Financial Resources Available During the Pandemic

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An army soldier standing with his wife, speaking to a doctor.

In light of the public health crisis brought about by COVID-19, many Americans across the country have seen their lives suffer. Veterans and military families are no exception and have experienced both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has adjusted its operations and existing programs during the COVID-19 outbreak, but veterans’ benefits and services should not be affected. Veterans will continue to receive their benefits and survivors will continue to be provided.

However, more help is available for veterans in need of financial assistance as a result of the pandemic.

VA Compensation and Pension Benefits

Tens of thousands of veterans can access VA benefits. But during the pandemic, VA has changed how it administers and processes these benefits. For their safety and security, especially for those with underlying health conditions, all 56 regional VA offices are closed to the public for in-person services.

Compensation and disability evaluations usually done in person are currently evaluated electronically, via “tele-C&P” exams, virtual-tele-compensation and pension. Regional offices continue to operate, but now communications with health care providers, which determine how much money veterans can get, are being made via computer.

There is a significant backlog of these benefit cases and the pandemic added to it, delaying access to health care and other benefits. Veterans can wait more than 125 days for a decision. “These benefits are worth tens of millions of dollars to veterans amid the pandemic,” informs Gregory Cade, an attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C., a community toxic exposure law firm in Alabama.

During the pandemic, VA makes it possible for veterans to submit late claims and appeals, alongside requests for extensions on submissions.

Exceptionally, the appeals for veterans diagnosed with COVID-19 will be expedited.

VA Caregiver Support

Veterans in need of home-based care and their families are eligible to receive money to cover various necessary services by participating in the Veteran Directed Care program.

The CARES Act has made special provisions to help veterans in need of home-based care navigate the uncertain path ahead. During the pandemic, no in-home visits will be required and they can enroll or renew their participation in the program through telehealth or telephone.

Veterans and their caregivers who can’t get to the post office or a printer due to COVID-19 will not be penalized for sending in late paperwork. Also, their caregiver can still be paid for services, even if they are out of their home state and can’t travel due to COVID-19 restrictions and health concerns.

Other Military-Focused Efforts

A good starting point for veterans who suffer from COVID-19’s economic impact would be their branch’s relief organization, such as the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) or Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

Also, veterans and their families can get help for expenses not covered by current military support systems from several organizations:

  • The Red Cross works in conjunction with military relief societies to provide help.
  • Operation Homefront has a financial assistance program.
  • The Gary Sinise Foundation has a dedicated emergency Covid-19 campaign that provides financial assistance to veterans and service members.
  • PenFed Foundation has launched a COVID-19 relief fund. The program has closed after receiving over 6,000 applications in four days. But it may open again.

Additional Financial Help

Veterans who suffer from serious health conditions, such as cancer, and their immediate family members find themselves in a complicated situation during this period. This is not only because they are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 but also because they need to continue their treatment but may lack the financial resources.

Therefore, they need to know that there are other options available to them. For instance, they can access legal help. When veterans are diagnosed with any disease stemming from asbestos exposure that took place in the military, they can recover money from one or more asbestos trusts, whether they already receive benefits from the VA or not.

Also, veteran firefighters who’ve been exposed to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) and suffer from kidney, testicular, pancreatic or liver cancer can seek compensation from chemical manufacturers.

There are many services available to help during this time. Veterans have served, and organizations and lawyers are available and will do all they can to serve them now, during this unprecedented and challenging period.

Environmental Litigation Group P.C. is a national community toxic exposure law firm dedicated to helping victims of occupational exposure to toxic agents, including asbestos and the PFAS in AFFF.

VA to pay for all emergency mental health care

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Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in acute suicidal crisis will be able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.

This expansion of care will help prevent Veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to Veterans in times of crisis. It will also increase access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million Veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.

Preventing Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. This effort is a key part of VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide. In September, VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that Veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.

“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” said VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

VA has submitted an interim final rule to the federal register to establish this authority under section 201 of the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020. The final policy, which takes effect on Jan. 17, will allow VA to:

-Provide, pay for, or reimburse for treatment of eligible individuals’ emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care.
-Make appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care.
-Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
-Refer eligible individuals for appropriate VA programs and benefits following the period of emergency suicide care.

Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:

-Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.

Over the past year, VA has announced or continued several additional efforts to end Veteran suicide, including establishing 988 (then press 1) as a way for Veterans to quickly connect with caring, qualified crisis support 24/7; proposing a new rule that would reduce or eliminate copayments for Veterans at risk of suicide; conducting an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and leveraging a national Veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign, “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 confidential support. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.

Source: VA.gov

Oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor marks 105th birthday

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Joseph Eskenazi and large family

By Kevin McGill, The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Flag-waving admirers lined the sidewalk outside the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Wednesday to greet the oldest living survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as he marked his upcoming 105th birthday.

“It feels great,” Joseph Eskenazi of Redondo Beach, California, told reporters after posing for pictures with his great-grandson, who is about to turn 5, his 21-month-old great-granddaughter and six other World War II veterans, all in their 90s.

Eskenazi turns 105 on Jan. 30. He had boarded an Amtrak train in California on Friday for the journey to New Orleans. The other veterans, representing the Army, Navy and Marines, flew in for the event.

(Pictured) World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with fellow veterans, his great grandchildren Mathias, 4, Audrey, 1, and their grandmother Belinda Mastrangelo, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

They were visiting thanks to the Soaring Valor Program, a project of actor Gary Sinise’s charitable foundation dedicated to aiding veterans and first responders. The program arranges trips to the museum for World War II veterans and their guardians.

Eskenazi was a private first class in the Army when the attack occurred. His memories include being awakened when a bomb fell — but didn’t explode — near where he was sleeping at Schofield Barracks, reverberating explosions as the battleship USS Arizona was sunk by Japanese bombs, and machine gun fire from enemy planes kicking up dust around him after he volunteered to drive a bulldozer across a field so it could be used to clear runways.

“I don’t even know why — my hand just went up when they asked for volunteers,” Eskenazi said. “Nobody else raised their hand because they knew that it meant death. … I did it unconsciously.”

He was at the Army’s Schofield Barracks when the Dec. 7, 1941, attack began, bringing the United States into the war. About 2,400 servicemen were killed.

Eskenazi and his fellow veterans lined up for pictures amid exhibits of World War II aircraft and Higgins boats, designed for beach landings.

Read the complete article on Military Times.

VA plans to waive medical copays for Native American vets

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The sign of the Department of Veteran Affairs is seen in front of the headquarters building in Washington

By Leo Shane III

Veterans Affairs officials soon will waive most copayments related to medical care for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans in an effort to encourage more of them to use VA health services.

Officials detailed the effort in a proposed rule released in the Federal Register on Tuesday. They have not yet released a timeline for exactly when the copayments will be ended, but the final rule is expected to be approved in coming months.

The department has already pledged to reimburse all eligible veterans for any copayments made between Jan. 5, 2022, and the date of that final approval.

“American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans have played a vital role in the defense of the United States as members of the Armed Forces for more than 200 years,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This rule makes health care more accessible and allows us to better deliver to these veterans the care and health benefits that they have earned through their courageous service.”

VA estimates about 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans are living in the country today, and Defense Department officials have estimated that roughly 24,000 active duty service members belong to the same groups.

Veterans Affairs officials said they do not have a reliable estimate on how many of those veterans are currently using department health care services.

Read the complete article on Military Times.

DID YOU KNOW?

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man looking at smartphone with logo in backgroud for Heroes with hearing loss

Hearing-related issues, particularly tinnitus and hearing loss, are the top service-connected disabilities affecting our nation’s veterans of all ages.Today, more than 2.7 million veterans receive benefits or are in treatment for hearing-related issues, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Here are some additional compelling statistics:

…than non-veterans

What’s even more worrisome is these issues are inextricably linked to many other conditions, including social isolation, loneliness, depression and cognitive decline. A study published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology found compelling evidence connecting tinnitus with depression and anxiety for veterans: 72% of veterans with tinnitus had a diagnosis of anxiety, 60% had depression and 58% had both conditions.

Available Solutions

The Heroes With Hearing Loss® program, provided by Hamilton® CapTel®, is designed specifically to combat these issues by providing life-changing solutions that can re-establish and even deepen the connections veterans have with family, friends and healthcare professionals. These solutions include captioned telephone for home, work and while on the go.

  • Hamilton CapTel captioned telephones offer unique features ranging from touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth® connectivity, speakerphone and more – making it possible to read what’s being said while on the phone.
  • Hamilton®CapTel® for Business, Interconnected by Tenacity™ is available to veterans who experience hearing loss and have difficulty hearing on the phone while in the workplace. Hamilton CapTel displays captions of what’s being said on the screen of a Cisco® phone, allowing clarity and confidence on every business call.
  • Heroes Mobile CapTel® for iOS is available to veterans right now on the Apple App Store for download. The feature-rich app delivers the same Hamilton CapTel experience customers have enjoyed at home and at work for years – now at your fingertips wherever you go. It seamlessly integrates with device contacts and captions are fast and incredibly accurate.

Learn more about Heroes With Hearing Loss >

About Hamilton CapTel

Hamilton CapTel is provided by Hamilton Relay®, a pioneer of telecommunications relay services (TRS). Since 1991, Hamilton Relay has been dedicated to serving individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking. Hamilton CapTel is dedicated to making phone conversations simple and accessible for individuals with hearing loss.

FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS ANYONE BUT REGISTERED USERS WITH HEARING LOSS FROM USING INTERNET PROTOCOL (IP) CAPTIONED TELEPHONES WITH THE CAPTIONS TURNED ON. IP Captioned Telephone Service may use a live operator. The operator generates captions of what the other party to the call says. These captions are then sent to your phone. There is a cost for each minute of captions generated, paid from a federally administered fund. To learn more, visit fcc.gov. Hamilton CapTel may be used to make 911 calls but may not function the same as traditional 911 services. For more information about the benefits and limitations of Hamilton CapTel and Emergency 911 calling, visit HamiltonCapTel.com/911. Voice and data plans may be required when using Hamilton CapTel on a smartphone or tablet. Courtesy of Cisco Systems, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted. Third-party charges may apply: the Hamilton CapTel phone requires telephone service and high-speed Internet access. Wi-Fi capable. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc. Copyright ©2022 Hamilton Relay. Hamilton is a registered trademark of Nedelco, Inc. d/b/a/ Hamilton Telecommunications.

Empowering Veteran Business Owners For Nearly 150 Years

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Alex McKindra pictured with father and grandfather

The McKindra family believes in two things: service and community. That’s what led Commercial Banking Managing Director, Alex McKindra to West Point, the Air Force, and now JPMorgan Chase. Here’s how he honors his family legacy by helping to empower veteran business owners.

From his years of service in the military to his current role as a Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase—where he helps former soldiers build their own businesses—Alex McKindra Jr. is a veteran success story.

And his story has a long history, tracing back through generations of his family in the small town of Union Chapel, Arkansas.

Generations of Mentorship

In the late 1800s, McKindra’s great-great grandfather, Reuben Frank McKindra, moved his family to Union Chapel, a town originally settled by freed Black slaves.

Working on their family farm, the McKindras made a name for themselves by demonstrating their resourcefulness and aptitude for hard work. Namely, the family utilized mentorship programs, as well as public and private funding, to not only start but grow—and grow—their family farm.

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military and, subsequently, to their communities when they returned home.

“I would not be in the position I am today if not for the opportunities that mentorship provided,” says McKindra. “The farm my family was able to start, through the support and mentorship of others, has helped to educate and put clothes on every generation of my family since the 1880s.”

Paying It Forward

McKindra chose to honor his roots by following in his ancestors’ footsteps and joining the military. He graduated from West Point in 1993 and then completed a tour of duty serving as Captain in the United States Air Force.

Armed with the life experience and knowledge he gained from the service—and a freshly-minted MBA from the University of Southern California—McKindra dove into the world of corporate finance. Quickly building a reputation for his intelligence, reliability and kindness, he rose through the ranks. Today, he works as a Managing Director for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking.

Amid his own success, McKindra’s also wanted to help those who—like his great-great-grandfather Reuben—had risked their lives for the country and were now seeking to put down roots as civilians.

At JPMorgan Chase, he continued to advocate for veterans, ultimately becoming co-lead of JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking’s veteran initiatives program, alongside Army veteran Terry Hill.

Currently, McKindra and Hill are working with JPMorgan Chase and Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit, to build programs to help veteran small business owners. Together, they created CEOcircle, a 13-month mentorship program that is tailored to help mid-size, military-connected companies grow. Through this program, veteran business owners and their families gain access to the guidance and resources they need to succeed, including education, networking, and one-on-one financial mentoring from JPMorgan Chase advisors. The program empowers businesses that will support military families for generations to come—businesses like the McKindra farm.

The new program launched nationally last year and will welcome its second cohort of 80 military-connected businesses this November.

“If my great-great-grandfather were here today, I would want him to know that what he built didn’t just support our family, it also instilled the values in us that would seed the acceleration and growth of hundreds of other veteran-owned businesses in the future,” McKindra says. “I know he’d be proud of that.”

In the past decade, over 16,000 veterans and service members have transitioned their military skills into civilian careers at JPMorgan Chase. Through our programs and initiatives, our goal is to position military members, veterans and their families to thrive in their post-service lives. Learn More.

What to Consider Before Moving Post-Military

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The day will come when you’re preparing to transition out of the military. You might have spent time thinking about where you want to live when this day arrives. As you decide where to live after your military separation, it’s helpful to consider:

  • Your family’s wishes
  • Career opportunities
  • Education
  • Cost of living

Talk with your family

The decision about your next home will affect the entire family, so include them in every step of the process. Here are some things you might want to think about:

  • Career and educational opportunities— Do you want to start a new career? Does your spouse want to continue their career or start a new one? What about the kids? Where are the best schools? Base your decisions on what will be good for the whole family.
  • Extended family— How close do you want to be to your extended family — “See you tomorrow” close, or “See you on holidays” close? Take a careful look at your hometown and evaluate the job market, schools and cost of living.
  • Career goals— The Department of Defense’s mandatory Transition Assistance Program will help you prepare for life after active duty. Whether you plan to pursue a civilian job, continue your education or join the Reserves, the Transition Assistance Program will help you develop a plan and make sure you are ready to pursue your goals. In addition, the Military Spouse Transition Program provides guidance to help spouses transition to civilian life, including starting or continuing a career

Consider your options

Make a list and prioritize what is most important to you, like job opportunities, schools, climate or cost of living. Then, do your research to find the best match.

The following can help you make the military-to-civilian transition a little easier:

  • Take advantage of resources like the CareerOneStop Veteran and Military Transition Center, sponsored by the Department of Labor. The Veteran and Military Transition Center website allows you to access free interest and skills assessments, explore civilian careers and education options, search for jobs, learn about benefits and much more.
  • Search websites — Many websites can help you find the best places to live by letting you order the importance of categories like education, crime rates, climate and housing costs. You can narrow your search by preferences or compare your favorite cities.
  • Find local information — Eligible users can search for local community information on the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website. On the home page, after the words “I’m looking for a …” choose the option “State resources.” Then click on the words “VIEW ALL STATE RESOURCES” located under the magnifying glass. This brings up a list of all 50 states. Click on any state, then look for the box titled “Local Community Information.” Click on the link for eligible users. You will need to enter your Military OneSource user identification and password to access the tool.
  • Identify unique, personal preferences — Some preferences can’t be factored into a test or a website. You may want to live close to a military installation so you and your family can take advantage of military benefits. Or you may want to move near a particular reserve unit where you can train in a specialized area.
  • Weigh your options — Write down the available choices and assess the pros and cons of each. Use your list to help you look objectively at options.
  • Prepare for mixed emotions — Be prepared for different kinds of feelings as you transition from active duty. It’s normal to be nervous about big life changes like this. No decision is 100 percent guaranteed, but the better you prepare, the more likely you are to set up yourself and your family for success.

Access military support

Your relocation benefits include one final move from your last duty station within the time and geographic limits listed below. If you live in installation housing, you may be allowed one move out of housing into the local community and another final move within these limits. Check with your installation transportation office for details on benefits specific to your final move.

  • Retirement — You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your retirement date. (This is called a home of selection.)
  • Involuntary separation (honorable discharge)— You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your separation date.
  • Voluntary separation (honorable discharge)— You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation date. If you choose a destination of greater distance, you will be obligated to pay the additional costs.
  • General discharge (under honorable conditions)— You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation.

Once you have made your decision, contact your installation transportation office about scheduling your move. The earlier you start to plan, the more likely you are to get the move dates you want.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

Tips for Talking to Your Doctor About Migraine

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Do you experience recurring headaches accompanied by intense pain and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound? If so, you may suffer from migraine, a debilitating neurological disease that affects nearly 40 million Americans. While everyone experiences migraine differently, the impact can disrupt everyday life with attacks lasting from four to 72 hours.

Unfortunately, veterans are more likely to experience migraine and headaches than civilians, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs*. If you think you have migraine, it might be time to talk with your local Veteran Affairs doctor.

Here are some tips to help you get the most of out of your visit:

  • Make a list of questions to ask during your appointment
  • Be prepared to share your medical and headache history, including prior concussions, exposure to blasts, etc. that occurred during a military tour
  • Talk about potential migraine triggers, such as stress, weather or lack of sleep
  • Ask about treatment and prevention strategies, including an orally dissolving medication to treat and prevent attacks
  • Learn more about resources to help manage migraine, including National Headache Foundation’s “Operation Brainstorm”

Read more about taking control of migraine attacks

*American Migraine Foundation. Veterans and Migraine. Available at: https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/veterans-and-migraine/. Accessed September 12, 2022.

Sponsored by Pfizer. PP-NNT-USA-0149

Utilizing your COOL Benefits

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Created by the Department of Defense, Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) is the result of extensive inter-service collaboration to facilitate credentialing of service members.

All services recognize the important role that occupational credentials can play in professionalizing the force and in enhancing the service member’s ability to transition to the civilian workforce upon completion of military service. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard each have their own service-specific COOL programs designed to match military occupations to civilian credentials (occupational certifications, licenses and apprenticeships) and provide resources to help Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen attain these credentials. The services disseminate this information on their own COOL websites.

What does COOL help me do?

DOD COOL contains resources and information on credentialing and the military for decision makers, leaders, agencies and other interested parties. It is intended as a workforce professionalization tool for active duty, reserve and civilian personnel to understand what their military training could translate to in the workforce and the professional development opportunities available in their career field. COOL is also a main hub for credentialing agencies and resources to help new veterans have a smooth transition into the civilian workforce.

The branch-specific COOL sites contain a variety of service-specific information about certifications and licenses related to military occupations. Use the branch-specific COOL sites to:

  • Get background information about civilian licensure and certification in general and specific information on individual credentials, including eligibility and testing requirements and resources to prepare for an exam.
  • Identify licenses and certifications relevant to individual military occupations.
  • Learn how to fill gaps between military training and experience and civilian credentialing requirements.
  • Learn about resources available to service members that can help them gain civilian job credentials.

Depending on qualifications and specifics, COOL can also fully cover the costs associated with certain credentials needed for your civilian career.

That being said, COOL is not a credentialing agency or testing center in and of itself. Service members do not get credentials from COOL or take tests or purchase training materials through COOL. It also doesn’t create credentialing standards, nor is it reserved exclusively for veterans, being used primarily by service members.

What does my branch COOL website provide?

For ease of use, the COOL sites are all organized in the same way. The key differences among the sites are the personnel categories covered and the scope of credentials paid for by the respective service. The following highlights the similarities and differences:

    Army

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information, including Promotion Points, Skill Level and Star credentials
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed on Army COOL
    Warrant Officer:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed
    Officer:

  • Credential information for select Advanced Operations Courses
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed on Army COOL
    Navy

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    Officer:

  • Credential information, including Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential payment for certain mandatory credentials
    DOD civilians:

  • Credential information, including Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential payment for certain mandatory credentials
    Air Force

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    Marine Corps

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    DOD civilians:

  • Limited credential information, for Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential information for select federal occupational series with more to be added on an ongoing basis
    Coast Guard

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    DOD Civilian

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information

To learn more about COOL and your branch specific website, visit cool.osd.mil.

Source: DOD COOL

Taking the Initial Steps to Certification

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By Natalie Rodgers

If you’re a business owner, then you may already be aware of the basics of Veteran-Owned (VOBE) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned (SDVOBE) business certifications. But going through the process to actually obtain the certification can be daunting, especially when considering the paperwork and fees that often go into the process. However, even if your business is thriving by your standards, earning your certification can take your business to new heights. Some of the benefits that certification can bring to your business include:

Funding Opportunities

Money is helpful no matter what kind of business you run, and certification opens the doors to funding opportunities that other businesses can’t access. Every year the government puts aside 23 percent of all of their contracts for small businesses, with 3 percent of that total going specifically towards VOBE and SDVOBE businesses. However, to be eligible to compete for these funds, you have to be a VOBE or SDVOBE certified business. Depending on the network you use to earn your certification, you may also become eligible for other funding opportunities through your certifier.

Corporate Partnerships

Businesses work with other companies all the time, but what a lot of people don’t know is that big name, Fortune 500 companies are often looking to work with minority, women and veteran-owned businesses to increase their supplier diversity efforts. To find these small businesses, these companies go directly to small business certifiers like NAVOBA, the SBA and the VA. When you become VOBE or SDVOBE certified, you will be given access to networking opportunities that could gain you a deal with some of the biggest businesses in the country. These kinds of partnerships can lead to an increase of sales and publicity. Some of the top corporations who have dedicated their efforts to work with veteran-owned businesses include USAA, JPMorgan, FedEx, Lowe’s, T-Mobile, Hilton, Ford and many more.

Resources Galore

Even if you aren’t looking for government funding or corporate partnerships, certification can still benefit your business in tremendous ways. By becoming certified, you gain access to courses, classes, conferences and networking opportunities that can help you grow your business in every aspect. Through whichever certifier you choose, you can learn the best methods of filing your business taxes, handling payroll, marketing your brands, working with social media and so much more.

Veteran Connections

Being certified not only allows you to connect with big-name companies but to other veteran-owned businesses and the customers that support them. When you become certified, you have the perfect platform for connecting with other veterans on their entrepreneurial journey. This can lead to potential business partnerships, mentoring opportunities or even just friendships with other veterans.

So How Do I Get Started?

If the benefits of becoming certified are enticing, but you’re feeling overwhelmed by what may be required of you, remember that you are not alone. If hundreds of veteran-owned businesses across the country can become certified, then you can too. To simplify the process, start with our preparation guide.

  1. Choose the certification that’s right for you. This will depend on your business and your needs.

For those interested in federal contracts, try:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs: vetbiz.va.gov/vip

For those interested in private contracts, try:

  • National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA): apps.adaptone.com/navoba
  • National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC): nvbdc.org/certification-landing-page
  1. Gather your documents. The kinds of documents you need will depend on your specific program, but just about any certifier you choose will need the following:
  • Government issued ID
  • Your resume
  • Past tax returns
  • Articles of organization or incorporation
  • Operating agreement
  • Your DD214
  • Payroll information
  • VA Disability Documentation (SDVOSB certification)
  1. Utilize your certifying organization’s contacts. If you run into any trouble during the application process or just need clarity on what to do next, feel free to reach out to your organization via the email or telephone number provided on their website. They are willing to assist and want to help you get your certification.

 

Sources: NaVOBA, US Chamber, Fulton Bank, Veteran Owned Business Round Table, Indeed

Challenge Accepted: Mastering Military Transition

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“Women veterans are a strong group of people. They worked hard, deployed, raised families and sacrificed their time, energy and selves to earn their ranks, titles and places in history books that have not yet been written.

Women have great instincts and deserve a seat at every table, in every boardroom, at every town hall meeting and at any discussion where decisions need to be made. Women have always been an integral part of society and [the] future of the world. It’s time that women are put out front to receive the recognition of all the decades of hard work that has been put in to establish a legacy in the armed forces.” -retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez, USMC

Let’s meet one of these esteemed women, 28-year USMC veteran retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez. MGySgt Perez began her career in the Marines on May 17, 1993, and retired on December 31, 2021. Her service included three deployments: Bosnia in 1996, Iraq in 2008-2009 and Afghanistan in 2010-2011. She was stationed in many places around the globe, including 29 Palms, California; Iwakuni, Japan; Camp Pendleton, California; Vancouver, Washington; Marine Corps Air Station, Mira Mar in San Diego and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Although Perez was raised in a family of veterans, the military was not initially in her plans. She graduated high school and went on to college at the University of Montana but returned home to Oregon when she didn’t have the funds to continue her studies. There, she worked a few odd jobs until a recruiter found her and offered her the opportunity to join the Marine Corps. You can say the rest is history!

While serving in the Marines, Perez found that women progressed in the Marine Corps in both rank and job opportunities at a fair rate. She never felt as though being a woman held her back. Previously closed jobs in the combat arms MOS had opened, and women were assigned to traditionally male units. Early in that transition, women were doing combat supporting jobs, admin, supply

In 2008 for one year as their Logistics/Supply Chief. The unit was assigned a Civil Affairs mission. There were only a handful of women assigned to that battalion for the duration of that deployment.

Transitions can be difficult. Moving from a career in the military to civilian life is one of those challenging transitions. I asked Perez how she prepared for her retirement. She had been thinking about the transition for a few years before submitting papers to retire and felt as prepared as she could be. Perez is a few college courses shy of a BS in Criminal Justice and initially thought about returning to school at the beginning of her transition. Throughout her time in the Marine Corps, she worked in the Supply/Logistics field and felt that her resume would make her a strong candidate in either of those fields. She knew she had more to give beyond the last 29 years of her life as a Marine, and she was excited to see what opportunities awaited her.

Initially, she took a few months off to spend time with her family and relax. Everyone should take time off from the rigorous schedule the military requires of its service members to just exhale. She highly recommends this approach! In February 2022, she was given the opportunity to work for Liberty Military Housing. She currently holds the position of Director of Military Affairs, Southwest Marines, Housing. Her region encompasses Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms, Yuma, Colville and Kansas City — a few locations where she was stationed during her career.

I asked her how her military career prepared her for her current role in her civilian career. She responded, “Being a Marine and being a person of service was something I am very good at. I am flexible yet mission-oriented. I like to get things done and take care of people. This job is the perfect fit for me. My job responsibilities are very closely tied to the military and taking care of military families. I bridge the gap between our government housing partner and Liberty Military Housing. I am honored to be able to continue to be so closely connected to Marines and military families that live aboard our installations.”

I inquired about the advice she would give someone considering a career in the military or someone preparing to transition to the civilian sector. Perez replied, “Choosing a career in the USMC is like no other job in the world. Hard work will always be rewarded and not go unnoticed. Being a Marine is a tough job that comes with a lot of responsibility. Upholding and honoring traditions of all the men and women that have gone before us is something that sets Marines apart. There are very few Marines and even fewer female Marines — expect to work just as hard as all of those around you, if not harder, both men and women. There are so many intangible traits and feelings that make Marines who they are that cannot be explained — experiences and a sense of pride that cannot be compared to anything else. Being a good leader takes time and  work. More energy and personal time spent away from your daily duties are what it takes to go the distance in the USMC. Working hard and staying focused is the best advice I can give.

”Perez continues, “Think ahead about your transition out of the USMC. A few years in advance, have a mental picture of what you want your life after to look like. Take the necessary steps to prepare to depart. It will have to be a fluid plan until you make your final decision. Be flexible and keep an open mind. You will have so much to offer the world, more than you can just write on a paper or summarize on a resume. You will have all the tools you need to make the move, don’t be afraid; just have a plan with a few options.

”And that, my friends, is proof that the long-standing slogan, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine,” is as true today as it was when Marine Corps Master Sergeant Paul Woyshner first shouted it. I enjoyed my time with MGySgt Perez and appreciated her insight into navigating the transition after a career in service to our country.

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