Kyle Carpenter: Worth the Sacrifice

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Kyle Carpenter speaks in to microphone

By Kellie Speed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAWS for Veterans Passes House Legislation

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Senator is standing at podium that displays the text Pass Paws

By Natalie Rodgers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Small Business Loans & Grants for Disabled Veterans

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close-up hand business man yping keyboard laptop

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.

Here are some of them:

Small Business Association Veterans Advantage 7(a) Loan

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

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.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Program

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 Department of Veterans Affairs Small Business Grants

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.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehab and Employment Ownership Track

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.

Small Business Administration Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business Program

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.

10 Activities You May Not Know That Help With PTSD

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Two young beekepers in protective uniform working on a small apiary farm, getting honeycomb from the wooden beehive

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

About DiversityComm

DiversityComm, Inc. (DCI) is the proud publisher of six nationally recognized diversity focused magazines: Black EOE Journal, HISPANIC Network Magazine, Professional WOMAN’s Magazine, U.S. Veterans Magazine, Diversity in STEAM Magazine and DIVERSEability Magazine. We are dedicated to inform, educate, employ and provide equal opportunity within corporate America in order to create a more diverse workplace. For more information, visit www.diversitycomm.net

Is a Service Dog Right for You? Here’s What You Need to Know

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Man in military uniform with German shepherd dog, outdoors

By Nat Rodgers

What are service dogs?

Service dogs are specially trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a chronic disability who cannot perform the work or task independently for him or herself. Service dogs can, for example, pick things up, guide people who are blind, alert people who are deaf or pull a wheelchair. They can also remind a person to take prescribed medications and calm a person with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack. It is important to note that service animals are working animals, not pets.

How can service dogs help Veterans with mental health conditions?

Veterans with substantial mobility limitations associated with a mental health disorder for which a service dog has been identified as the optimal way to address the mobility impairment may be eligible for veterinary health benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative. A substantial mobility limitation indicates that most common life and work activities (i.e. leaving the house, getting to medical appointments, using public transportation, etc.) are impaired or prevented for the person more than half the time.

Under the Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative, this benefit has been offered for veterans with a mental health condition. It provides comprehensive coverage for the canine’s health and wellness and any prescription medications necessary to enable the dog to perform its duties in service to the veteran.

How can a veteran apply for VA veterinary health benefits?

A veteran should meet with a VA mental health provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The mental health provider and care team will evaluate and determine whether the mental health condition is the primary cause of the veteran’s substantial mobility limitations. The team will also assess whether a mobility service dog would be the optimal intervention or treatment approach for the veteran. If the team considers a service dog to be the optimal intervention, they will apply to receive the benefit on behalf of the veteran by contacting the VA Offices of Mental Health Services and Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service at VHAPSASClinicalSupportTeam@va.gov.

Each veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:

  • Goals that are to be accomplished through other assistive technology or therapy
  • Goals that are to be accomplished through the use of a service dog
  • Ability and means, including potential co-caregivers, to care for the dog currently and in the future

The veteran will be informed if the veterinary benefit has been granted. Veterans approved for the benefit are then referred to ADI-accredited agencies, assistancedogsinternational.org, to apply for a service dog.

What is covered by the VA veterinary health benefit?

Veterans with working service dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service. VA does not pay for the dog or for boarding, grooming, food or other routine expense associated with owning a dog. Additional information about VA’s veterinary health benefits can be found at www.prosthetics.va.gov/ServiceAndGuideDogs.asp.

In late 2016, the Center for Compassionate Care Innovation partnered with the VA Offices of Mental Health Services and Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service to extend eligibility for veterinary health care, specialized equipment and travel support to veterans with chronic mobility issues associated with a mental health disorder. These benefits help veterans with some of the costs involved with caring for their service dogs when they receive them from an approved agency accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

For more information on the benefits of service dogs please visit: assistancedogsinternational.org.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

For Veterans, Recognizing and Treating Hearing Problems Can Enhance Lives

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Today’s solutions conveniently target noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus through digital technology.

By Brian Taylor, Signia Hearing Aids

The U.S. military is an authority on the study of hearing loss. The Department of Defense (DoD), for example, operates the Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE), in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to enhance operational performance and quality of life. The VA, for its part, runs the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, a leader in the treatment of hearing issues, including tinnitus — that ringing in the ears that afflicts about one in 10 Americans but disproportionally affects veterans.

It stands to reason the DoD and VA are experts in the field because hearing loss and tinnitus are among the most common disabilities suffered by veterans. In fact, it’s VA policy that once a veteran is enrolled in VA health care, he or she is automatically eligible for diagnostic audiology. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America1, 2.7 million veterans receive treatment or disability compensation for hearing problems. It is in veterans’ best interest to avail themselves of these services because hearing loss, diagnosed early, is eminently and conveniently treatable through modern technology.

Awareness of Hearing Loss is the First Step
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates 26 million U.S. adults have suffered damage to their hearing from exposure to noise. In that context, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has in the past cited data indicating that veterans are 30 percent more likely than others to suffer severe hearing loss.

Most people who decide they need hearing aids are in their 60s and 70s, however about half of all military veterans—many of whom are at a higher risk of tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss — are below the age of 55. In other words, many Americans address the effects of hearing loss later in life, but veterans often grapple with symptoms, such as tinnitus, earlier.

Veterans have higher rates of tinnitus than the general public, in part because many were exposed to excessive noise — machinery, engine noise, artillery fire and more. Tinnitus isn’t the same as hearing loss, but studies have shown it can be a harbinger of things to come. And there are other symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss to be aware of, especially because younger veterans may not expect them to pose a problem.

Noise-induced hearing loss leads to difficulty discerning high-pitched sounds. When a veteran has problems hearing high frequencies, it impacts communication and their ability to understand voices. It may not be obvious there’s a problem, because hearing loss is often associated with a lack of volume, but noise-induced hearing loss can present secondary symptoms, such as fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

Then there’s the issue of “hidden” hearing loss, which the DoD, HCE and others have been studying. Put simply, people with hidden hearing loss experience some of the same symptoms as those with noise-induced hearing loss — they’re distracted in noisy settings or they mishear what people are telling them — but when they visit an audiologist, their hearing tests come out normal. We’re just beginning to understand hidden hearing loss, but we know about it because patients report their difficulties communicating and seek solutions to lead fuller lives.

Modern Technology Can Impact Hearing Positively
Such solutions exist today in the form of digital, network-enabled hearing aids. The words “hearing aid” may conjure up images of bulky devices worn by older individuals. But because it’s become clear many millions of people — across a spectrum of age and demographics — would benefit from new solutions, hearing aids have evolved tremendously.

For starters, today’s devices aren’t big, beige and bulky. Like other consumer electronics, hearing aids are smaller and sleeker, made possible by digitization. Some even resemble consumer earbuds and come in attractive colors.

Moreover, they include advanced capabilities. Traditional hearing aids focused primarily on amplifying sound; today’s hearing aids can also target specific frequencies and filter out background noise through real-time signal processing. And they’re easily rechargeable, which is not only convenient, but also ensures accessibility for veterans with limited dexterity.

Other features in select modern hearing aids include:
• “Own voice” processing, a feature that recognizes the wearer’s voice and processes it separately from other sounds, overcoming a common complaint of people with hearing aids who perceive distortion when they speak.
• Face mask mode, an especially important feature during the COVID-19 pandemic, that helps overcome muffled speech by people wearing masks and improves communication.
• Acoustic motion sensors, which sense movement and automatically adjust settings to delivering highly personalized hearing throughout the wearer’s day.

Today’s hearing aids can also specifically treat tinnitus. My company makes hearing aids that are available through the VA and incorporate a technology called notch therapy. With notch therapy, a hearing care professional identifies the pitch of a patient’s tinnitus and programs a frequency notch into their hearing aids to match that specific pitch, which can then suppress the tinnitus. Other therapies available in hearing aids introduce tones or other sounds that effectively distract the brain from the tinnitus itself.

Finally, in this age of smartphone apps and ubiquitous Internet connectivity, hearing aids can be programmed and adjusted online — an important feature for veterans whose nearest VA facility may be miles away.

The VA is a leader in teleaudiology, enabling remote access to its hearing aid services through veterans’ smartphones, tablets or PCs. Hearing aid makers supplement teleaudiology with features that allow hearing care professionals to conduct their fitting remotely.

Better Hearing, Better Lives
Today, more people suffering from hearing loss are embracing solutions that not only turn up the volume but conveniently and automatically improve their ability to communicate naturally. Because veterans are likely to have suffered tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss in the service of their country, they can rest easier in the knowledge that these solutions are available to them through the VA.
By recognizing the symptoms of hearing loss, seeking assistance and embracing the role of new technology, veterans can enjoy the path to enhanced human performance with clear hearing.

Brian Taylor, AuD, is the director of clinical content development for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Taylor has authored several peer reviewed articles and textbooks and is a highly sought out lecturer. Brian has nearly 30 years of experience as both a clinician, business manager and university instructor. His most recent textbooks, “Audiology Practice Management” and the 3rd edition of “Selecting and Fitting Hearing Aids” were published in 2020.

Sources:
hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/HLAA_HearingLoss_Facts_Statistics.pdf?pdf=FactStats
cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6028a4.htm
statista.com/statistics/250267/us-veterans-by-age-and-gender/
pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28885938/

Hearing Loss & Access to Captioned Telephone Service

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man wearing glasses and holding cell phone up to face

Did you know that approximately 48 million Americans experience some degree of hearing loss? Communication is central to all aspects of daily living—including health care, socialization, education, and employment—but without the right assistive tools and technology to facilitate that communication, people with hearing loss often encounter significant barriers. Accessible communication technology is integral to removing these barriers and ensuring the best possible quality of life.

Under Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Americans who experience a hearing and/or speech disability have a right to access telecommunications services that is “functionally equivalent” to those relied upon by consumers without such disabilities. One such available service is Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS), or captioned telephone service, which is provided for at no cost to users through a program administered by the Federal Communications Commission.

When a person with hearing loss picks up a captioned telephone (or uses a mobile app offered by an official captioned telephone service provider) to make a call, the call is automatically routed through a call center. Once the call is received in the call center, everything the other party says is accurately captioned either through a combination of advanced automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology and a skilled transcriber, or by ASR technology only. The captions are then sent back to the captioned telephone service user’s phone or app in real-time. It’s a vital service that enables people with hearing loss to easily engage in conversations.

Robert Eugene Richardson, a Vietnam veteran and retired attorney who experiences significant hearing loss, has benefited immensely from access to captioned telephone service. “It was a game changer for me,” he shares. “I used it when I worked at legal jobs outside the courtroom. I use it to communicate with my children, and I use it to communicate with my friends and my doctors and other healthcare providers. I use it to stay engaged in my community. I may be retired from work, but not from life. I am still involved, and the ability to connect with people using the phone is critical to this.”

The Clear2Connect Coalition is dedicated to empowering all people with hearing loss to access the communication tools they need to thrive, just as Mr. Richardson does. Comprised of a range of disability, military, and veteran-serving organizations, our goal is to advocate for protecting the quality and accuracy of captioned telephone services so that anyone who needs them can benefit. We know how important it is for people with hearing loss to be able to connect with the people in the families, networks, and communities. Telephone captioning helps makes this connection happen.

For more information on how to access free captioned telephone service, to learn about Clear2Connect Coalition’s advocacy efforts, and to sign up for their updates, visit the  Clear2Connect Coalition website or email them at: info@clear2connect.org.

Wounded Marine Makes it His Mission to Get Others the Help They Need

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Wounded Marine Makes it His Mission to Getclose up image of James Crosby in his Marine uniform looking over shoulder smiling

By Kellie Speed

When U.S. Marine veteran James “Shrapnel” Crosby was just 19 years old, he was hit in the back with shrapnel from a rocket attack at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

As a result, the combat warrior became one of the nation’s most severely wounded soldiers at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Since then, the Purple Heart recipient has made it his personal mission to help veterans returning to Massachusetts receive the comprehensive services they need. He was instrumental in passing the Crosby-Puller Combat Wounds Compensation Act created, “to require that a member of the uniformed services who is wounded or otherwise injured while serving in a combat zone continue to be paid monthly military pay and allowances, while the member recovers from the wound or injury, at least equal to the monthly military pay and allowances the member received immediately before receiving the wound or injury, to continue the combat zone tax exclusion for the member during the recovery period, and for other purposes.”

Crosby says his goal is simple: “I want to get the truth out about what is happening in the veteran’s community and also in communities in general. I hate differentiating between the two because I don’t believe that we’re two separate communities. I believe that we are just the warriors that signed up to go, but we are all part of the same community. When people say the veteran’s community and then everyone else, it hurts everybody.”

Crosby continued, “Reintegration back into the community as a whole is really important, and not isolating yourself. Unfortunately, veterans can start to become self-loathing because you are not operating at the level that you know you can, so you start to isolate and a lot of times people can’t make it out of that. And that’s where you’ve got guys and girls who commit suicide.”

As a result, the Massachusetts native founded a suicide prevention program known as SAVE (Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment) where, through case management, peer outreach workers visit with veterans, identify their issues and provide them with access to the resources needed to help them get back on track. The SAVE team acts on behalf of the veterans as a liaison between federal and state agencies to proactively assist in transitioning them into civilian life.

“If you start to eliminate problems one by one at a time or maybe three at a time, you start picking people’s problems away, so they might not think that their only option to gain control of their life when they’ve lost control of everything is suicide,” Crosby said. “That’s the mission behind SAVE.”

Last year, Crosby participated in an adaptive training program to help with his paralysis, but he believes his most life altering experience came with the assistance of the Warrior Angels Foundation, a non-profit that provides a personalized treatment protocol that pinpoints and treats the underlying condition for service members and veterans who have sustained a TBI while in the line of duty.

“I was having all these hormone imbalances in my brain,” he said. “They analyze what is out of balance and begin treatment. This needs to be the way that we’re treating traumatic brain injuries now because it’s not only saving people’s lives, but it’s enriching their lives. For me, I couldn’t stay awake because I couldn’t sleep (if that makes any sense) and it was just really bad, but this changed my life. I could think clearer and started getting some of my confidence back. My body started returning to its normal shape. This is what turned my life around. I’ve been on this path of self-betterment lately and just really concentrating on myself and while doing that, everything seems to be falling into place.”

Hiring Veterans With TBI And PTSD—Do’s And Don’ts For Employers And Hiring Managers

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American soldier in uniform and civil man in suit shaking hands with adequate national flag on background - United States of America

Do learn where to find and recruit veterans with TBI or PTSD. Don’t assume that veterans with TBI or PTSD are unemployable.

Do learn how to communicate with persons who have TBI or PTSD.

Don’t assume that veterans with TBIor PTSD lack the necessary education, training or skills for employment.

Do ensure that your applications and other company forms do not ask disability-related questions and that they are in formats that are accessible to all persons.

Don’t assume that veterans with TBI or PTSD do not want to work.

Do consider having written job descriptions that identify the essential functions of the job.

Don’t ask if a person has a disability or injury during an employment interview.

Do ensure that requirements for medical examinations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Don’t assume that certain jobs are more suited to persons with TBI or PTSD.

Do relax and make the applicant feel comfortable.

Don’t hire a person with a disability who is not qualified to perform the essential functions of the job—even with a reasonable accommodation.

Do provide reasonable accommodations that the qualified applicant will need to compete for the job.

Don’t assume that you have to retain an unqualified employee with a disability.

Do treat an individual with TBI or PTSD the same way you would treat any applicant or employee:with dignity and respect.

Don’t assume that your current management will need special training to learn how to work with people with TBI or PTSD.

Do know that among those protected by the ADA are qualified individuals who have TBI or PTSD.

Don’t assume that the cost of accident insurance will increase as a result of hiring a person with TBI or PTSD.

Do understand that access includes not only environmental access, but also making forms accessible to people with cognitive or psychological disabilities.

Don’t assume that the work environment will be unsafe if an employee has a disability.

Do develop procedures for maintaining and protecting confidential medical records.

Don’t assume that reasonable accommodations are expensive.

Do train supervisors on making reasonable accommodations.

Don’t speculate or try to imagine how you would perform a specific job if you had the applicant’s disability.

Do understand that a person with TBI or PTSD is on a course of recovery and reintegration with the community.

Don’t assume that you don’t have any jobs that a person with TBI or PTSD can do.

Do expect, with proper access to treatment and support resources, that the person with TBI or PTSD will regain significant functioning in their work and personal endeavors.

Don’t make medical judgments.

Don’t assume that a person with TBI or PTSD can’t do a job due to apparent and non-apparent disabilities.

Don’t assume that your workplace is accessible.

Source: AmericasHeroesAtWork.gov

Operation Coming Home Gifts War Veteran with Mattamy Home

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Service-disabled war veteran stands with family and friends in side the livingroom of his new home

The recipient of Hero Home 23, Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Polizzi was surprised with the ultimate gift, just in time for Christmas.

Polizzi and his family have been selected to receive a brand new Mattamy home for free through Operation Coming Home.

Polizzi served for fourteen years, deployed four times, and received the Purple Heart from an injury in Afghanistan. Together, Polizzi and his wife have three children, all under the age of 10. For the past 10 years, they have constantly moved, having lived in eight different homes during the time span.

Operation Coming Home has been building Hero Homes since 2008 in Wake County through a partnership with the Home Builders Association of Raleigh and Wake County and the US Veterans Corps.

“Since Operation Coming Home began in 2008, our team has had the privilege to support and contribute to this exceptional cause,” said Bob Wiggins, President of Mattamy’s Raleigh Division. “Operation Coming Home is a project that the Mattamy team in Raleigh is very passionate about. It is an amazing feeling being able to give something as special as a home to individuals who have risked their lives to protect our freedom.”

Mattamy Homes will build Hero Home 23, located in one of the Division’s newest communities, Oak Park in Garner, North Carolina. This is the second home donated by Mattamy Homes and the 10th from the Royal Oaks team, which was acquired by Mattamy Homes in 2017.

“The Polizzi family’s new home will be conveniently located in the desirable area of White Oak,” said Donna Kemp, Vice President of Sales for Mattamy Homes. “We’ve chosen a beautiful home site for the family, and they get to come in and choose all design selections and personalize the home just for them. It’s humbling and extremely rewarding to give back, especially to a deserving veteran and his family. To be able to provide a life changing gift such as a home is an amazing feeling.”

Polizzi and his unit were on a security patrol in Afghanistan in 2010 when they came under heavy enemy fire. Polizzi quickly created and detonated a bomb that saved his entire unit, allowing them to pass only later to come under fire again. Polizzi was shot in the leg. He was treated for five weeks at an airbase, then finished his deployment.

The Polizzi family’s new home is anticipated to begin construction in February 2021 and be ready for move-in during the summer of 2021.

About Operation Coming Home

Operation Coming Home (OCH) is a partnership between members of the Triangle Veterans Association (TVA) and the Home Builders Association of Raleigh/Wake County. Made up of Veterans and non-Veterans, this team is honoring the sacrifices of the severely wounded Veterans of recent Middle Eastern Wars by building custom homes for them, at no charge.

About Mattamy Homes

Mattamy Homes is the largest privately owned homebuilder in North America, with 40-plus years of history across the United States and Canada. Every year, Mattamy helps more than 8,000 families realize their dream of home ownership. In the United States, the company is represented in 11 markets – Dallas, Charlotte, Raleigh, Phoenix, Tucson, Jacksonville, Orlando (where its US head office is located), Tampa, Sarasota, Naples and Southeast Florida – and in Canada, its communities stretch across the Greater Toronto Area, as well as in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. Visit www.mattamyhomes.com for more information.

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

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