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.

Retired Military Working Dogs Overcoming PTSD

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military working dog posing in a grassy area

The men and women of the United States Armed Forces aren’t the only ones who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from active duty — the dogs who serve so bravely alongside them often do as well.

Mission K9 Rescue, a working dog rescue in Houston, TX rehabilitates and re-homes retired military and contract working dogs. Since 2013, they’ve saved over 1,100 dogs and reunited over 540 dogs with former military handlers.

Often, retired military and contact working dogs have been in situations that have caused them severe anxiety and stress. Many retire with issues such as PTSD. These dogs need time with us to decompress and reintegrate into society, and Mission K9 Rescue works with these dogs to make them suitable for adoption.

Rehabilitating Retired Military Working Dogs Who Have PTSD

Causes — Retired working dogs frequently come to Mission K9 from high-intensity and potentially traumatizing circumstances. Many are trained for dangerous and high-risk tasks such as tracking, search and rescue, explosive detection, patrol, and attack, many of them undergoing explosions, air drops, and heavy-handedness by uncaring handlers. Because of this, many of these dogs exhibit PTSD. Of the dogs brought to Mission K9 Rescue, approximately 30% of military working dogs and 50% of contract working dogs exhibit PTSD. Contract working dogs are a higher percentage, as on top of the training and stressful scenarios, they are more likely to be handled poorly and often aggressively.

Removal From Kennels — After retirement, many military working dogs are stuck in kennels, whether overseas or stateside. The first step for rehabilitation of these dogs is to get them out of these kennels as soon as possible, one of the many reasons being that the kennel environment does not help their PTSD.

Symptoms — Dogs with PTSD may exhibit symptoms such as shaking, crying, and trying to hide. They can also be aggressive around people, including being resource aggressive. They may also not trust, occasionally mistrusting one sex over the other due to handler neglect or abuse. Various triggers from their service cause these behaviors.

Treatment Once Mission K9 Rescue determines a dog to have PTSD, they isolate them in their own play yard so they can get used to their new surroundings and begin to feel a bit more grounded and peaceful. Mission K9 Rescue will also make sure they’re not around any loud noises, which can trigger their condition. “We treat them all the same, giving equal amounts of love and care,” says co-founder, Bob Bryant. “If they cower or show aggression, we’ll take more time with them, working to gain their trust and love. Unfortunately, if dogs with PTSD have continued difficulties, we may have them prescribed Prozac or Trazodone, though we try to keep this at a minimum as there can be nasty side effects.” However, though Mission K9 Rescue can mitigate PTSD with time, love, and patience, “We unfortunately cannot cure it,” says Bob.

Adoption Despite not being able to fully cure PTSD, Mission K9 Rescue has seen many dogs initially exhibiting PTSD eventually decompress, become adoptable, and find happy homes with devoted caretakers. Behavioral changes that show less agitation, return of normal drive, and sociability are some of the signs we look for when evaluating a dog for adoption that initially presented with PTSD.

Awareness is the key for dogs with PTSD. It takes someone with patience, awareness, and compassion to take care of a dog that has any level of trauma. But as that dog begins to find peace in its new home and develops a sense of trust for its new owner, the richness of the bond can be incredibly special.

Chicago fundraiser ‘Ruck March’ supports veterans in need

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Veterans at the Ruck March

By , Fox 32

With Memorial Day around the corner, one Chicago veterans group is preparing for their biggest fundraiser of the year.

The daily average of veterans who die by suicide has dropped, but the pandemic put a huge dent in services.

The big event later this month aims to show veterans they are not alone.

The Chicago Veterans Ruck March is 17 miles and raises money for veterans in need — 17 miles representing how many veterans die each day from suicide.

“The Ruck March is basically bringing awareness and it’s also giving soldiers a therapeutic value that they can wear their lost soldiers picture, they can do it in their honor,” said Carlos Vega, Veteran Outreach and Events Coordinator. “And also bring awareness that PTSD is an issue and it needs to be addressed.”

For eight years, the organization Chicago Veterans has hosted 300 community events in 45 Chicagoland communities.

“This is all about keeping us together as a team. One team, one fight. We’re all fighting one mission. We’re all battling ourselves,” said Army veteran Armando Vega, Organizer of Veterans in Recovery.

Vega has been sober for more than eight years. Through Chicago Veterans, he launched the Veterans in Recovery program. Money from the fundraiser helps keep the program going.

“It’s all about paying it forward, helping others and ain’t nothing better than helping another brother or sister veteran,” Vega said.

Click here to read the full article on Fox 32.

Paws of War Placing Emergency Feeding Stations for Ukraine Abandoned Pets

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woman bent down feeding several dogs

When Russia began to invade the Ukraine in February 2022, nobody knew how long the turmoil would last or how much destruction would be caused. Everywhere you look there are animals, once someone’s pet, roaming the streets desperate to find any morsel of food. Paws of War was one of the first organizations on the ground in Ukraine providing food and supplies to the people and their pets who stayed behind.

Paws of War are in Ukraine helping by setting up 100’s of feeding stations they quickly made, and they struggle to keep them stocked with food and water as so many animals are using them to survive. They are providing food and other supplies to animals and people around the country. While Paws of War specializes in helping animals, they have also been assisting people in Ukraine because it’s so desperately needed.

The group is still figuring out how much food and water feeding stations they need, how often they will need to be refilled, and how far apart to place them. For volunteers traveling over borders to help the animals, the trips can take six hours.

“It’s so important that we are in Ukraine talking to the people there, giving them the help they need to help themselves and the poor suffering animals left behind,” explains Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “Some families have 20 dogs and 40 cats taken into their homes because they can’t bear to see them starving and suffering. It’s very sad. Most of these people are humble, with modest living conditions, but they are very pet friendly. They have opened their hearts and their homes to try and stop the suffering.”

While 4.7 million citizens have fled Ukraine, some have stayed behind and are doing what they can to help the animals that have been left. They are regular citizens who have essentially turned their home into an animal shelter. Daria, for example, had one cat before the invasion but now has at least 50 that she is trying to feed daily.

“Until Paws of War was able to bring me food, I would scavenge around empty houses and garbage looking for scraps of food, anything I could find,” says Daria. “Now I can give these poor cats a chance to survive, and God willing, I can get them to a safe home one day.”

The need for help is everywhere. Every street you look down has a pack of dogs foraging for food. Cristina Tutunaru is one of 20 to 30 Paws of War volunteers who have been working with Ukrainian and other rescue groups.

Paws of War relies on volunteers at the borders of Ukraine in Romania and Poland to purchase and deliver supplies, assist refugees’ animals and meet with heartbroken Ukrainians surrendering their beloved pets before they continue their uncertain journeys.

“We had a girl walk in with a goldfish bowl. People there are close to their animals. They were traveling for two days,” said Misseri.

Paws of War is seeking donations to help support its Ukraine mission of helping pets and people. To donate, visit the site:pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/156471-help-save-the-refugees-pets-of-ukraine. To see a video of Paws of War in action in Ukraine, visit: youtube.com/watch?v=-vuU0BssMws.

Paws of War has been operating around the world since 2014 helping military save the animals they rescue while deployed overseas. They have helped veterans with numerous issues, including suicide, service and support dogs, companion cats and dogs, food insecurity, veterinary care, and animal rescue for deployed military. As the demand for Paws of War’s services grew, traditional fundraisers like galas and golf outings were sidelined, putting a crimp in the needed funding to keep these services going. Paws of War has a large loyal following of supporters and looks forward to working with new corporate sponsors to keep these life-saving programs running.

About Paws of War
Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that assists military members and their pets, rescues and trains dogs in being service dogs, and provides companion animals to veterans. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or donate, visit its site at: pawsofwar.org.

Armed with a Legal Degree, a Veteran Continues His Mission

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soldier in uniform talking on phone and two other pictures of the same soldier with Army buddies

By Antoinette Balta, Esq., LLM

Andrew Alton enlisted in the United States Marine Corps upon graduating from high school. He served on an intelligence collections team after studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. During his time in the Marine Corps, Alton deployed twice: first, in support of humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and then to a combat deployment in the Sangin region of Afghanistan. Following an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps as a Sergeant in 2012, Alton returned to Southern California to continue his studies. Alton received his B.S. in Biology from Cal State Fullerton and then his Juris Doctor from the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

While in law school, Alton longed to continue his mission of service and sought out ways to give back. Alton’s search ultimately led to Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI), a nonprofit law firm that provides free and life-changing services to low-income and homeless veterans.

Alton interned at VLI throughout his law school career and was exposed to several different areas of law including housing, complex veteran benefits appeals and discharge upgrades for survivors of military sexual trauma and other disenfranchised Veterans.

Armed with a law school degree and significant legal training, Alton was offered a variety of employment options. Alton applied to his alma mater, and was awarded a post-graduate fellowship that would allow him to work for one year at VLI. Alton’s fellowship at VLI helped numerous veterans in need of legal services in Southern California. Indeed, Alton helped over 100 veterans and their families remove barriers to housing, healthcare, education and employment.

Upon completing his fellowship, Alton was so intertwined with the veteran community and provided so much value to VLI that he was offered a full-time attorney position. Alton enjoys the different challenges and legal obstacles that he encounters daily. Here is a small sampling of the type of cases that Alton resolves in a typical month. While cases vary in terms of size and scope, Alton treats each case with the same passion and urgency, recognizing that any veteran in crisis deserves a zealous advocate.

A veteran’s landlord served a legal 60-day eviction notice to an 81-year-old Air Force veteran during COVID, who had been a tenant for 12 years. Although VLI determined that the eviction notice was lawful, this veteran desperately needed more time to find new housing and relocate his belongings — the isolation and lack of resources during the pandemic was going to render the veteran homeless. Alton was able to negotiate with the landlord to obtain an extra six weeks for the veteran to locate new housing and, most importantly, celebrate the holidays in his old home.

As a direct result of Alton’s advocacy, this veteran can alleviate his fears of homelessness, and have the time necessary to locate a new home.

In a separate case, an elderly Army veteran lived for months in deplorable conditions. The landlord did nothing to fix the conditions, despite evidence of a severe roach infestation. Worse yet, the landlord ignored the veteran’s repeated requests for extermination services. Recognizing the unsafe living conditions, Alton negotiated with the landlord for the veteran to move into a new, upgraded apartment, free from infestation, along with two months of waived rent. This resulted in a $3,740 surplus for the veteran who lives on a fixed income.

Recognizing that many veterans who fought to defend American justice cannot afford to access it, Alton committed himself to serving the greater good, and advocate for those who need a hand up. Each day presents a new opportunity for Alton to brainstorm with his team of over 15 colleagues at VLI to determine how to best uplift the veteran community.

The Value and Influence of the Disability Population

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Paralympian John Register seen in the long jump competition in a large staduim

By John Register

When we reflect on the past year’s events — racial tensions, remote work, the great resignation, mental health challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic, we see marginalized communities, specifically disabled veterans, and their societal impact are significantly overlooked. The disability population, the largest of all marginalized populations, still finds itself on the outside of the diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation. The advancement of people with disabilities in the U.S. has come a long way and has a long way to go. Why does society not see the value of this dedicated and dependable pipeline of talent? Image; John Register earned the silver medal for the long jump in the 2000 Paralympic Games.

The Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) states that 50,000 veterans might not have a place to call home any given night, and 3.8 million veterans have a service-connected disability. According to DVNF, roughly 200,000 men and women are transitioning out of the military each year, elevating a platform to show veterans are a critical and rich source of talent.

In a business environment, veterans have high levels of adapting, leveraging advanced technical skills, resiliency, operational and team-building skills, organizational strength for staying committed and cross-cultural experiences that the job force demands. The U.S. Department of Labor placed the November 2021 veteran unemployment rate at 3.9 percent. The challenge remains with more companies and their ability to create a veteran-friendly workplace.

Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which was signed into law by George H. W. Bush, access to opportunities was open for people with disabilities. The hope was to finally engage people with disabilities into the greater society. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects people with disabilities from discrimination based on their disability. So, while the law allowed for curb cutouts, kneeling buses, and wider doors to bathrooms, we saw little happen in employment. Ted Kennedy Jr., co-chair of the disability equality index, calls employment the next great frontier for people with disabilities. I agree. Until we value people with disabilities, we won’t see a needed and significant shift in the unemployment rate of people with disabilities.

Disability increases the likelihood of disadvantage in social activities, income, housing and employment. But what are we missing? People with disabilities, 15 percent of the world population, have approximately $8 trillion in disposable income outlined in the Global Economics of Disability report. Stated in the 2018 Accenture Report, Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage, if companies embrace disability inclusion, they will gain access to a new talent pool of more than 10.7 million people. The report also stated the disability community is a vast, untapped market as the GDP could get a boost of up to $25 billion if just one percent more of persons with disabilities joined the U.S. labor force.

We also know that the disability community has the leverage to be a multi-million-dollar industry for untapped sectors, especially tourism, according to Maahs Travels. Accessible travel is the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry, with over 1.5 billion potential business and leisure travelers with exponential buying power.

Marginalized populations deserve equitable treatment as community members, especially in the veteran community. These statistics and facts are clear, and in moving forward, my hope, as a veteran who served six years in the U.S. Army — including in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and in active duty, with the U.S. Army World Class Athlete program, is that our nation recognizes the significant value in products and services that accommodate all people in society.

As public and private sectors, we must challenge ourselves to see the value and the influence of the disability population. It’s essential that we hire with a focus on diversity, directly market to diverse populations, design high-quality products, provide opportunities and services that are accessible, and find ways to incorporate inclusion strategies that create opportunities for us all.

Drew Carey: A Grateful Marine

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By Brady Rhoades

The Price is Right host and Hollywood icon Drew Carey is, in many ways, an unlikely Marine.

The congenial, bespectacled, self-described “peacenik” comedian served his country as a sergeant and field radio operator with the 25th Marine Regiment and calls the experience a pivot-point in his life.

“Military life and experiences gave me incredible experiences in leadership — especially in small groups, and under pressure,” Carey, 63, said in an interview with U.S. Veterans Magazine. “The military is not about yelling at someone to do things, as people wholly unfamiliar with the military would believe. There’s a tremendous amount of trust that other people will do their jobs and that you’ll do yours. So, there’s social pressure. And a lot of subservience to the mission and the greater good of the group. So, you learn to swallow that and perform because there are always stakes, great and small. And you never want to be the one who can’t rise to the occasion. You’re reminded of this dynamic constantly in the Marines. It’s just there. No one has to yell at you about it.”

Rewind to 1980. Carey, who hails from Cleveland, was jobless, broke and crashing at his brother’s California home when he joined the military.

It turned out to be a watershed move.

“I went from not being able to afford to eat or clothe myself to getting three meals a day. I had an instant family,” Carey said.

The lessons his new family — the Marine Corps — taught Carey ring true to him to this day. They explain, in part, why he’s committed to the ideal of service.

One of his most famous philanthropic efforts took place in 2014 when he promised $10,000 to help find the perpetrators of a fake “ice bucket challenge” involving an autistic 14-year-old Ohio boy who had been told he was going to be doused in ice but instead was showered in urine, tobacco and cigarette butts.

“Horrendous,” Carey tweeted at the time.

Drew Carey seated in helicopter wearing fatigues and posing with another Marine
Drew Carey and others meet with and perform for military members during comedy tour for USO.

Drew Carey and others meet with and perform for military members during comedy tour for USO.

Carey, who checked out a joke book from a local library after his stint in the Marines, is a big supporter of libraries. Over the years, he has donated millions to the Ohio Library Foundation and Cleveland Public Library.

And he advocates for active military personnel and veterans — performing in USO tours, competing in the Marine Corps Marathon, and raising money in various ways.

On a lighter note, Carey continues to advocate for the Cleveland Browns, who sported a disappointing 8-9 record this season. After Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked nine times in a 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 3, the funny man tweeted this:

Maybe the #Browns offensive line just doesn’t like Baker Mayfield?

Ever think of that?

Or it’s some kind of insurance scam.

I dunno.

When Carey completed his military service in 1986, he turned to standup comedy at the Cleveland Comedy Club and other venues.

In 1988, he competed on Star Search. In 1991, he landed a spot on HBO’s Young Comedians Special and appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He went on to co-star in the Disney TV series The Good Life and worked as a staff writer on The Gaby Hoffmann Show.

Actors Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Pauley Perrette, and Jai Rodriguez pose outside smiling
(L-R) Actors Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Pauley Perrette, and Jai Rodriguez attend the 29th Annual AIDS Walk. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

By the mid-1990s, Carey was a household name, starring in The Drew Carey Show, which ran from 1995-2004, and the improv/sketch show Whose Line Is It Anyway? on which he was host and producer from 1998-2007.

The success of that show led to the creation of Drew Carey’s Improv All Stars, a talented troupe that performed across the country.

Carey was cast in movie roles and penned a best-selling memoir titled, Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined.

In 2007, he was named the host of The Price Is Right, succeeding longtime host Bob Barker. This year marks the show’s 50th anniversary.

As if that doesn’t keep him busy enough, Carey is more-than-passingly involved in music.

“I play rock n roll every Friday night on Sirius channel 21,” Carey said. “Little Steven’s Underground Garage. It’s called the Friday Night Freakout, and it airs from 8 to 11 p.m. EST. Also streams on the Sirius app. It’s my passion project.”

Most people know all about Carey’s TV career — and now they know

Drew Carey speaks at a podium at the Veterans Inaugural Ball
Actor Drew Carey attends the Veterans Inaugural Ball.(Kris Connor/Getty Images)

about his love of rock and roll — but what do they know of pre-famous Drew Carey? Probably not much.

That goes back to the unlikely part, although Carey said he’s not that unlikely.

“I know it sounds paradoxical, but despite being such a supporter of our troops and the military, I’m a real peacenik. I’m half hippy, to be honest. But I know I’m not the only one.”

He’s also not the only Buddhist who’s served his country.

“I discovered Buddhism and meditation late in life,” he said. “You do it because it’s the least conflicted and happiest way to live. And because it’s just the right thing to do. It took me a while, but I no longer consider anyone else above or below me. I used to think I did. But I didn’t. I would be intimidated by or jealous of different types of people in power or with different social standings. And I would feel sorry for people who didn’t have as much in one way or another. Now none of that matters to me as far as how I treat them. We all have our path. I try to treat everyone with the same dignity and respect.”

And, of course, he will always be an Ohio-style diehard when it comes to veterans, a feeling that took root in his teens.

Drew Carey as a young  Marine headshot
Drew Carey during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I graduated high school in 1975, the year we got the last helicopter out,” he said. “I delivered the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a paperboy. They broke the Mai Lai Massacre story. I remember folding all those papers with those awful pictures on the front page. And I remember how badly soldiers were treated when they got home, both by civilians and our institutions. I believe it’s important for us to always recognize the sacrifices it takes to serve in our military, and how necessary they are… We need to recognize and applaud people in our military who do their jobs well, and with honor. Period.”

Army veteran hikes across the nation to raise awareness of veteran suicides

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Alex Seling greated by dozens of people at the walking finish line

By Erika Ritchie, O.C. Register
The last thing that Alex Seling did after finishing a coast-to-coast hike that started in Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and ended in Dana Point was to step into the Pacific Ocean.

On Monday, Jan. 31, Seling, who served as an Army medic in Iraq, was greeted by dozens of people at Doheny State Beach after walking the last part of his journey along the San Juan Creek trail.

Stepping into the Pacific, he finished a 4,000-plus mile trek dedicated to raising awareness of and addressing suicides among military veterans. As part of his efforts, he raised more than $6,500 for Warrior Expedition and Mission 22.

According to the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report compiled by the Department of Veteran Affairs, suicide among veterans appears to be increasing in America at a pace similar to the broader civilian population. In 2018, 6,435 veterans killed themselves, compared with 6,056 in 2005.

“It feels unbelievable,” Seling said after reaching the ocean waters. “It was absolutely the best moment of my life. It’s a little overwhelming and I’m not sure it’s really hit me yet, but I’m really happy and proud of the journey.”

It took Seling, originally from Georgia, 13 months to get to Dana Point. He began his hike along the American Discovery Trail on Dec. 21, 2020. He crossed the Appalachian Mountains and hiked through the Rocky Mountains. At Grand Junction, Colo., he headed to Moab National Park in Utah and then walked southwest toward Dana Point.

His favorite spots were in West Virginia, southern Ohio and Colorado, he said.

On Sunday, he walked along Ortega Highway, saying it was likely the most dangerous road he had traveled. “It was very narrow along the shoulder and I had to dart in and out.”

Seling said since getting out of the Army in 2010, he has continued to have a thirst for adventure. He joined the Army for just that reason.

Now, long-distance hiking fills that need.

“To me, it’s very therapeutic and has helped me grow as a person,” he said. “It helps me be much more confident and gives me time to reflect and process things I’ve dealt  with.”

Kiki Macdonald, of Dana Point, was among those there to greet Seling at Doheny. She first met him when he was previously hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and she was at a Mammoth campsite.

“Once I found this out (about his cause), I decided we would be friends forever,” Macdonald said. “I followed his journey the rest of the way as he made it to Canada.”

In 2019, when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Seling met up with her. And, she paid the favor back to him for this hike. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, she met him along his route, bringing leftovers and making camps where he could rest and recharge.

“I was proud to help support him along the way,” she said. “I love that he went for it and followed through.”

Read the original article posted on the OC Register

RallyPoint Partners with Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers on New Series of Essays Highlighting Powerful Stories about the Military-Connected Caregiving Experience

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Man in wheelchair sits and holds dumbbell in his hand. The caregiver controls exercises.

RallyPoint, the premiere digital platform for the military community, and Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI), a leading nonprofit supporting the health, strength, and resilience of U.S. caregivers, announced a partnership to highlight the caregiving experience within the military community.

Through a new series of powerful, first-person essays from caregivers, the series aims to elevate the voices of those helping loved ones who served in the United States Military.

The new project showcases the compelling journeys of caregivers who provide for a loved one who sacrificed for our country, yet often go unheard, unseen, and unrecognized.

Together, RCI and RallyPoint are leveraging their networks and resources to raise awareness of the challenges and shortfalls the 5.5 million military-connected caregivers endure daily,– as well as their inspiring stories. The first three essays of the series include:

“We are proud to partner with the Rosalynn Carter Institute on this new series in order to amplify the voices of Military Caregivers, an important part of our military community who are often underserved,” said Dave Gowel, CEO of RallyPoint. “Our veterans sacrificed for our safety and security, and now their loved ones are sacrificing in order to provide the care they need. We are excited to share these stories with our millions of members in order to increase caregiver access to a stronger community with more accessible resources.”

“With so many caregivers within the military community, this partnership with RallyPoint is a natural fit,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, Chief Executive Officer of RCI. “Through our everyday work supporting caregivers across the country, there is no doubt that those within the military community face some of the toughest challenges. Raising awareness of their stories through this powerful new project is just a first step in making sure these caregivers are seen, heard, and given the resources they need to persevere.”

Excerpts from this powerful series include:

“Building that trust was showing her that she’s my world, she’s my life, she’s what I do because it is my full time job. This came to light when handling the relationship with the VA. When it comes to the VA and navigating their system, be persistent. The phrase “the squeaky wheel gets heard” is 100% accurate. My label at the VA is “the sister;” when they see me coming they know I am going to advocate for her as hard as I can and will not accept no for an answer. I am relentless and will end up where I need to be even if I have to go to every single office.”Keesha McCloud

“As my Veteran father’s primary caregiver, I schedule medical appointments. I collect medical records. I administer medications and treatment. I attend a constant stream of exams and procedures. I sit in waiting rooms, wait for prescriptions, sift through bills and fill out paperwork. … Because I cannot earn a living outside of caregiving, we depend on my father’s monthly disability and pension checks to stay afloat and no other income comes into the household. I do this out of loyalty, deep concern and love for my Dad, a Veteran who volunteered to serve this country and was injured in an accident during service. It’s a 24/7 commitment and there are no paid vacations.”Eric Barnett

The series will be an ongoing representation of the unconditional support caregivers lend while providing care to veterans from diverse military backgrounds with diverse mental and physical ailments, along with the sacrifices they make. Essays will be posted on RallyPoint’s military curated content destination, Command Post, and tagged with the “caregiver tag” which easily connects Milvet caregivers across the globe.

About RallyPoint
RallyPoint is the premier online platform where warriors talk and listen. With nearly 2 million members, RallyPoint continuously brings military connected people to together through their shared experiences to discuss all things military, from professional questions to personal stories. Visit http://solutions.rallypoint.com/ to learn more and follow RallyPoint on Facebook and Twitter @RallyPoint.

About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers
The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers promotes the health, strength, and resilience of caregivers throughout the United States. Established in 1987 by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the Institute’s priority is the family caregiver: those individuals who care for a relative, friend, or loved one. To learn more about RCI, visit www.rosalynncarter.org.

Vietnam Veteran Continues Serving Others Through Legal Advocacy & Emergency Response

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veteran advocate sits with group at table

By Sophia Chapple, KellyAnn Romanych, and Antoinette Balta, Esq., LLM

Like many fellow Vietnam veterans, Scot Douglas dedicates his life to service and remembrance of others. His hardworking nature to bettering the lives of fellow veterans is exemplified by his journey from voluntarily enlisting in the Army during the Vietnam War to eventually pursuing law to close the justice gap for veterans and military families.

As a former probono-turned-staff attorney, Douglas has helped more than 1,200 veterans gain priceless peace of mind through his tireless work at Veterans Legal Institute (VLI).

In all honesty, Douglas did not want to be drafted. Despite pursuing his college degree, he was reclassified as 1-A (eligible for military service). This did not stop him from contributing to the Vietnam War effort. Instead of going the traditional route of waiting to get drafted, Douglas pursued his own niche – languages and linguistics.

While researching extensively to find a language school to learn Japanese, he found if he enlisted, the Army would offer him the opportunity to attend a language school. The only catch was he didn’t get to choose his language, and as such, was sent to Vietnamese Language School for 47 weeks instead. Due to his voluntary enlistment and language training, he was deployed to Vietnam where he served as a translator. Douglas continued to serve as a translator once he returned to CONUS (Continental United States) from deployment.

Douglas knew he wanted to pursue language learning before enlisting in the Army, however, whilst in the Army the true extent of his passion became clear. After being discharged from his first enlistment, he attended college to get a degree in Linguistics with a minor in Anthropology, simultaneously participating in the ROTC program. This allowed him to dedicate his time and expertise to the Army once again, and he served in the Army Air Defense and Intelligence units.

After a second discharge from the Army, Douglas went on to work for the United States Postal Service; another highly essential role in our country. Despite enduring multiple personal hardships during his time with USPS, he proved his resilience by completing an MBA through evening classes.

Once Douglas retired from the Postal Service, and with his wife’s encouragement, he decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and attend law school. At 62 years old he began law school – a testament to his dedication to learning and his continuous commitment to contributing to society.

Impressively, Douglas passed the Bar exams in both California and Arizona. His decision to volunteer with VLI was spurred by a talk he attended. Knowing homeless, disabled and low-income veterans desperately needed free legal aid, Douglas eventually began volunteering 5 days a week. Valuing his hard work and dedication, VLI offered Douglas a stipend and the flexibility to work remotely.

Scot and Marion Douglas provide year-round, critical volunteer emergency response support with the Yavapai County Jeep Posse to protect fellow Arizonans
Scot and Marion Douglas provide year-round, critical volunteer emergency
response support with the Yavapai County Jeep Posse to protect fellow
Arizonans.

His work at VLI began with meeting exponential requests for assistance in veterans benefits, discharge upgrades, immigration, consumer issues, landlord-tenant matters and estate planning. Now, with the mentorship of VLI Board Member and pro bono attorney Sheila-Marie Finkelstein, Douglas specializes in estate planning, recognizing the importance of assisting his fellow veterans with this important legal area they would not normally consider.

Estate planning requires an unrelenting dedication as clients can face immediate concerns. In one pressing case, Douglas completed an estate plan for a veteran just weeks before he passed on, so his house would go to his son. In another, he fulfilled an immediate request for a Durable Power of Attorney, where he interviewed the client, drafted up the necessary documents, and sent them to the veteran the next day.

Douglas is an inspiring and compassionate individual who has shown unerring resilience and perseverance through his years of service to our nation. He is truly an exemplary individual, one we all can look up to, and VLI is extremely fortunate to have him in its ranks.

Join VLI and help provide free legal services to our veterans and military families. Together, we can greatly reduce veteran homelessness and suicide. To date, VLI has served more than 8,000 veterans and restored over two million dollars in veterans benefits.

To learn more please visit VetsLegal.org

The Leading Cause of Blindness for Veterans

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blind veteran witha cane crossing the street

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

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

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

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

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

VA research provides valuable tools for vision treatment

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

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

Using artificial intelligence to diagnose glaucoma severity

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

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

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

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

Source: va.gov

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Multiple Hire GI Hiring Events During June-December!
    June 21, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  4. San Diego Unified Construction Expo 2022
    July 13, 2022
  5. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022