of active duty spouses report cutting back on self-care during COVID compared to just 31 percent of servicemembers.
  • 81 percent of active duty spouses reported a higher level of uncertainty about post-pandemic life.
  • Navy Federal uses the data and insights it gleans from this research to provide timely and relevant financial tools in support of its members’ financial journeys. Navy Federal has been continually recognized for its dedication in delivering exceptional service for its members, ensuring members are educated and can achieve their financial goals though all life stages.

    About Navy Federal Credit Union: Established in 1933 with only seven members, Navy Federal now has the distinct honor of serving over 10.5 million members globally and is the world’s largest credit union. As a member-owned and not-for-profit organization, Navy Federal always puts the financial needs of its members first. Membership is open to all branches of the armed forces and their families. Dedicated to its mission of service, Navy Federal employs a workforce of over 23,000 and has a global network of 345 branches. For more information about Navy Federal Credit Union, visit navyfederal.org.

    Federally insured by NCUA. Equal Opportunity Employer.

    Methodology: These are the results of a survey of more than 1,100 active duty servicemembers (n=255), veterans (n=543) and military spouses (n=334). Current and former military household interviews were conducted online among Navy Federal Members as well as a general population component through Maru/Blue. Data were aggregated and weighted on age and military affiliation status. The survey was fielded March 24 – April 6, 2021.

    Above and Beyond: The lives of a veteran’s family are changed after receiving assistance from DAV

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    The Nutt family smiling outside their home with US flag in background

    By: Matt Saintsing

    When Sarah Nutt contacted DAV (Disabled American Veterans) last May, she hoped her husband, Gary, an Air Force veteran, would be eligible for some much-needed additional compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. DAV is a nonprofit organization that helps more than one million veterans each year get the life-changing benefits they deserve.

    Finances had become so bleak in the years after Gary stopped working due to illness that Sarah would trim expenses by routinely cutting his hair. There was rarely cash for extra food or gas. And medical and dental insurance was a luxury they couldn’t afford. “There was no money for anything other than the bare necessities,” said Sarah. “That’s why we were reaching out so desperately.”

    What she didn’t bank on, however, was DAV helping the family obtain much more than the modest $150 per month she was hoping for, substantially increasing Gary’s VA rating and even connecting their daughter, Sadie, with educational benefits for eligible dependents.

    Years before, Gary got to see the world serving as an aircraft electrical and environmental systems mechanic, traveling to Germany, Spain and the Philippines. But it was his service in the Persian Gulf War that sparked a medical mystery.

    After spending just over six months at King Abdulaziz Air Base in Saudi Arabia, Gary began to experience excruciating headaches while stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. “I bent over to open up my locker on base, and after standing up, I had a splitting headache,” said Gary, a DAV life member of Chapter 7 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, “the worst I’ve ever had in my life.” Doctors said he had a sinus infection, but the medication they offered provided no relief.

    “They gave me some pills that didn’t work, so I went back and they gave me some more pills that didn’t work,” added Gary. “Nothing really seemed to help.” Moments of intense anguish persisted after Gary left the Air Force, which led doctors to temporarily remove part of his skull, hoping to end the agony. Shortly after that, he began having seizures. As the years passed, Gary’s symptoms became worse.

    The headaches continued, but other worries appeared: slowed speech and a steep and gradual decline in Gary’s reaction time. As more tasks took him longer to complete, the air conditioning repair company Gary worked for considered him a hazard to the workplace. “They had laid me off because I got to the point where I was really slow,” said Gary. “I got there at 5 every day, I worked as hard as I could, but they said I was more of a liability than an asset.”

    “Everything slowed down,” added Sarah, “to the point where I had to help him do anything.” A stay-at-home mom, Sarah began caring for him full time, and Gary’s VA compensation at the time was not enough to cover their expenses. With Gary out of work since 2016, they slipped further into financial distress. However, their tide turned after Sarah called DAV National Service Officer Lindsay Kinslow, who was confident she could significantly increase Gary’s overall VA rating.

    “They were really adamant about the $150 that comes with aid and attendance benefits,” said Kinslow, who works at the DAV national service office in Washington, D.C. “And I said, ‘Well, maybe we can get you a little bit more than that.’” Kinslow submitted the claim last June, which opened the floodgates of VA appointments for Gary—six in two months—to reassess his health. By staying in constant communication with Sarah, Kinslow learned the scope of the Nutts’ financial anxieties extended to their home, which they were close to losing.

    So when Sarah got the call last October and learned about everything Kinslow had secured for Gary, she broke out in tears. “It was just such a huge blessing and a relief,” said Sarah. “When [Sarah] told me Gary had to quit working due to this condition, I knew for sure that would lead to an increase,” added Kinslow.

    In all, Gary became a permanent and total service-connected disabled veteran, with the special compensation Sarah originally asked about.

    With the increased funds, they were able to get a new vehicle, and for the first time in four years, Gary received a professional haircut. But the most unexpected benefit the Nutts received was the VA educational benefits available to survivors and dependents of eligible veterans. With that added benefit, their daughter Sadie will be able to recoup some of the money she spent while enrolled in cosmetology school. “We are just so thankful to Lindsay and DAV,” added Sarah.

    “I know money isn’t the most important thing, but it can be very hard to live.”

    To get help or learn more about how DAV helps veterans, visit DAV.org.

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