Chicago fundraiser ‘Ruck March’ supports veterans in need

LinkedIn
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.

Veteran Suicide & Focusing on Suicide Prevention in the Military

LinkedIn
A marine sits with his hands in his faceon the ground contemplating veteran suicide

Since the beginning of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s tenure, he has been adamant about the importance of mental health in the military and prevention of veteran suicide. Secretary Austin has announced the establishment of a new program aimed at tackling one of the greatest issues surrounding mental health and military personnel: suicide prevention.

Secretary Austin’s newly established program, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), will address and prevent suicide in the military pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

“We have the strongest military in the world because we have the strongest team in the world,” Secretary Austin stated upon establishing the program, “It is imperative that we take care of all our teammates and continue to reinforce that mental health and suicide prevention remain a key priority. One death by suicide is one too many. And suicide rates among our service members are still too high. So, clearly, we have more work to do.”

a military servicemember holds a pistol struggling with veteran suicideThe SPRIRC will be responsible for addressing and preventing suicide in the military, beginning with a comprehensive review of the Department’s efforts to address and prevent suicide. The SPRIRC will review relevant suicide prevention and response activities, immediate actions on addressing sexual assault and recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to ensure SPRIRC recommendations are synchronized with current prevention activities and capabilities. The review will be conducted through visits to numerous military installations, focus groups, individuals and confidential surveys with servicemembers contemplating veteran suicide.

 

The SPRIRC recently started installation visits to prevent veteran suicide. The installations that will be utilized in this study will be:

  • Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • Camp Lejeune, N.C.
  • North Carolina National Guard
  • Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
  • Camp Humphreys, South Korea

By December 20, 2022, the SPRIRC will send an initial report for review in advance of sending a report of findings and recommendations to Congress by February 18, 2023.

“As I have said many times, mental health is health — period,” Secretary Austin additionally stated, “I know that senior leaders throughout the Department share my sense of commitment to this notion and to making sure we do everything possible to heal all wounds, those you can see and those you can’t. We owe it to our people, their families and to honor the memory of those we have lost.”

To view Secretary Austin’s full memorandum on veteran suicide prevention and updates on the SPRIRC, visit the Department of Defense’s website at defense.gov.

Source: Department of Defense

Man’s Best Friend Reduces PTSD Symptoms

LinkedIn
Man Hugging his service dog

According to a new review of evidence-based studies, military veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from reduced symptoms and enhanced trauma treatments when they partner with assistance dogs and help with their training.

Seven scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals found that assistance dog training and partnering produced “moderate-to-significant” lowering of PTSD symptom scores in line with those reported in gold-standard trials of trauma interventions supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The studies, carried out over the past five years, looked at a range of programs, from partnering veterans with fully-trained assistance dogs to teaching veterans how to train assistance dogs. All seven studies found reduced PTSD symptoms after participants completed service dog handling instruction. Two others, which used follow-up measures, found a long-term reduction in symptoms.

Chris Diefenthaler standing with his PTSD service dog
Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

“Assistance dogs improve the lives of countless thousands of veterans around the world by helping with practical tasks, enhancing independence and boosting well-being, dignity and confidence,” said Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). “These studies indicate that properly trained assistance dogs are both life-saving and life-changing for veterans suffering from PTSD. They are proof that assistance dogs have a major role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and support of military veterans with severe combat trauma.”

Eleven assistance dog programs across the U.S. including eight accredited by ADI — participated in the studies carried out by behavioral scientists, military psychologists, public health experts and social workers. Researchers reported that “veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but [they also] experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.”

One study found “a statistically significant decrease in PTSD and depression symptoms…participants reported significant reductions in anger and improvement in perceived social support and quality of life.” In another study, researchers working with veterans being treated for chronic severe combat trauma used eye-tracking technology to measure the psychological effect of training a young assistance dog. The more time veterans spent in close contact with the dog, the less time they spent looking at threatening imagery, and they paid more attention to “pleasant” images.

In four studies that utilized control groups, symptoms of the assistance dog participants were reduced more than those of the control group, and few improvements were found in the treatment-only comparison groups.

“The scientific evidence is conclusive,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director of ADI member Warrior Canine Connection. “These seven scientific examinations provide the long-awaited evidence that assistance dogs are both popular and effective at reducing trauma symptoms and improving the quality of life for our veterans. They also indicate that partnering with an assistance dog can enhance the perception of standard trauma treatment. PTSD is projected to remain a chronic and debilitating condition for thousands of veterans. It is imperative that assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD be fully integrated into military and veteran trauma care.”

Source: Assistance Dogs International

‘A True Profile in Courage’

LinkedIn
Celebrity and former Army Ranger Noah Galloway poses for a portrait during the Tough Mudder's

By Kellie Speed

If ever there was a true profile in courage that is Noah Galloway’s story to tell.

While the U.S. Army veteran lost both his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee to an IED attack during Operation Iraqi Freedom, that hasn’t stopped him from pushing his own limits becoming a nationwide inspiration as a result.

Although his injuries certainly posed many unforeseen challenges and his life was forever changed, the Purple Heart recipient believes now he is mentally and physically stronger than ever.

“My mother always told me to join the military, but I never joined until I wanted to,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I told her if something happens, I chose this. I’ll never forget that conversation. When I got injured and I went through my depression that was the worst shape I had ever been in in my life. I wasn’t taking care of myself and that was a reflection of my whole life — I wasn’t being a good father; I wasn’t being a good husband or anything. It was my children who were the motivation for me to get back and start taking care of myself.

The first thing I did was change the way I was eating then I joined a 24-hour gym because I was embarrassed, and I think a lot of people can relate to that if they have never been into fitness. It’s hard to walk into a gym for the first time. I would go in at 2:00 in the morning because there were no books, magazines or anything on the internet that told you how to work out missing an arm and a leg. Actually, I would say that was a benefit because it motivated me, and I had to figure it out. I kind of fed off of that and I have met amputees from all over the world who told me they have seen my videos and pictures and that’s how they got into fitness. For me, that’s pure motivation to know that something I did inspired them, and it drives me to just keep wanting to do more and more. Getting back into shape was so critical with my recovery in accepting myself.”

In 2014, the Alabama native became the first amputee veteran to appear on the cover of Men’s Health. “When I was in the military, I used to say I wanted to be on the cover of Men’s Health because fitness has been a part of my life since I was 12 years old,” he said. After earning the magazine’s “Ultimate Guy” title, he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and later became a finalist on Dancing With The Stars.

Noah Galloway Book Signing For
Noah Galloway attends his book signing for “Living With No Excuses” at Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tasia Wells/FilmMagic)

“Once I went on Ellen, things just took off,” he told us. “As soon as that episode aired, I got phone calls from Survivor, which I was excited about, but I couldn’t do that because I have three kids who were young at the time, so I turned it down. When Dancing With The Stars called, I told them I had no dancing experience and had to stay in Alabama. They didn’t even hesitate. They said they would send a dancer to Birmingham where we would rehearse then they would fly me back and forth to LA for the live show. Then, I didn’t think I’d last long, but halfway through the season, I was still there. The fifth week, I did a dance to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” and I did a one-arm lift and I got a standing ovation from all of the judges and the studio audience; it was incredible. I had veterans start reaching out to me, and that changed everything. But I didn’t become a better dancer.”

On September 16, Galloway’s No Excuses Charitable Fund is hosting their second annual charity golf tournament at Timberline Golf Club in Calera, Ala. with proceeds this year benefitting Homes for Our Troops.

“I know there are people who are more inspirational, but people reach out to me and say they got into fitness because of me,” Galloway said. “To know that you have done something, even if it’s for one person to improve their life, is just so motivating.”

To check out his book, Living With No Excuses: The Remarkable Rebirth of An American Soldier, visit noahgalloway.com.

Mindset: The Secret to Living

LinkedIn
two soldiers standing side by side smiling

When one discharges from the military, veterans are often left with the gigantic task of reintegration. To describe this journey as “daunting” doesn’t even cover half of it.

Not only do these veterans have to deal with an entirely new set of norms and procedures; they also often come with scars of war such as survivor’s guilt, missing limbs, tinnitus, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) just to name a few. Add on the feeling of a general lack of support from society; it is no wonder why many veterans go into complete isolation, or worse case, commit suicide.

I saw my first Special Forces (SF) person in basic training. I, along with the rest of my company, looked at them with reverence and awe. Like a sort of real-life Rambo. We all thought that there was nothing that these guys couldn’t do; they were the best of the best; they were elite. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that individuals in the SF community go through the exact same struggles that veterans do. I had the privilege to speak with 27-year Navy SEAL veteran Jason Tuschen, former CMC (Command Master Chief) and current CEO of Sylabs, Inc., about his struggles, lessons learned and mindset.

Paul Peng: Out of your 27-year career as a Navy SEAL, what was your most trying time?

Jason Tuschen: When Dave Tapper was killed in action (KIA) on August 20, 2003 in Eastern Afghanistan. Dave was one of my closet friends. We deployed together at SEAL Team 3 and worked closely at NSWDG. He was a husband and father of four kids. His youngest son and my son were born a month apart. Any death is a tragedy. But when it is someone close, it is gut wrenching. I will never forget carrying his casket at Little Creek, Va. while the bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” standing at Arlington listening to Taps as he was lowered down; nor the brotherhood we shared. As I progressed up to the rank of CMC, I had to handle several tragedies. The last one that I had to be a part of before retirement was when Chuck Keating IV died. He was KIA in Northern Iraq May 3, 2016. Any death in the Teams is hard, but Chuck’s was especially so because of how much media attention it got. Myself and Capt. Gary Richard had to go to both his parents and his brother (also a SEAL) informing them that he was KIA. The whole process of getting the proverbial 2 a.m. phone call, hauling ass into work then telling the next of kin is the worst task a leader has to do. But it pales in comparison to what the family has to endure.

Peng: To you, what’s the difference between the mindset of a SOF (Special Operations Forces) member versus conventional forces?

Tuschen: Humble confidence. We train with a sense of urgency and to the worst-case scenario. You definitely learn humility by training that way. It is physically and mentally exhausting, but you know that when you deploy you are as well trained as you can be and feel prepared. However, there is always room for improvement. You continuously strive for virtuosity knowing that you will never attain it. That is “humble confidence.”

Teamwork. In SOF, we are very aware of our strengths and weaknesses. As a result, we are able to complement each other, covering for each other’s weaknesses. Making an unstoppable team.

Taking Ownership. Take ownership of your mistakes, that’s how you learn. In SOF, we spend a lot of time going over lessons learned so that we don’t make the same mistake twice.

Mental Toughness. It is the union of discipline and courage. Courage isn’t just running to the sound of gun fire, but doing what is right, regardless of apprehensions or fear. Discipline is doing what you know to be right regardless of any distractions or discomforts.

Peng: How was your transition to the private sector after serving 27 years as a SEAL?

Tuschen: I did not find it too difficult. I retired because I realized I needed to be uncomfortable again. I became comfortable with the problems I faced and my authorities. Heck, I had my own parking spot! I needed to feel like the “new guy” again. I loved every moment of the SEAL teams, but I am not defined entirely by being a SEAL, and I never let it define me.

Peng: Why do you think so many veterans, including the SOF community, have a tough time transitioning?

Tuschen: I think, particularly in the SOF community, it’s very easy to let your job and lifestyle become your identity. The longer you stay in, the more likely you will fall into the identity trap. Once you have achieved such heights, becoming the “new guy” again in a completely foreign environment, can be extremely daunting. The environment you move to next most likely will not share the values and morals that you have grown to respect and love. That can be extremely frustrating if you stay stuck in the past. You have two choices: go forward and be uncomfortable or stay stuck in the past. I call it the “Uncle Rico Syndrome.”

Peng: What advice can you give to transitioning SOF members and veterans that are struggling?

Tuschen: I would tell them to apply the same physical and mental energy that got you through selection or basic training and apply that to your new task at hand, starting as the “new guy.”

Nobody cares that you were in a combat zone, been through life-threatening events or were in Special Forces. Many civilians will think that you are a robot or the “angry veteran,” even though you and every other veteran knows it’s false. Instead, use your experiences to your advantage and GET AFTER IT! Be humble and confident. Be prepared to prove yourself all over again.

The PACT Act and your VA benefits

LinkedIn
Disabled Veteran in wheelchair

The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. This law helps us provide generations of Veterans—and their survivors—with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

This page will help answer your questions about what the PACT Act means for you or your loved ones. You can also call us at 800-698-2411 (TTY: 711).

And you can file a claim for PACT Act-related disability compensation or apply for VA health care now.

 

What’s the PACT Act and how will it affect my VA benefits and care?

The PACT Act is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history.

The full name of the law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

The PACT Act will bring these changes:

  • Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
  • Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
  • Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
  • Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
  • Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures

If you’re a Veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits.

What does it mean to have a presumptive condition for toxic exposure?

To get a VA disability rating, your disability must connect to your military service. For many health conditions, you need to prove that your service caused your condition.

But for some conditions, we automatically assume (or “presume”) that your service caused your condition. We call these “presumptive conditions.”

We consider a condition presumptive when it’s established by law or regulation.

If you have a presumptive condition, you don’t need to prove that your service caused the condition. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.

Read more about the PACT Act on the VA’s website here.

Looking for a Service Dog?

LinkedIn
labradoodle with guide dog pack on its back

They say that dog is a man’s best friend, which could not be more accurate for veterans. Dogs provide the sense of responsibility and companionship that comes with pet ownership, but they can also act as a source of support both therapeutically and physically.

If you’re a veteran looking for a service dog to aid you in your day-today life, here’s what you need to know:

What Are the Benefits of Service Dogs?
There are approximately 500,000 service dogs on duty in the United States, with 19 percent explicitly trained to help owners with PTSD. Service dogs can be trained to perform numerous activities that are helpful to your specific needs, whether it be to provide mobility assistance, interrupt harmful behaviors, calm panic attacks, retrieve medication and more. Service dogs have also been proven to help veterans recognize and cope with their symptoms, gain sleep, reduce anxiety, strengthen relationships, balance emotions and assist in healthy transitions.

Does the VA Provide Service Dogs?
Until recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs did not provide service dogs. However, in August of 2021, a new piece of legislation known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act authorized the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create a pilot program on dog training therapy based on the promising “train the trainer model.” The program will provide dogtraining mskills and service dogs to veterans with mental illnesses, regardless of whether or not they have mobility issues. However, regardless of how you receive your service dog, you will need to apply for VA Veterinary Health Benefits to get approved for ownership.

How Can a Veteran Apply for VA Veterinary Health Benefits?
■ Hearing, Guide, Mobility: The veteran should meet with their VA clinical care provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The specialist will complete an evaluation and make a clinical determination on the need for assistive devices, including a service dog. Once the assessment is completed and a service dog is determined to be the optimal tool for the veteran’s rehabilitation and treatment plan, the provider will work with the veteran to obtain the necessary information and documents to request the benefit. This includes coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.
■ Mental Health Mobility: The 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 veteran’s optimal intervention or treatment approach. If the team considers a service dog to be the optimal intervention, they will request the benefit on behalf of the veteran through coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.

Each veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:
■ Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and in the future
■ Goals that are to be accomplished through the use of the dog
■ Goals that are to be achieved through other assistive technology or therapy The veteran will be informed of an approval or disapproval of their service dog request by the VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aid Service. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International, or International Guide Dog Federation accredited agencies.

Where Can I Find My Service Dog?
For more information on where to find a service dog and connect with a community of other veterans with their own service dogs, the VA will usually coordinate with an organization such as the International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International.

To access more information on the service dog process, please visit the International Guide Dog Federation at igdf.org.uk and Assistance Dogs International at assistancedogsinternational.org.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, Purina, tillis.senate.gov

One Rifle. One Book. Two Hundred Veterans.

LinkedIn
Older man and young man on stage at a motorcycle rally

By Kellie Speed

Though Andrew Biggio served in the Marine Corps as an infantry rifleman during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), he never could have imagined the future impact he would have on veterans.

The founder of Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, New England’s largest motorcycle ride now in its 11th year, helps America’s most severely wounded combat veterans by raising money to provide housing modifications, new transportation, financial support and basic living needs through his nonprofit.

While delving into his own family’s military legacy and reading letters sent home from his great uncle killed during World War II, Biggio felt compelled to honor the Greatest Generation. His great uncle, also named Andrew Biggio, spoke of the M1 Garand rifle in his letters, which inspired the younger Biggio to purchase one.

What happened after turned into a five-year journey for Biggio, traveling the country to hear the inspirational stories of these warriors and have them sign their name on his rifle. He has 240 signatures to date! The result of his travels and collection of combat stories turned into his recently published book The Rifle: Combat Stories from America’s Last WWII Veterans, Told Through an M1 Garand.

U.S. Veteran’s Magazine caught up with Biggio to discuss this year’s Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, how he decided to feature the veterans in his book and what’s up next for him.

U.S. Veteran’s Magazine: You’re celebrating the 11th year of Boston’s Wounded Vet Run. Did you ever think it would be as popular as it has become?

Andrew Biggio: I never thought I would be doing this for over a decade. Like every other organization, we haven’t gotten to see our peak numbers because of COVID. People are still coming out and riding 10 years later, and some people take pride in saying they have been at every wounded vet run, so I love doing it.

USVM: How do you choose the veterans to honor each year and how much money do you raise each year?

Hundreds of motorcycles and riders at rally eventBiggio: Really, it’s just people I come across, people I meet, referrals from previous wounded veterans. I had served in Iraq and Afghanistan with veterans who got wounded, and they spent time in these hospitals with veterans who they think should be honorees.

USVM: Why did you decide to write The Rifle?

Biggio: I started having World War II veterans show up to my wounded vet ride, and I started to realize how it’s not every day you see a World War II vet come to a motorcycle rally to pay respects to the younger generation of veterans. It got me into really focusing on America’s last World War II veterans. I started to read my uncle’s last letter home, who I was named after, and how much he enjoyed the M1 rifle. The M1 rifle just represented that whole Greatest Generation because that was the standard rifle of the times, so I went out and bought one. I wanted to collect signatures of all of the different World War II veterans while I still had them around. After hearing some of their stories and visiting them, I just realized some people hadn’t heard the particular stories of these men I was meeting.

USVM: How did you choose the veterans to feature in the book?

Biggio: I really wanted to write about the units that weren’t often covered in history; they were often overlooked, so I picked not well-known divisions and things like that because my grandfather had served with the 10th Armored Division. That was a division you don’t often hear about.

USVM: What’s up next for you?

Biggio: I think I am going to do volume two of my Rifle book. The book [took me in so many unexpected directions, including leading] me to bring a World War II veteran from the 17th Airborne Division back over to Germany. [In March of this year,] we unveiled a monument for the 17th Airborne Division in Germany because there was no memorial there.

For more information about Andrew Biggio, his book and the veterans whose stories were featured visit thewwiirifle.com.

Understanding the Exceptional Family Member Program

LinkedIn
boy in wheelchair with military dad giving a kiss on his forehead

Managing the care and services for a family member with special needs is more manageable with the right support. The goal of the Exceptional Family Member Program is to help your military family with special needs thrive in military life. EFMP is more than just one program or connection point. It’s the work of three components: identification and enrollment, assignment coordination and family support. The resources, tools and services that are available to support your journey are organized as part of the EFMP Resources, Options and Consultations or EFMP ROC.

If your spouse, child or other dependent family member is in need of ongoing medical or educational services, your first step is to enroll them in the Exceptional Family Member Program. Enrollment is mandatory but once enrolled, you will have access to the services, support and information you need to become your family’s best advocate.

Each branch of service has its own mission and history with EFMP. However, there has been a focus over the past several years on creating more standardization across services to make it easier for families to find what they need, when they need it. We can minimize misperceptions and increase satisfaction by helping families understand how the system works and what to expect.

What is EFMP?

The EFMP is a Department of Defense program implemented by all service branches. The EFMP has three components all working together.

  • Identification and Enrollment is the point of entry into the EFMP. Enrollment in the EFMP is mandatory for active-duty military members who meet enrollment criteria. When a family member is identified with special medical or educational needs, those needs are documented through enrollment. Members of the National Guard or reserve may enroll according to service-specific guidance.
  • Assignment Coordination ensures the family’s special needs are considered during the assignment process. The EFMP makes every effort to help keep families together and support the service member’s career. The final decision for duty station selection will always be determined based on mission need.
  • Family Support enables the family to become its own best advocate by helping them identify and connect with resources, expert consultations, education and community support. EFMP Family Support provides in person support as well as virtual self-service support through online information and resources available on Military OneSource and through Military OneSource EFMP ROC specialty consultations.

Ways EFMP can help your service member’s family

Each installation has an EFMP Family Support office staffed with providers who can help your service member and their family in the following ways:

  • Find and tap into community resources, services and programs that will meet their needs.
  • Provide information and referrals and help your service member’s family develop a family services plan.
  • Offer training and other support to help your service member’s family be their own best advocate.
  • Provide a warm hand-off to EFMP Family Support at the next installation when your service member PCSs.

Tools and resources for families with special needs

EFMP and offers a number of tools and resources to support military families with special needs. Your service member and their family can tap into these to stay in the know and connect with the services they need.

  • EFMP resources, options and consultations provides enhanced support by phone or video. Special needs consultants can connect your service member and their family with experts in education, the military health care system and TRICARE, special needs financial planning, and more.
  • EFMP & Me is an online tool that allows your service member and their family to navigate services for military families with special needs, create customized checklists and stay organized.
  • The Exceptional Advocate is a quarterly e-newsletter that focuses on updates and information from the Exceptional Family Member Program.
  • The EFMP & Me podcast series covers all things EFMP and other topics of interest to military families with special needs, like caregiving, legal and long-term financial planning, PCSing with a family member with special needs and more.

Everything is easier when you have a network of support. EFMP can help your service member pull together the information, services and resources that will allow their family to thrive.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

Questions About Filing Your VA Disability Claims?

LinkedIn
man in military unifrom pinting at a image collage of disability icons

By Brett Buchanan

Life as an active-duty military service member can be extraordinarily intense, and many veterans will, at some point, experience some type of residual physical or mental difficulty after years of serving their country.

These service-connected conditions may develop into lifelong disabilities that can have considerable impact on a veteran’s daily activities. A response to this need is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation program, which provides monthly tax-free payments to eligible applicants.

There are, however, several potential obstacles that veterans can encounter when looking to file a disability claim. These obstacles can cause delays in claim approval, or even cause claims to be rejected outright. In fact, only about 32 percent of claims were approved by the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals in 2021.

One unavoidable obstacle that veterans can expect to face is a wait time of at least several months while their benefits application is processed. On average, it takes the VA approximately 161 days to complete disability-related claims. The exact length of time could vary substantially based on several factors, including the type of claim filed, the number and complexity of your claimed medical conditions, and how long it takes for the VA to collect the required evidence for your claim(s).

The VA has historically experienced times of disability claims backlogs, and it varies as regulatory and policy changes are made to the VA disability program each year. Because it is hard to say with certainty how long the approval process will take, it is recommended that veterans that are experiencing service-connected disabilities submit a completed application and supporting documentation to the VA as soon as possible.

Once an initial claim is submitted, a large portion of the process will involve evidence gathering and review. The VA may ask for additional information from you, your healthcare providers or other governmental agencies. It is important to keep detailed records of your condition and the progression of your symptoms so that they can be demonstrably linked to your service. If you submit an application with outdated information regarding your doctors, the VA may not be able to verify your medical history and could end up delaying or declining your claim.

The VA disability claims process is lengthy and complex, and can prove to be both mentally and physically exhausting. There is very little margin for error if you hope to get an application approved. It may be wise to find an advocate, to help make sure you understand and meet all the requirements for VA benefits. Professionals who work in the area of VA disability benefits advocacy can assist with document gathering, provide expertise with assembling evidence and submit a claim or appeal on your behalf.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has a comprehensive checklist that can help applicants compile a fully developed claim:

Log on to the website

  • Go to eBenefits.va.gov and click “Apply for Benefits” to begin an application by answering some preliminary questions about your claim.

Provide information about federal/state records

  • Disclose any Social Security benefits you may be claiming, and identify/provide military and/or federal medical records.

Gather all applicable non-federal records

  • Request and provide copies of relevant private medical records from your medical practitioner, along with any applicable supporting statements or other documentation.

Choose the correct type of claim

  • Select the proper claim: Original Disability Claim, New Disability Claim, Reopened Disability Claim or Secondary Disability Claim. Submit all supporting documentation, including medical evidence of your injury or physical/mental disability and evidence connecting it to your military service.

Upload all documents

  • Ensure legibility of all documents, and properly upload them to the VA website. If you have an claims advocate, have them verify all documents to ensure compliance.

It is important to remember that even in the event that your benefits application is denied, that does not have to be the end of the road. If you meet the VA’s requirements, you have earned your benefits. Remaining patient and persistent is critical to the process of pursuing an appeal. Recognizing the resources and expert help available, like VA-accredited claims agents at Allsup, who can advocate for you and your benefits claim, can make a huge difference and help ensure that you ultimately get the benefits you deserve.

Brett Buchanan, a veteran of the U.S. Army, is a VA-accredited claims agent at Allsup and guides veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ disability appeals process.

Coping with Chronic Pain as a Veteran

LinkedIn
man in military uniform sitting on floor holding his head in pain

Chronic pain, one of the most common medical problems, is any pain that persists after your body has healed, usually after three to six months.

Some types of chronic pain include headaches, low back, neck, and other muscle, joint or nerve pains. These problems may be caused by an injury or an ongoing medical problem like arthritis or diabetes. In many other cases, the exact cause of chronic pain is unknown.

How you respond when you hurt is essential for managing any type of chronic pain. Many efforts to reduce pain in the short term create increased pain, suffering, and disability in the long term. This includes taking more medicine, resting or avoiding activities.

There are multiple treatment options available to treat your chronic pain. No single treatment is suitable for everyone. Talk with your healthcare provider to learn more about the possible treatment options and decide which ones are best for you.

Opioids and chronic pain

Opioids are natural or manufactured chemicals that can reduce pain. Healthcare providers prescribe them. Opioids work by changing the way your brain senses pain. Some common opioids are:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

Healthcare providers used to think that opioids could safely reduce chronic pain when used for extended periods. New information has taught us that long-term opioid use may not be helpful or safe for treating chronic pain.

New knowledge leads to new practices

We have learned three key things through studying opioids and chronic pain. This new information has changed medical practice.

  • Opioids will only temporarily “take the edge” off pain no matter the dose. You will not be pain-free over the long term.
  • There are very significant risks that come with using these medicines. Higher doses carry greater risks with very little evidence of any additional benefit.
  • There is absolutely no safe dose of opioids. An overdose is possible even when you are using your opioids as prescribed.

Facts about opioids

Opioids have many effects in addition to reducing pain. They slow your mind and body and can cause shortness or loss of breath. Long-term opioid use can cause multiple other problems, including:

  • Increased pain
  • Accidental overdose or death
  • Opioid use disorder or addiction
  • Problems with sleep, mood, hormones and immune system

Treating pain without opioids

Many treatments can be helpful with chronic pain, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Non-opioid pain medicines
  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Nerve blocks or surgery
  • Acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic

The best long-term treatment for chronic pain requires you to be involved in your own care. Self-management includes taking care of yourself in ways other than taking medicines, having surgery, or using other medical treatments. Cognitive behavior therapy can help you learn to respond differently to your chronic pain and reduce its effects on your daily life.

You should work with your healthcare provider to develop an individual treatment plan based on realistic expectations and goals. For most people, long-term improvements will depend more on what you can do to help yourself in lieu of what medical providers can do for you. Appropriate goals focus on improving your overall quality of life instead of providing urgent and complete pain relief.

Source: Veterans Health Library

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance

Leidos Video

lilly

Alight

Alight

Heroes with Hearing loss

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Multiple Hire GI Hiring Events During June-December!
    June 21, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  4. REBOOT WORKSHOP – VIRTUAL
    September 12, 2022 @ 8:00 am - January 20, 2023 @ 5:00 pm
  5. Americas Warrior Partnership 9th Annual Symposium
    October 4, 2022 - October 6, 2022