Marine Corps veteran, amputee makes history at Boston Marathon

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A Marine Corps veteran and amputee, Keating started his run just after the professional runners and before the next pack of fast competitors.

By KSBY

When Peter Keating took off from the starting line at the Boston Marathon, it was the realization of a dream come true. But he never imagined just how unique his 26.2-mile trek would be.

He was among more than 15,000 runners who recently raced after the pandemic forced the event to move from April to October.

A Marine Corps veteran and amputee, Keating started his run just after the professional runners and before the next pack of fast competitors.

“I had six miles all to myself,” he said. “I would look forward, I would look backward, and there was no one but me on the road. It was like the race was meant for me.”

For the first time in the race’s 125-year history, the Boston Athletic Association included a division for para-athletes.

Keating, 31, ran an impressive time of 3:25:02, earning him third place in the division. He was awarded an engraved glass cup, a $500 check, and the Boston Marathon medal coveted by runners.

While the prize money is nice, the pride Keating feels is more important.

“Just to be recognized as an adaptive athlete who can never run as fast as a normal person, so to speak, still to be recognized for their efforts in their own division,” he said.

In 2017, Keating, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, stopped to help another Marine involved in a car crash. Moments later, Keating would become a victim.

“That’s when another car came on and hit us straight on,” Keating said.

Keating suffered a severe injury to his left leg. After struggling with foot function for a year, he decided to amputate his leg below the knee in 2018.

Over the past three years, he has documented his inspiring progress through videos and his Instagram page.

One video shows him taking his first steps on his prosthetic leg. Others capture Keating brought to tears after finishing runs on his running blade.

“Today was a victory,” he said in one of those videos.

Keating wears a sweat sock and liner underneath his 10-pound running blade. To keep the socket from becoming too wet and loose, he changed the sweat sock three times during the Boston Marathon.

He estimates the changes cost him about seven minutes on his race time.

He said that’s an example of a struggle he faces as a para-athlete and points out that he’s not one to focus on a negative.

“I can run, and I can run just like anybody else,” he said.

Keating said his Boston accomplishment is also meaningful because of the bombings near the finish line during the 2013 race. The blasts killed three people, and 17 others lost limbs.

“It means even more to us because many lives were changed that day,” he said.

Keating said one of his next goals is to push for a para-athlete division for the marathon in the Olympics. If that happens, Keating believes he could earn a spot on the U.S. team.

Click here to read the full article on KSBY.

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.

Can soldiers consume CBD energy drinks?

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U.S. Soldier drinking Rockstar beverage with hemp leaves in the background

by Sarah Sicard, MilitaryTimes

Rockstar has become the latest in a string of energy drink companies to add a hemp-infused beverage to their offerings, so consumers can chill out while they rage.

But soldiers beware, these drinks have a slim chance of causing you to pop positive on a drug test.

“A single use of some hemp products may result in a positive drug test result for THC,” Matt Leonard, Army spokesperson, told Military Times.

“[Regulation] AR 600-85 prohibits soldiers from using products made or derived from hemp, including CBD, regardless of the product’s claimed or actual THC concentration and whether such product may be lawfully bought, sold, or used in the civilian marketplace,” Leonard said.

Hemp plants contain more cannabidiol (CBD) than cannabis, which contains more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although it’s unlikely, there’s no guarantee that hemp or CBD users will avoid showing positive for THC, which is what the Army tests.

“No test currently exists to identify the source of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a urine sample to determine if it was derived from illegal marijuana, or other products such as hemp energy drinks or Cannabidiol (CBD) infused products,” Leonard added.

“Hence, to protect the integrity of the Army’s drug testing program the only type of hemp products authorized within the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Regulation (AR) 600-85 are those used as a durable good (eg. rope or clothing).”

So soldiers should avoid the hemp, unless you’re taking up twine-braiding or decide go on a hippie handmade hemp clothing bender. But it seems easy enough to abstain. These drinks aren’t exactly designed to keep the average soldier awake on duty.

Rockstar Unplugged, which comes in three flavors — blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber — isn’t meant to keep an exhausted person alert.

Click here to read the complete article posted on Yahoo!News.

New Minnesota Veterans Law promises to ‘protect and support’ those who served

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A man wearing appearing with half civilian clothing and the other half of a military uniform

By Dana Thiede, Kare 11 NBC

Vowing to make good on Minnesota’s duty to “protect and support” those who have served in the military, Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday signed the new state Veterans Bill into law.

The legislation, which passed through both the House and Senate nearly unanimously, was written to end and prevent future veteran homelessness, fund veterans’ homes and cemeteries around the state, and award bonuses to Gold Star families who have sacrificed while their loved ones were serving.

“This bill makes good on our duty to protect and support our veterans during and after their service – and it demonstrates that we can come together in a bipartisan way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families,” said Governor Walz in a released statement. “As a 24-year veteran of the National Guard, this is a bill that’s close to my heart. I know that this is going to have a real impact for our veterans and I’m proud to sign it into law.”

The new Veterans Law includes:

  • $5.4 million that will fund a grant to provide assistance to veterans and former service members and their families who are homeless or in danger of homelessness.
  • $1.7 million annually to fund temporary housing options for vets experiencing homelessness and to increase outreach activities to end homelessness.
  • $10.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and $16.5 million in 2023 for the design, construction, furnishing, and equipping of new veterans homes to support vets in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston, Minnesota.
  • Nearly $25 million in fiscal year 2023 to fund service bonuses to post 9/11 era vets and Gold Star families.

“Minnesota’s more than 304,000 Veterans know that their voices were heard and their service honored with the historic passing of this first-ever Veterans Omnibus Bill,” said Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke.

Along with support for Minnesota’s veterans, the new Veterans Law also provides $4 million for enlistment incentives designed to retain trained and ready members of the Minnesota National Guard over fiscal years 2023-2025.

Click here to read the full article on Kare 11 NBC.

Military Makeover: Meet Our New Military Makeover Family

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Military couple pose together with red white and blue cutain backdrop with a Military Makeover logo inserted above left

On our special milestone 30th Military Makeover, we are proud to be honoring not one, but two deserving veterans on our upcoming season, and a love story unlike any we’ve told before!

Childhood sweethearts, Justin and Kristie Ziegler, first met in 8h grade in South Florida. Fast forward to the 10th grade, Justin joined the same cheerleading team Kristie was already a part of, they ended up spending hours and hours training together. The team’s coach noticed the chemistry and encouraged them to go on a date together. The couple have been together ever since – supporting one another through each of their hardships and challenges, and even decided to join the Air Force together.

Justin and Kristie married just before Kristie left for basic training in 2003. They were stationed together at Travis Air Force Base in California.

Staff Sergeant Justin Ziegler was assigned to the 60th CES Wing as a Fire Protection Technician. He was soon deployed to Afghanistan to support “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Justin was immediately responsible for the safety of over 2000 troops, as well as over $750 million worth of Aircraft.

Justin’s duties as a Lead EMT and Crew Chief within the fire department, whether on deployment or at Travis Air Force Base, involved being a 1st Responder to medical emergencies which often resulted in encountering traumatic and stressful events; from car accidents and cardiac arrests, to shootings, house fires and wildland fires. Being a first responder to all medical emergencies, including suicides of fellow troop members, took a heavy toll on Justin and opened his eyes to the crippling levels of stress, trauma and PTSD that military service members experience.

Senior Airman Kristie Ziegler quickly emerged as a rising star and natural leader after completing her formal training as a Dietary Technician, and was awarded Airman of the year in 2006 for her dedicated service. When Kristie deployed to Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan her role would change dramatically, providing treatment to soldiers wounded in battle, as well as local civilians who had been wounded or hurt. One of the hardest and most heartbreaking struggles of her career was treating young children who had been injured in bombings; witnessing sights no human on this planet should ever be forced to endure.

Life as a young married couple together in the military was challenging for Justin and Kristie, with deployments separating them from one another for long periods, and both witnessing many tragic events and loss of life. While they still struggle with PTSD, the support and love they give one another has provided the foundation for a loving home for their two children and pets.

For our landmark 30th Military Makeover, and with the support of our devoted partners, we cannot wait to provide a “forever home” for two heroic and deserving military veterans!

Tune in to Military Makeover Thurs. & Fri. at 7:30 a.m. (ET/PT)

The before and after photos will be posted after the Big Reveal, so you will see the family reaction to their newly updated home. Stay tuned!

About the Hosts

Montel Williams: Montel began his professional career in the United States Marine Corps, becoming the first black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Williams earned a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs and served in the military for a total of 22 years. He is best known as the Emmy Award-winning host of The Montel Williams Show, which aired nationally for seventeen years. Along with being a New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Montel is a passionate advocate for veterans, education and health. He serves on the board of directors for the Fisher House Foundation and the Anne Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Montel is thrilled to be a part of Military Makeover, relishing the opportunity to give back to his fellow veterans.

Art Edmonds:  Art Edmonds is a TV host, spokesperson and voiceover talent with over 17 years of experience. He is currently best known as the co-host of the TV series Military Makeover.

Since the show’s inception, Edmonds teamed with the late, great R.Lee Ermey, famed character actor and veteran, to give a complete home makeover to a deserving wounded U.S. veteran and his family. Now Art serves on the series alongside talk show legend and prominent veteran advocate Montel Williams to give back to our service men and women.

Art’s prominent narration credits includes three seasons on the Nat Geo Wild top-rated series Swamp Men for three seasons, docudrama series Planet Xtreme on The Weather Channel and two seasons on the Nat Geo Wild series Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER.

Jennifer Bertrand: Jennifer Bertrand is best known as the winner of HGTV’s popular series Design Star, drawing over 5 million viewers thanks to her no-nonsense, accessible approach to making positive and impactful design changes without breaking the bank. After taking the competition by storm, Jennifer moved on to host her own show, Paint Over! with Jennifer Bertrand, featuring families in transition and in desperate need of help.

Bertrand currently is the designer on the series Military Makeover, airing on Lifetime TV, and has appeared in countless media outlets such as USA TodayThe New York Post, Rachel Ray Magazine, Life & Style Magazine, InStyle Magazine and is a frequent contributor to NBC.

Read more at MilitaryMakeover.TV

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.

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.

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

2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live

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Close up of male hand packing property in cardboard box with spouse in the background

With Veterans Day approaching and the veteran unemployment rate falling to 3.9% from the average of 6.5% in 2020, the personal-finance website WalletHub recently released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live.

The report compares the 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, ranging from the share of military skill-related jobs to housing affordability and the availability of VA health facilities.

WalletHub also released the results of its 2021 Military Money Survey, which revealed that 77% of Americans agree that military families experience more financial stress than the average family.

To help with that, WalletHub’s editors selected 2021’s Best Military Credit Cards, which provide hundreds of dollars in annual savings potential.

Best Cities for Veterans
1. Tampa, FL
2. Austin, TX
3. Scottsdale, AZ
4. Raleigh, NC
5. Gilbert, AZ
6. Lincoln, NE
7. Madison, WI
8. Virginia Beach, VA
9. Orlando, FL
10. Boise, ID

Worst Cities for Veterans
91. Philadelphia, PA
92. North Las Vegas, NV
93. Cleveland, OH
94. San Bernardino, CA
95. Toledo, OH
96. Jersey City, NJ
97. Baltimore, MD
98. Memphis, TN
99. Newark, NJ
100. Detroit, MI

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-veterans/8156

Q&A with WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez

What makes a city good or bad for veterans?

“How good or bad a city is for veterans depends on multiple factors, including the rates of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, as well as the city’s retirement-friendliness and how good its VA facilities are. All cities should be quick to take care of veterans’ needs, considering how much veterans have sacrificed to serve the country and keep it safe. However, some cities spend an appropriate amount of money on veterans affairs while others do not, either because they lack the funds to do so or because they do not put a high priority on veterans in the budget,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “While cities do have a responsibility to their veterans, so does the federal government. We spend an enormous amount of money on national defense and military operations, yet comparatively little on helping veterans once their service is done. It is distressing that there are tens of thousands of homeless veterans; that number should be reduced to zero.”

What can we do to reduce the financial stress on military families?

“The best way to reduce the financial stress on military families is by making sure that anyone in a war zone does not have to worry about their family’s basic living expenses while they’re fighting for our country. We should also improve financial education for members of the military community,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “Military families can undergo a tremendous amount of financial stress, especially when one parent is on the front lines and cannot be involved with managing the family’s finances. Plus, service members who are in active conflicts put their lives at risk, which risks even more of a financial burden on their family in the event that they die or end up with a disability. The least we can do for our military families is to take care of their basic needs.”

Does the military do enough to teach financial literacy?

“The military unfortunately does not do enough to promote financial literacy among service members. Not only do 76% of Americans agree that the military is lacking when it comes to financial literacy education, according to WalletHub’s 2021 Military Money Survey, but nearly 2 in 3 people think it’s a national security issue. Financially literate people who serve in the military can worry less about money problems and focus more on their duties, and are also less susceptible to coercion by foreign powers,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “But it’s important to remember that the military is not alone in its financial literacy deficiency. Most employers and big organizations in the U.S. fail to provide adequate information as well. Even schools don’t give students enough financial education.”

How are veterans impacted by COVID-19?

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to a big spike in veteran unemployment, but has now recovered to 3.9%, not too far above the nearly historic low of 3.2% seen in 2019,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The pandemic is certain to increase homelessness among veterans, adding to the more than 37,000 veterans who were already homeless before it even started. There are millions of veterans who are over age 65, too, and the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among people in that age group.”

At the Intersection of Hearing and Mental Health

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man holding up and looking at zoomed in hearing aid piece

By Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology & Senior Director of Audiology, Signia

When people think of hearing loss, many think of being unable to hear. Period. That’s understandable. A literal loss of hearing — the onset of silence — can have dramatic ramifications for a person’s life.

But other forms of hearing loss, characterized by difficulty hearing, can have equal impact. And we’re learning, especially in the case of military veterans, that it can have a related effect on their mental health.

Two of the most prominent conditions affecting veterans are noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While prevalent in the general public, each is a uniquely common health problem for veterans based on the important jobs they’re asked to perform. Also common is tinnitus, that ringing in the ears that afflicts about 10 percent of Americans but disproportionally affects veterans. The combination of the three presents a possible long-term health concern that requires coordination among disparate specialties to handle effectively.

According to a recent study of injured military personnel, hearing loss and PTSD may be linked. The study’s authors found that “the odds of PTSD are approximately three times higher in individuals with postinjury bilateral hearing loss [hearing loss in both ears] when compared to personnel without hearing loss.” The reason, at least in part, is that hearing loss — even partial — can affect a veteran’s ability to listen and communicate, which decreases their quality of life and exacerbates mental health conditions, such as PTSD.

The Case for Coordination

As an audiologist, I’ve seen the mental health effects of hearing loss firsthand. Again, a person doesn’t have to experience total hearing loss to suffer. NIHL, in particular, affects communication because it impacts sound frequencies that are common in speech. NIHL makes hearing voices more challenging, especially in spaces where ambient sound competes to be heard. As a result, those affected strain to hear, which often leads to fatigue and difficulty concentrating, or they may withdraw from social situations, adversely affecting their mental health.

hearing aids shown inside a plastic caseIn the case of tinnitus, the study’s authors found that because it often co-occurs with NIHL, it may also be associated with higher rates of PTSD. In some cases, tinnitus may impact traumatic flashbacks. “Sounds triggering exacerbation of tinnitus similarly affected PTSD symptom severity,” they wrote.

Tinnitus is not hearing loss, but research has indicated it can be a sign of hearing loss to come. Therefore, like hearing loss, tinnitus requires early identification and treatment.

In fact, veterans and their healthcare providers need to be on the lookout early for all interrelated signs of NIHL, tinnitus and PTSD. Delay could have a serious impact on quality of life. There also should be fresh coordination between audiologists and mental health professionals. In short: veterans with bilateral hearing loss need to be monitored for PTSD.

Better Hearing in Noise

On the audiology side, technology now exists that can dramatically improve a veterans’ ability to hear and communicate in various settings, addressing one of the subtler effects of NIHL on mental health. Signia recently created a platform called Augmented Xperience that features hearing aids with two different microprocessors built in to handle speech and background noise separately. This kind of split processing in hearing aids makes it so NIHL sufferers can listen and communicate more effectively in all environments — quiet, noisy or normal.

Most of Signia’s hearing products also include innovative notch therapy technology for helping suppress tinnitus. Notch therapy identifies the wearer’s unique tinnitus frequency and creates a frequency notch in their hearing aids that ultimately offsets and silences the tinnitus.

Unfortunately, most primary healthcare professionals don’t automatically screen for hearing loss or tinnitus, and patients usually don’t recognize the problems until they’ve been examined. Fortunately for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the heightened risk of NIHL and tinnitus from military service and covers diagnostic audiology from the moment a veteran exits the service. Healthcare professionals and veterans themselves should expand from there and begin exploring the possible connections between a vet’s hearing loss and PTSD.

Dr. Brian Taylor headshot
Dr. Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology for Signia.

We know hearing loss and PTSD are significant public health problems among military veterans. Although further research still needs to be done, there are indications that identifying and treating the former through hearing technology that enhances human performance can begin to address the latter. In all likelihood, a coordinated approach to hearing and mental health can boost veterans’ quality of life.

Brian Taylor is a Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology 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 textbook, Relationship-Centered Consultation Skills for Audiologists, was published in July 2021.

Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) Walk, Roll, Run and Ride 5K — Honor America’s Veterans

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DAV logo and images of veterans participating in events

DAV 5K is a walk, roll, run, and ride that thanks those who served and raises awareness of the issues our ill and injured veterans face every day.

Join us in keeping our promise to America’s veterans! There are two ways to participate, join us in-person November 6, 2021 in Cincinnati, or virtually November 6-11, 2021 from anywhere.

Click here for details and to get registered today.

About DAV
DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1 million veterans in positive, life-changing ways each year. Annually, the organization provides more than 240,000 rides to veterans attending medical appointments and assists veterans with well over 160,000 benefit claims. In 2020, DAV helped veterans receive more than $23 billion in earned benefits. DAV’s services are offered at no cost to all generations of veterans, their families and survivors.

DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to ensure they have the opportunity to participate in the American Dream their sacrifices have made possible.

With nearly 1,300 chapters and more than 1 million members across the country, DAV empowers our nation’s heroes and their families by helping to provide the resources they need and ensuring our nation keeps the promises made to them.

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

Veterans Transition Forum

Veterans Transition Forum

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance

Leidos Video

lilly

Alight

Alight

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. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. LA Fleet Week
    May 27, 2022 - May 30, 2022
  5. Buffalo Soldier Iron Riders Quasquicentennial Gathering
    June 13, 2022 - June 19, 2022