As part of its annual Day of Service Aspen Dental will open nearly 500 of its dental offices to provide FREE care to as many as 5,000 veterans on Saturday, June 8.
Like millions of other Americans, veterans can struggle to find oral health care when they need it. The majority of U.S. veterans are not eligible for dental benefits through the Veterans Administration unless they are 100% disabled, have a service-related mouth injury or were a prisoner of war.
This year, Aspen Dental looks to build on the success of 2018’s Day of Service campaign, in which more than 4,300 veterans across the country received free dental care at 426 participating Aspen Dental locations.
Veterans are encouraged to call 1-844-277-3646 (1-844-ASPENHMM) to find a participating office near them and schedule an appointment.
Since launching the Healthy Mouth Movement in 2014, Aspen Dental offices across the country have donated more than $15 million in dentistry to over 22,000 veterans.
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
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)
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
According to recent statistics, there are almost 17.5 million veterans in the United States. Of these veterans, 4 million of them are suffering from a service-related injury with disability ratings ranging from 10% and above. Meanwhile, there are 13 million who have received disability ratings for non-service-related injuries.
This means the majority of them are suffering from one form of disability or another. That’s why it’s really not surprising, and incredibly critical, that there are a lot of small business loans and grants for disabled veterans in the U.S., especially for those who are thinking of starting a business.
This is one of the most popular programs that the Small Business Association (or SBA) offers, and for good reason. It offers a low-down payment and more flexible payment options. SBA also offers a counterpart of this loan program for non-veterans, but they will not be able to enjoy the discounted rates and other privileges provided to veterans.
StreetShares Foundation is an organization that was specifically established to help veteran business owners. They have various loans and financing programs. In fact, they even award grants to veterans who qualify for their reward opportunities annually.
This is technically not a loan or financing program; however, it will still prove to your advantage to apply for it. This government program seeks to assist veteran-owned small businesses by doing business with them in the form of government contracts.
All you need to do is to get your business registered through the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (or OSDBU). This will add your startup to their roster of small businesses to call upon if they found themselves in need of the products and services that you offer.
The best thing we love about grants is that you won’t have to repay them anymore. You are not getting this money for free, though. You will be required to follow the terms of the money provided. Not to mention that it can be quite difficult to get approved given the number of applicants each year.
Here’s a program that is specifically designed for veterans with disabilities. In fact, you must have a disability that serves as an employment barrier in order to qualify for it. We highly recommend this program, especially for those who have a high disability rating.
This is closely similar to the OSDBU program wherein qualified businesses will be granted an opportunity to qualify for contracts that can, in turn, reap revenue. The only difference, though, is that these contracts will not strictly come from the government.
Increasing Your Chances
The programs we have listed above are definitely not the only ones that are available out there. There are a lot of government offices, organizations and even companies that offer financing aid to disabled veterans.
The ones that we have featured above are simply the most popular choices, and thus, more easily accessible. However, please feel free to research your options further.
In the meantime, allow us to share with you tips on how to increase your chances of qualifying for any program that you wish:
Always check the eligibility requirements. Don’t waste your time getting the paperwork ready and waiting for a response. Make sure that you are eligible from the get-go by verifying your eligibility.
Take care of your business credit history. Most of you are probably researching loans and grants to start your business. This doesn’t mean that existing business owners won’t qualify for these programs anymore. Quite the contrary, it is easier for a small business with an excellent business credit history to get accepted to these programs.
Stay organized. There is a lot of paperwork required for any loan or grant application. Those with existing businesses already are typically required to present business and personal tax returns for at least the past three years. Other requirements may also include financial statements, business certificates and business plans, among other important documents.
Find out your exact need. Finally, you should determine where you are going to use your loan or grant money and how much before even thinking of applying to a program. In this way, you will be able to make sure that the program you’re applying for and its benefits will be enough for your needs. It will also come in handy during interviews.
We hope that you have found our information helpful in finding the program that your small business requires to take flight. It is the least we can do in exchange for the service you have provided. Good luck!
Jim Hughes is a content marketer who has significant experience covering technology, finance, economics and business topics for about 3 years. At the moment he works as content manager in OpenCashAdvance.com.
By Kat Castagnoli, Managing Editor, DiversityComm, Inc.
More than 350 million war survivors around the globe suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to a 2019 report by the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.
And while there are many types of psychotherapy treatments, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and medication that can help treat PTSD, did you know that caring for bees, taking a swim with dolphins and donning a pair of hockey skates can help as well?
In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, we compiled a list of 10 activities and programs you may not have thought of that can help veterans, servicemembers and their families cope with PTSD:
Horseback Riding – Stable Strides
StableStrides (stablestrides.org), based in the large military community of Colorado Springs, Colo., provides equine therapy for veterans, active duty servicemembers and military families. The non-profit promotes positive physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional and social development by fostering a connection with horses.
Beekeeping – Hives for Heroes
Hives for Heroes (hivesforheroes.com) is a national non-profit organization based in Houston, Tx., comprised of beekeepers and veterans that focus on honey bee conservation, suicide prevention and a healthy transition from service.
Cycling – Petal Against PTSD
Pedal Against PTSD (paptsd.org) aims to raise awareness regarding the severity of PTSD and to share the benefits that the sport of cycling brings to all military veterans and their families. The organization is recognized in all 50 states, as well as certain countries overseas, and seeks to provides vets with quality bicycles, create a strong community outreach program and contribute funds back to the research and development of PTSD.
Service Dog Training – Warrior Canine Connection
Warrior Canine Connection (warriorcanineconnection.org) is a Boyds, Md.-based organization that enlists recovering warriors in a therapeutic mission of training a dog from puppyhood to adulthood on how to become a service dog for fellow veterans with disabilities. As a result, Warrior trainers benefit from a physiological and psychological animal-human connection.
Scuba Diving – Waves Project
The Waves Project (wavesproject.org) in Temecula, Calif., was established to help wounded veterans experience the freedom and challenge of scuba diving. The organization believes the unique properties of an aquatic environment are ideal for wounded veterans as they rehabilitate from various injuries, including amputations, spinal cord injuries, Traumatic Brain Injuries and PTSD.
Surfing – Warrior Surf
Warrior Surf Foundation (warriorsurf.org) is a nonprofit program in Folly Beach, SC, that works to provide free surf therapy, wellness coaching, yoga and community to veterans struggling with PTSD, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
Yoga – Veterans Yoga Project
The Veterans Yoga Project (veteransyogaproject.org) in Alameda, Calif., teaches over 100 free yoga classes each week for veterans and their families in order to improve the overall health and wellbeing of all veterans, whether they are currently struggling with severe symptoms or are focused on increasing resilience and giving back to others.
Swimming with Dolphins – Island Dolphin Care
The Key Largo, Fla.-based Island Dolphin Care (islanddolphincare.org) provides a unique, dolphin-assisted therapy program for veterans, military personnel, caregivers, family members and Gold Star spouses, children and parents. Each program is tailored to meet the needs of the participants and there is no cost for veterans to participate.
Bird Keeping – Parrots for Patriots
Many veterans have gained new meaning in life by taking in abandoned birds that have been trained and donated by Parrots for Patriots (parrotsforpatriots.org) – a non-profit organization located in Vancouver, Washington that matches unwanted or abandoned parrots with any veteran desiring companionship. To qualify, veterans pay a $25 application fee and agree to home visits and a training session before their adoptions are approved.
Hockey – Veterans Hockey United
The mission of Veterans Hockey United (veteranshockeyunited.com) is to bring the veteran, military and first responder community together to grow the game of hockey through no-cost player and team registration. The organization’s focus is on providing a positive outlet to raise awareness on suicide prevention, end the stigma of PTSD and mental health issues, and perform fundraising in support of Gold Star families.