PTSD nearly killed him, now USMC Vet uses it to help fellow warriors

Cole Lyle with service dog Kaya

After serving in the Marines for six years, including a tour in Afghanistan, Cole Lyle returned home and suffered severe PTSD, social isolation, and difficulty reintegrating into civilian life.

In his own words, “Coming home really was just the lowest point in my life, and I was two pounds of trigger pull away from being one of the statistics – a veteran’s suicide statistic – if it had not been for another Marine that intervened.”

Determined to overcome his struggles, Cole requested a service dog from the VA to provide emotional support. However, after months of waiting, the VA denied his request. Cole then paid over $10,000 out of his own pocket to secure his famous service dog, Kaya, who has become his constant companion and best friend.

Now serving as the Executive Director of Mission Roll Call, Cole is dedicated to advocating on Capitol Hill for the 18 million veterans across the U.S. and to ending veteran suicide through holistic care, community integration, and greater access to quality healthcare.

Visit Mission Roll Call for more information.

The 2023 Ultimate Guide to the BEST Places for Disabled Veterans to Live

Paralyzed veterans seated in their wheelchairs

Hill and Ponton Disability Attorneys

As a veteran with a 100% disability rating, you have many benefits available to you. These benefits can make your life much easier and help you live more comfortably.

This blog post will discuss the best states for a 100% disabled veteran to live.

We will look at each state’s tax exemptions, educational benefits, housing assistance, and financial assistance.

We hope these lists help service members and their families make the best decision for their future!

Here’s a list of all the questions we’ll cover:

  • What states have the best 100 VA disability benefits?
  • What are the most popular benefits in each state?
  • What state has the most VA benefits?
  • Which states have tax exemptions?
  • Do veteran dependents also get benefits?

What States Have the Best Benefits for 100% Disabled Veterans?


Alaska provides generous benefits for disabled veterans.

Some of the key benefits include:

  • Alaska Property Tax Exemption: Disabled veterans with a 50% or greater disability rating can receive a tax break on the first $150,000 of assessed value of their home.
  • Free Camping Passes: Disabled veterans in Alaska can enjoy free camping passes through the Natural Resource Commissioners Office.


Florida offers excellent benefits to disabled veterans.

Here are some notable benefits:

  • Driver’s License Fee Exemption: 100% disabled veterans in Florida are exempt from certain driver’s license fees.
  • Hunting and Fishing License: Disabled veterans are entitled to free hunting and fishing licenses.
  • Property Tax Exemptions: Veterans with a 10% or greater disability rating can benefit from a $5,000 deduction on their home assessment for tax exemption purposes. Additionally, real estate owned and used as a homestead by a veteran with a permanent and total disability is exempt from taxation.
  • Disabled Veteran License Plate: 100% disabled veterans in Florida are eligible for a free Disabled Veteran license plate.


Idaho offers various benefits and support to disabled veterans, including:

  • Property Tax Reduction: Qualified veterans in Idaho may receive reductions of up to $1,500 on property taxes for their homes and up to one acre of land.
  • Income Tax Deductions: Older disabled veterans may be eligible for deductions on their income tax.
  • Grocery Tax Credit: Disabled veterans in Idaho may qualify for a grocery tax credit.
  • Outdoor Recreation Discounts: Idaho veterans with 100% service-related disabilities can enjoy free camping in state parks and free day-use access.


Disabled veterans in Illinois are entitled to several benefits, such as:

  • Hunting and Fishing Licenses: Disabled veterans can obtain free hunting and fishing licenses.
  • Disabled Veteran License Plates: Veterans with disabilities can receive free Disabled Veteran license plates.
  • Homestead Exemption: Veterans with a service-connected disability of at least 70% can benefit from a $5,000 homestead exemption, reducing the assessed value of their home for property tax calculations.


Nevada provides valuable benefits to disabled veterans, including:

  • Property Tax Deduction: Disabled veterans in Nevada receive a property tax deduction corresponding to their level of disability. This deduction can be applied to their home or an automobile.
  • Low-Cost Care: Disabled veterans can access 24-hour care in Nevada State veterans homes at a reduced cost.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire offers various tax credits, exemptions, and benefits to disabled veterans.

Some notable benefits include:

  • Tax Credits and Exemptions: Disabled veterans, including those who are double amputees, paraplegic, or permanently and totally disabled, can benefit from tax credits and exemptions on real estate occupied as a principal place of abode.
  • No State Income Tax: New Hampshire does not require anyone, regardless of veteran status, to pay state income tax.
  • Driver’s License and Vehicle Registration Fee Exemption: Disabled veterans are exempt from driver’s license and motor vehicle registration fees.


Texas is often considered one of the best states for disabled veterans.

Noteworthy benefits include:

  • Housing Grants: Texas offers various housing grants to disabled veterans, including those for home modifications and weatherization.
  • Free Driver’s License: Veterans with a 60% or higher disability rating in Texas are entitled to a free driver’s license


Virginia is known for its strong support and benefits for disabled veterans.

Some of the benefits available in Virginia include:

  • Property Tax Exemptions: Disabled veterans with a service-connected disability can receive property tax exemptions on their primary residence.
  • Employment Assistance: Virginia provides job placement assistance and resources for disabled veterans seeking employment.
  • Education Benefits: Veterans in Virginia may be eligible for education benefits, including tuition assistance and scholarships.
  • Healthcare Services: Disabled veterans in Virginia have access to comprehensive healthcare services through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
  • Transportation Assistance: Virginia offers transportation programs to help disabled veterans access medical appointments and other essential services.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides various benefits to veterans throughout the United States.

Each state may have its own additional benefits for veterans.

Here are some popular state benefits for veterans in different states:


  • State Veterans Homes Program
  • Tax exemption on the first $150,000 of assessed home value for disabled veterans
  • Free camping passes for disabled veterans


  • Alaska Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans
  • Free camping passes for disabled veterans


  • Special veteran license plates
  • Donations to veteran organizations through license plate fees


  • Tax exemption on military retirement pay
  • Homestead and Personal Property Tax Exemption for disabled veterans receiving Special Monthly Compensation


  • CalVet Home Loans for veterans purchasing homes
  • Tax exemptions, tuition waivers, and recreation discounts

Continue on to Hill And Ponton to read the complete blog.

Drop the Damn “D”

Larry Broughton headshot

By Larry Broughton

I am aware of the challenges associated with transitioning back to civilian life after serving in the military. The daily reality of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for some veterans can have a profound effect on their lives and relationships, as well as their capacity to find and keep a job.

The unseen scars that trauma (such as sexual assault or combat) leaves behind can be challenging to explain to others, and many employers may not be aware of the signs or know how to make accommodations for PTSD sufferers. “Approximately 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 500,000 veterans are thought to experience PTSD.

Regrettably, many organizational leaders are unaware of the difficulties that PTSD-affected veterans encounter. Veterans may have trouble finding and keeping jobs as a result of this ignorance, which may exacerbate their symptoms and make it much harder for them to acclimate to civilian life.

In light of this, it’s critical for employers to become knowledgeable about PTSD and to take active steps to support veterans at work. Yet, we also need to be watchful of the language we employ while discussing the subject. Although, while PTSD is a genuine and serious condition, the word “disorder” maintains a negative connotation and can stigmatize those who experience it.

In particular, the diagnostic needs to be revised to remove the word “disorder.”

This is why:

  1. The Label “Disorder” Is Stigmatizing

The term “disorder” indicates that the person with PTSD has some sort of underlying defect. People may feel ashamed as a result and be reluctant to get the assistance they require. Additionally, it supports the false notion that mental health issues are character flaws or shortcomings rather than treatable medical conditions. This may result in stigmatization and discrimination, both of which may hurt a veteran’s prospects for obtaining and retaining employment.

By excluding the word “disorder,” we may contribute to eradicating this stigma and facilitating open communication between veterans, co-workers and employers about their needs and experiences. This in turn can assist firms in providing better veteran employee support and fostering a more diverse workplace.

  1. It’s a Natural Reaction to Trauma – It Is Not a Disease or Disorder

The term “disorder” should not be used to describe PTSD because it is inaccurate. In the conventional sense of the phrase, PTSD is not a disorder. Rather, it is a typical reaction to an unusual and stressful occurrence.

A person’s brain and body go through a number of physiological changes after experiencing trauma. These modifications are intended to assist the individual in surviving the trauma and defending themselves against further harm. In other circumstances, though, these modifications might continue for a long time after the trauma has passed, resulting in symptoms like hyperarousal, flashbacks and avoidance.

Young army soldier talking with doctor during his therapy

This reaction to trauma is normal and adaptive; it is not a pathology. By eliminating the word “disorder,” we can influence the dialogue around PTSD and frame it as a normal reaction to trauma that calls for assistance and understanding rather than stigma.

  1. It Could Promote Help-Seeking Behavior

And last, removing the word “disorder” from PTSD may help veterans seek out assistance. When a condition is identified, a person may believe that there is an underlying issue with them that cannot be resolved. They may have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as a result, which may deter them from reaching out for assistance.

We can lessen these feelings of hopelessness and inspire veterans to go for the assistance and resources they require to manage their symptoms and prosper in their personal and professional life by portraying PTSD as a typical reaction to trauma.

Employers have a significant voice in this discussion. They can make it easier for veterans and other workers who have Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) to disclose their illness and get the assistance they require by fostering an environment of understanding and support.

This can involve offering PTS information and tools, such as instructing managers on how to identify symptoms and provide accommodation, as well as providing employees and team members with private places to turn for assistance. It might also entail fostering an environment at work where mental health is valued, perhaps by providing flexible work schedules or mental health days.

Employers must also appreciate the distinctive skills that warriors with PTS can bring to the workplace. Many veterans may contribute significantly to their organizations because they have acquired abilities like adaptability, resilience and leadership from their military experience. Employers can aid veterans with PTS in feeling strong and valued at work by identifying and respecting their strengths.

Ultimately, the focus of the discussion around veteran PTS awareness should be on dispelling myths and fostering compassion. We can improve the way we communicate about mental health disorders and encourage people to get the care they require by eliminating the word “disorder” from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and concentrating on the normalcy of the symptoms.

Larry Broughton is a former U.S. Army Green Beret, best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker and leadership mentor.

Bobby Henline: Forging Forward

Retired Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline receives an award

By Brady Rhoades

Bobby Henline survived two wars and 48 surgeries and now he’s standing in front of an audience on the Huckabee TV show, telling jokes.

“Halloween is my favorite holiday because I make lots of money at the haunted house,” he says. “I made $50 laying in my neighbor’s yard. I even got a modeling job at the Halloween Super Store.”

Henline, who suffered burns on 40% of his body while fighting in Iraq, is loose, cheerful, wearing a sky-blue blazer, jeans and boots.

Photo: Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline, second from right, receives an award at Forward Operating Base Walton, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Henline and four other wounded warriors visited Afghanistan as a part of Operation Proper Exit. (Public domain photo from

“It took me four tours and an IED to figure out my lucky number is three… I’m a little slow…”

He’s just getting warmed up. He often warns civilians, “I hope you enjoyed that, because it’s going to get darker.”

“They have a hard time laughing at me,” he said. “They eventually come around.”

This is a story about not being afraid of the dark.

Joking As a Way of Coping

Henline, 51, married to wife Connie and a father of four, was wounded while serving with U.S. Army in the 82nd Airborne Division during the Iraq War. The Humvee he was riding in hit an IED. Four other soldiers were killed. Henline’s face and head were burned to the skull. His left hand and forearm below his elbow were damaged so badly amputation was necessary.

After being put into a medically-induced coma, he awakened after two weeks and underwent six months of treatment. Henline has since had several surgeries including dozens of skin grafts and reconstructions.

Randy Jackson with veterans Bobby Henline and Chris White pose for a picture
VAN NUYS, CA – JULY 11: Randy Jackson with veterans Bobby Henline (R) and Chris White (L) pose for a picture at City Summit: Wealth Mastery And Mindset Edition after-party at Allure Banquet & Catering on July 11, 2018 in Van Nuys, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)

While hospitalized, Henline, a veteran of the Gulf War who’d re-enlisted after 9/11, goofed around and told jokes as a means of coping. It happens that he had a great aunt who had a “disformed face,” as he describes it.

“It didn’t stop her. I look to her for strength.”

His occupational therapist urged him to attend an open microphone night at a comedy club. Just to satisfy her, he did so. Backstage at his first performance, he was a nervous wreck. Then he remembered he had written a rap in ninth grade—about constipation.

“When the warning light came on at the end of two minutes to indicate that I still had one more minute to go, I did my constipated rap,” he said.

Henline made his debut on a big a stage in 2009, at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and became a regular at open mic nights at comedy clubs like Hollywood Improv and Laugh Factory. He appeared in the Showtime documentary Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor, as well as Samsara, Surviving Home, MBF: Man’s Best Friend, Shameless and Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy.

‘I Needed That Laugh Today’

He helped found the Bravo748 Military and Law Enforcement Speakers Bureau, and he’s traveled the world as a motivational speaker for the organizations. He formed a charity called Forging Forward with the goal of helping troops, first-responders and their families deal with injuries and traumas. “It’s the best revenge I can get for those four men and their families,” says Henline, referring to his four comrades who were lost in the IED explosion.

obby Henline and Ann Samson attend the UCLA Operation Mend 10 Year Anniversary
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 24: Bobby Henline and Ann Samson attend the UCLA Operation Mend 10 Year Anniversary at the Home of Founder Ron Katz Sponsored by The Thalians Entertainment by The Operation Mend All Star Band with Special Guest Billy Idol on September 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/WireImage)

He knows what survivors and families are going through; after his injuries and loss, he’d been suicidal. He’d prayed for death thousands of times.

“There have been so many times when a Soldier has come up and said, ‘I needed that laugh today,’” Henline said. “We hug and we cry—then we pretend we were chopping onions together, but I’m a big cry baby, I let it all out…. Sometimes I’m there to remind others that they can go on, and sometimes they help remind me.”

Going from fighting in the Middle East to standup comedy seems unlikely, but this is a story about light, too.

“When you talk about the truth—that’s the best comedy,” he said, which is why he issues lines like, “They took my stomach and put it on top of my head. Now, I pick lint out of my ears.”

He looks mischievous after punchlines, like he’s playing a prank and on the verge of cracking himself up.

Forging Forward

There are four people who try to dodge his jokes at every chance, though: his kids. One of his daughters stopped following him on Instagram, where 63,000 followers do think he’s funny.

“I don’t know what you’re going to do next,” she told him.

This year, Henline will host several Forging Forward events at military bases and other sites across the country, including a Big Sky Retreat in Helena, Montana on June 1-4.

Groups of six to eight military personnel and first responders will get the chance to explore outlets via fishing, rafting, horseback riding and photography, outlets that “bring you back to who you are,” Henline said. He keeps the events small so that “Nobody gets lost.”

Forging Forward covers all costs. To donate, visit

Henline’s newest outlets are fly fishing and golfing. How do you tie a fly with one hand? Part science, part will. How do you golf? He can’t fully explain it.

Out on the links, shanking, chunking, hitting for a double bogey, just trying to break 100 (which he’s done), Henline does not take out his frustrations on himself. With his trademark sardonic smile, he lets his clubs, or the weather, have it.

“I’ve cursed more in a year and a half of golfing than I ever did in the military,” he laughs.

Army Veteran Who Was Paralyzed Hopes to Inspire Others After Decades of Rehab

veteran inspiring others screenshot of videoo

For retired Army Colonel Jim Bedingfield, it’s been nearly three decades of relearning how to put one foot in front of the other. Here’s his story of recovery and hope that he hopes will inspire others.

His rehab journey began back in 1994 after a spinal cord injury in the Army left him paralyzed.

“I had to learn how to walk again, had to learn how to use my arms and hands,” he shared.

View the video here.

But now, Bedingfield is doing a lot more than just walking thanks to a functional electrical stimulation leg device from a company called Bioness.

“For the first in 30 years since pre-injury I skied. For the first time in 40 years since pre-injury, I golfed. And those are things I just never thought I could do again,” he shared.

Now 61, Bedingfield is able to take on a range of adaptive sports.

To learn more about the L300 Go System that helped Jim regain mobility call 888-384-4090 or visit Bioness Rehab to learn about how this technology can help veterans.”

Read his full story recently posted on NBC 10 Boston here.

Survivor Winner Donates $100,000 to Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS)

Mike Gabler headshot with beach background

Survivor season 43 winner Mike Gabler has donated $100,000 of his $1 million prize winnings to Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), a non-profit providing resources, research, and advocacy for U.S. special operations military veterans seeking mental health treatment with psychedelic-assisted therapies.

Gabler selected 10 veteran organizations to split his winnings with —highlighting non-profits that help former service members with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are at risk of suicide.

Mike Gabler’s donation was made on behalf of his father, Robert Gabler, who was a Green Beret, to veterans in need who are overcoming health challenges and to curb the suicide epidemic.

As a nonprofit organization that supports veterans in accessing psychedelic-assisted therapies, VETS recognizes the critical importance of psychedelic research. Recent Phase 3 trials of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD are demonstrating the significant impact of psychedelic treatment on individuals suffering from trauma-related disorders. Other compounds, like psilocybin and ibogaine, are also showing incredible promise in addressing these issuesbut more research is critically needed.

Gabler’s donation will directly support VETS’ work to provide resources, research, and advocacy for veterans seeking psychedelic-assisted therapies.

“There is nothing like the support of the military and veteran community, and we are incredibly grateful to Mike Gabler, the son of an Army Special Forces veteran, for donating a portion of his Survivor winnings to VETS. Mike exemplifies the notion of serving those who’ve served, and we honor and value his outstanding leadership and unparalleled commitment to giving back,” said Marcus Capone, Co-Founder and Chairman of VETS.

VETS and its community greatly appreciates the donation from Gabler and is looking forward to expanding access to psychedelic-assisted therapies to additional veterans to ultimately put an end to veteran suicide.

For more information on VETS, visit our website.

How Sports Serves Our Veterans

John Register on top of snow covered mountain

By John Register

In 1948 Dr. Sir Ludwig Guttman, who escaped Nazi Germany and found solace in Stoke Mandeville, England, became the father of disability sport and, eventually, the Paralympic Games. His goal was to return spinal cord-injured WWII veterans to a healthy and active lifestyle using sport as the tool. The practice continues to this day with hundreds if not thousands of disability sports groups supporting wounded, ill and injured service members who have been injured on the battlefield or off.

I was fortunate to be the founder of the United States Olympic Committees Paralympic Military Sports Program in 2004. It began a lifelong pursuit of using sport as the conduit to healthy, active lifestyles both for the military and civilians.

I had a passion for this work for at least two reasons. First, I was a product of it. Though the programs I outlined were not in existence, I used sport as a tool for my recovery and, in the process, made two Paralympic teams.

Second, the relationships I forged during my time in the Army’s Community and Family Support Center (CFSC) under the tutelage of the best boss I ever had, Colleen Amstein, prepared me for building this program with familiar commanders who had once welcomed me to their military installations when I was the associated director for the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Program, or (BOSS).

Contrary to the belief that this program was easy to build, it was not. If you remember, in 2004, Americans were unsure if they wanted to defend the new war. Debates were high about whether WMDs or weapons of mass destruction existed.

This was supposed to be Dad’s war, and over in a matter of days, just like Desert Shield/Desert Storm. When casualties, primarily amputation, began to overrun Water Reed Medical Center, military commanders did not know how to build a program centering on injured veterans who had fought for our freedoms. We’re now fighting to rebuild their lives.

In my 15 years of building these programs, let me share why sports are essential for both military injured and civilians with disabilities.

Belonging: The greatest observation I made was that every service member, no matter how limited they were by their disability, first longed for reconnection to the unit they left behind. There was a sense of abandonment. They felt as if they had left their buddies on the battlefield.

Overwhelmingly there was a consensus to get back to the battlefield.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has our basic needs at its base: food, shelter and clothing. But underneath it all is belonging.

Injured service members begin to find a new community when sports are introduced. They are healing together, and sports have become the conduit to the community. I witnessed service members who were reluctant to play a sport, time and again, become that sport’s number one cheerleader.

Confidence: A person with an acquired disability may not know their new capabilities. Why? Because they are dealing with a new set of data points. In my keynote speech, “Amputate Fear: Hurdle Adversity, Embrace Your New Normal Mindset,” I share that the NNMS begins with rebirth. We have to relearn how to function by adapting to our new environment.

Sports like sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and goalball are team sports allowing service members to test their skills and grow in their new environment. Each session increases their confidence in their abilities. Eventually, they become strong enough to do the sports independently or find the confidence to try other activities. Some athletes even pursue a higher level of sport and make Paralympic teams.

Self-Identity: I believe one of the most remarkable outcomes of sports for the service-connected person is understanding who they are.
When a person has an acquired disability, they have to work through societal stigma. All of our lives, we are shown images of people with disabilities who are perceived as less than others in society.

In the movies, people with disabilities are villains. At the end of October, we see ghosts, goblins and goons come out for Halloween. Have you noticed that many are disfigured? Many have disabilities, or what some may call deformities. Others have hidden disabilities like mental health conditions.

When a person transitions from being temporarily abled-bodied (TAB) to disabled or “disfigured,” they wrestle with the fact that they are not the character they have been accustomed to seeing portrayed by society.

Sports help to normalize disability. People begin to walk confidently by challenging the status quo through physical actions — their mental acuteness returns. There is work to get to this “resolve” moment, and sport brings us back to that identity of not caring how other people view us. We walk with confidence in knowing who we are because we have done the work of learning our new capabilities because of sport.

Two programs that helped me in this regard were kayaking on the San Marcos River and single rowing on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas.

I wonder if Sir Ludwig Guttman understood the depth and vastness of his work, as he primarily focused on spinal cord injuries. But through his vision, I was inspired to continue his legacy of using sports for all those who need to embrace a new normal mindset.

‘It Feels Good to Inspire’: A Conversation with Joey Jones

Joey Jones smiling headshot wearing black blazer and light blue collared shirt

By Kellie Speed

Johnny “Joey” Jones knows all too well that sacrifice can often be the price of serving our great nation. The retired Marine Corps Staff Sergeant served in both Iraq and Afghanistan over his eight years of active duty.

While in Afghanistan, deployed as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician, he suffered a life-changing injury from an IED that resulted in the loss of both of his legs above the knee. He also sustained injuries to his right forearm and wrists that fateful day back in 2010.

Today, he is on a new mission, dedicating his life to improving the lives of all who served along with their families.

U.S. Veterans Magazine (USVM): What your inspiration was for initially joining the military?

Joey Jones (JJ): My two best friends, Chris and Keith, both of their dads were career military. Chris’ dad was my football coach and technology teacher, and he went to Desert Storm. When he came back, he had this little slideshow of Desert Storm he would show every eighth-grade class each year this as they were going into high school. It was just kind of to let kids know, as they are picking colleges and deciding what to do for the rest of their life, that military service was an option. And that inspired me early on. It inspired me in eighth grade, I guess.

Chris and Keith would talk about their dads and Keith had an uncle who was in the military. I didn’t have anybody in my family, not in my immediate family anyway, who had served in the military. About 2004, I was getting ready to graduate high school and Keith decided he was going to enlist in the Marine Corps, and he started talking to a recruiter. I didn’t want any part of it. Our buddy Chris went to North Georgia College, and with his dad being career military, Chris went into the ROTC program. Quite honestly, my high school girlfriend broke up with me; I didn’t like the job I had; I dropped out of college to change my job hours. I just went to work one day and realized I could work the rest of my life in a job I didn’t like or I could go see what else was out there. That was the first spark that maybe I wanted to leave town.

Then my buddy Keith got me in front of the recruiter and the recruiter did what recruiters do best—they sold me on the Marine Corps. I never talked to another service. If I was going to go to boot camp, I wanted to go to the toughest and hardest one and kind of prove that I could do it.

USVM: You were just 23 years old when you became a double amputee. Can you talk a little bit about your recovery and what inspires you now?

JJ: Sure. When I was injured in 2010, it was the beginning of the worst time for really all the services, but especially the EOD Program and the Marine Corps. We went from maybe five to 10 amputees of some sort on the floor at Walter Reed to 50 in about three months and so, the numbers just blew up right about the time I got hurt. I was on the front end of that, which meant I was through a lot of my initial recovery by the time a bunch of the guys started coming in. I don’t really know why, but Marines and sailors would do their physical recovery at Bethesda. Soldiers and airmen would do their physical recovery at Walter Reed. At the time they were two different places, but the actual rehabilitation where you get on prosthetic legs and learn to walk or learn to use your prosthetic hand or whatever it was for you, that training center was on campus at Walter Reed. The goal of what’s next was very unknown to them.

Once I recovered, it took me a couple of months to get through the healing process. I got injured in August 2010 and started walking in February 2011, so around that time, I started going back over to Bethesda because a bunch of my EOD buddies were there. And because I realized nobody ever did that for us. We didn’t really get that. When five or 10 of us were there, there was no concerted effort to show us what was next.

Just by walking the rooms, I got to spend time with the guy that just got hit, spending time with the family that didn’t have a clue what was next and letting them know that in just a few short weeks or months they would be eventually walking too, so it felt good for me.

It kept me accountable and meant, in order for me to do that, I had to practice what I preached and go to therapy every day and get better and better with my legs. It felt good to inspire the other guys and so that’s kind of initially a big part of why I was able to recover so quickly. Then on top of that, when you’re in war, you see the circumstances for somebody to die every day, and you see people die about once a week. When you get blown up and you look down and you realize you’re still alive, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

USVM: Can you also share some of your thoughts on the recruiting issues you think that faces our military today and what you think can be done to entice young men and women to enlist?

JJ: I think we look at it backwards, in a lot of ways. We’ve had a culture for about 20 years now of steering the recruiting towards catering to the recruit. We’re going to give you college when you get out and you can have a chance of healthcare for the rest of your life. My recruiter told me I could be stationed close to my house, which was never an option. We have geared recruiting so much towards the recruit that we’ve taken the element of adventure out of it, and we’ve taken the challenge out of it.

Back in 2005, when I walked into the recruiter’s office, it wasn’t, ‘Can I convince you to join me?’ It was, ‘Do you have what it takes to be me?’ Now, it’s more about changing the perspective of recruitment to make people feel comfortable coming into the military, when in fact, what we should be doing is telling them, ‘We doubt you have what it takes, but if you want to come prove it, we’ll give you that chance.’ We are human beings; we have an element that we need to experience the unknown and we need to be challenged. We need to see adventure. We need to see joining the military as stepping out into the world in a dramatically different way, and I think that for whatever reason, the narrative has shifted from that and the numbers are showing it.

USVM: How do you also think that we, as American civilians, can help veterans like you feel like your sacrifice was worth it in times like these?

JJ: I tell people all the time don’t thank me for my service, just be a population worth serving. It’s hard to answer that question without jumping headfirst into politics and none of us agree on that, but I would just take a step back and just say that gratitude goes a long way. Personal responsibility goes a long way. I want to serve a population that gets up in the morning and works as hard as I did to serve it. That’s all I want from it. I think that’s all anybody ever served wanted—was to come home to a place that appreciated it in the day-to-day, not just on Veterans Day or Memorial Day.

Joey Jones is a FOX News Contributor and FOX Nation Host.

Separation Health Assessment Part A now required on claims from transitioning service members

Soldier working with laptop in headquarters building

If you are a transitioning service member applying for VA disability compensation under the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) or the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) program, there are some changes coming that you should know about. 

Starting April 1, you will be required to complete and submit the Part A Self-Assessment of a new Separation Health Assessment (SHA) with your BDD or IDES application.

The SHA is a single separation examination which supports both the VA disability compensation process and the Department of Defense (DoD) separation/retirement process.

The SHA examination documents any medical concerns identified during your military career, assists with identifying future illnesses, and reduces redundant examinations between both agencies.

The SHA is divided into three Parts:

  • Part A – medical history questionnaire. You must complete Part A prior to attending your clinical assessment;
  • Part B – clinical assessment. This is where the examiner will review your Part A and your Service Treatment Records (STRs), provide an examination, and then deliver a clinical assessment;
  • Part C – this is reserved for DoD reviewer purposes only. DoD is expected to fully begin using the SHA later this year.

The SHA Part A questionnaire will provide VA examiners a history of the service member’s medical conditions and will assist with conducting a more thorough and better-quality examination. A link to the Part A questionnaire will be placed on the VA Form 21-526-EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefit, under the eligibility criteria for the BDD program, and on the VA BDD and IDES Fact Sheets. A direct link to Part A is also available here.

BDD claimants who submit applications online can upload the completed Part A with their STRs under the evidence section. After VA receives and reviews the application, STRs, and completed Part A Self-Assessment, an SHA examination will be requested. The SHA clinical assessment will be conducted by one of VA’s contracted examiners or a local VA health care examiner. All evidence submitted by the service member will be made available electronically to the examiner.

The new SHA is a multi-year collaborative effort between both agencies to improve the separation examination process for service members exiting the military.

For further information on the BDD and IDES programs, please visit our website at Pre-Discharge Claim | Veterans Affairs.

Source: VA

Landing a job was no fluke

Steven Culp headshot

By Camille Cates, DAV

Steven Culp turned 18 only nine days after 9/11. “I felt the call to serve immediately after that event,” said Culp.

He served six years in the Navy as an electronic warfare technician and a cryptologic technician.

After his enlistment, Culp enrolled in college and earned a degree in engineering. But his wartime service had changed him, and after seeking help from the VA, he was enrolled in their Veteran Readiness and Employment program.

That’s when he discovered DAV job fairs.

“At the job fair, there was just about every profession you could think of: engineering; software; technicians for electronics, mechanics or engines; law enforcement. There are opportunities for just about everything there,” said Culp. “With the skills that are built in the military, there is something for every veteran.”

Though he had interviewed with several companies, there was one in particular with whom Culp wanted to connect.

“I was first introduced to Fluke when I was on active duty in the Navy. I used their multimeters for all kinds of tests around the shop, making sure our gear was in spec and working correctly,” he said. “When I saw their logo at the job fair, I went over and spoke with them. Turns out the two gentlemen there recruiting were former Navy. They took a look at my resume and my experience and they said, ‘Can you start on Monday?’”

Culp accepted a position as a service engineer with Fluke Corp., a maker of industrial testing and diagnostic equipment.

“Steven’s story is an excellent example of securing meaningful employment through participation in a DAV job fair,” said DAV National Employment Director Rob Lougee. “Separating service members, veterans and their spouses should take the time to check out our employment resources at”

“They can find everything from our full schedule of in-person and virtual job fairs to resources for entrepreneurs.”

DAV job fairs and employment resources provide veterans and their spouses with the prospect of an exciting career path.

“This opportunity means the world to me,” he said. “It’s truly a second chance. I’m eternally grateful to the VA and DAV for the opportunity I’ve been given.”

Read the article originally posted on

The Power of Adaptive Sports

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston in wheelchair smiling with amputed leg and other leg in a cast

By Kellie Speed

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston never could have imagined he would lose his left leg here in the States after returning home from being deployed. While the accident certainly changed his life, his impressive outlook has him proving nothing is impossible.

“After I got back from deployment, we were moving into a new house when I was loading a mattress onto the truck and it fell off,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine in a recent phone interview. “Just as I was picking it back up, someone hit me. When I was hit, I thought the vehicle hit my funny bone which was why my leg was numb.

When they got me into the back of the ambulance, they gave me some meds for the pain. I was upset and hangry at the time because I had just ordered Domino’s. When I heard someone say, ‘left leg amputation,’ that’s when it hit me.”

Despite his injury, the U.S. Virgin Islands native has not only found many reasons to be grateful, but also push himself to incredible limits.

“As a Marine, we go from being active and physical specimens and being the best at everything to being reduced to having a caretaker,” Hairston said. “I had to fight to get back to my old self. When I was injured, I had another reason to be glad I joined the Marine Corps. I had a phone call with my Colonel at the time and I was sent to Walter Reed. They have the best adaptive program in the Department of Defense. When I was there, I told them I wanted to go to the Paralympics.”

Now holding the title of the first para-cyclist in Virgin Islands history and being the only hand cyclist in the Marine Corps to win at the 2022 Warrior Games was “the greatest feeling in my entire Marine Corps career,” he said. “Hearing guys in other branches saying ‘there’s a guy killing it in cycling’ or ‘watch out for that Marine’ was incredible. When I was injured, my physical and occupational therapists told me that even though I lost a leg, they kept reinforcing that I can still do what I did before; I just needed to figure out how to do it now. I was able to prove to myself that I can still be active and take a walk with my wife (a Marine helicopter pilot) or play with my dogs and being able to compete really helped me with my recovery.”

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston para-cycling in formation with others

Hairston first competed in a four-mile race in Central Park. “It was the first time that I felt like myself,” he said. “As a Marine, we have to win everything, but I came in third place. That gave me the Paralympics bug. I have done a few marathons now in hand cycling and am getting ready to do three more.”

With two gold medals for cycling, a silver medal in archery and silver and bronze awards for track to his credit, Hairston’s continued determination to succeed has reinforced he is still the same specimen he was when he joined the military — just a little bit different now.

Hairston created a nonprofit called Salvage Life with the goal of inspiring others to lead a healthy and active lifestyle with a focus on veteran and disabled communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Knowing that people back home are disabled and not able to get the same support that I had here in the states was the reason I started the nonprofit,” he said. “As I continue in my recovery, I was able to host the first adaptive sports clinic in the Virgin Islands just before Warrior Games. I showed guys how to shoot archery and wanted to show people that you can make things work for someone with a disability. After my injury, I said if I can help just one person, it would be a success. I got to help eight people; that’s the best part of it.”

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

Leidos Video

USVM Commercial



About USVM

VIBN Conference

Robert Half