Category Archives: Veteran News

Operation Gratitude Still Going Strong

by Freddy Groves

 

In just 30 days, Operation Gratitude recently sent 16,000 care packages

to service personnel in harm’s way. It started with a request for 7,000

packages. A week later OpGrat received a request for another 2,200

packages. Almost immediately another request came in, this time for 7,000

more packages. It took hundreds of volunteers, but those packages went

out quickly. The non-profit group has sent out more than 1 million care

packages over the years.

 

Operation Gratitude’s mission is to lift morale, bring smiles to the faces

of service personnel and express our appreciation. Each box is loaded with

goodies, many of them expensive and (thankfully) donated by corporations,

as well as snacks and homemade items — and letters. The personal letters

are one of the most appreciated items in the packages. Check the website

for more information.

 

One big problem is the cost of mailing the packages. Each one costs $15,

and the group doesn’t get any discounts from the U.S. Postal Service.

That’s one area where you can help, especially if you don’t live in

California and can’t assist with packing and the many other details. The

mass mailing in that one month cited above cost $240,000 for shipping

alone. To make a donation, go online to www.OperationGratitude.com and

scroll to the Donate button.

 

Explore the website to find other ways you can help: Donate a phone, and

it nets OpGrat $30. Shop at AmazonSmile. Buy an item on the Operation

Gratitude wish list on Amazon.com to be shipped to them. Sew scarves and

hats for the boxes. Create Paracord Survival Bracelets (see website for

instructions).

 

To send checks (but no other items):

Operation Gratitude

P.O. Box 260257

Encino, CA 91426-0257

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Start Planning Now for Holiday Visits

by Freddy Groves

 

It’s not too early to start planning a holiday party for local veterans

in hospitals, nursing homes or rehab centers. The first step is to look

at your resources. Are you in a veterans service group? Or will you be by

yourself?

 

Call the intended location about hosting a holiday party. Inquire about a

date in December and its setup. Is there a dining room where you can hold

a party? Or will you be going from bed to bed in a ward? How many beds?

Decide what you can afford to do. A box of small gifts for each veteran —

complete with tissue paper, holiday wrapping paper and a bow — is ideal.

If that’s not possible, host a pizza/snack party. Estimate costs now so

you’ll be prepared, and start taking cash donations from your group. Get

your friends and group members to start collecting shoeboxes, the ideal

container for gifts.

 

Ask medical staff for suggestions for the gift boxes, but consider puzzle

books and mechanical pencils, handheld games, military caps or T-shirts

(call local recruiters), pens and stationery, thick socks, handkerchiefs,

small calendars, phone cards, $5 hospital canteen coupons and small

baggies of holiday candies and chocolates.

 

If you’ll have a space for a party, arrange for decorated tables. Ask what

the facility can provide to save money. Use a portable CD player with

holiday music and have a Christmas carol sing-along. Even better: Invite

someone you know who plays an electronic piano. Find a Santa suit and

someone to wear it.

 

Enlist helpers from your group of retired military. If you have active

military contacts, contact them too. Remember: The best gift you can give

hospitalized veterans is your presence and your ear.

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Adaptive Sports Get VA Grant

by Freddy Groves

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs is putting up $8 million for grants

to providers of adaptive sports opportunities for disabled veterans and

members of the armed forces.

 

A lot goes into providing events and opportunities: training, supplies,

coaches, equipment, recreation therapists, program development and more,

right in the veteran’s community. For more advanced athletes, there

are the Paralympic and adaptive sport programs on regional and national

levels. The grant money will be very welcome and might even result in

additional programs being created across the country. (In addition, when

training for the Paralympics, there’s a monthly training allowance.)

A few examples of upcoming events: Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego,

Sept. 7- 12; Tee Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, Sept. 8-11; Warrior Games

in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sept. 28-Oct. 4; Creative Arts Festival in

Milwaukee, Oct. 27-Nov. 2.

 

To learn more about these events, go online to www.va.gov/adaptivesports.

If you wonder if one of the adaptive sports programs is for you (or

someone you know), go to the website and click around. Look at the Mission

Re-Defined video. (Warning: There is a 3-second IED explosion at the 25-

second mark on the video. It passes quickly.)

 

To find ongoing activities and sports clubs near you, click on Search by

Location and put in your ZIP code. (Don’t search by your state because I

found at least one that was misfiled.) You’ll see a list of clubs along

with contact information, including phone and email. Click on each entry

to see which activities are offered and which disability groups are

supported.

 

The variety of available activities is wide ranging: paddle sports,

basketball, shooting, wheelchair tennis, rugby, water skiing, cross-country

skiing and much more. There’s something for everyone.

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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The Devil’s in the Detail

by Freddy Groves

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a Notice of Funds

Availability (NOFA) to provide transitional housing and support services

to veterans with special needs. A $5 million grant will go to 25

organizations (if they reapply for funding) in 11 states to provide

housing services to veterans who are women, frail elderly, terminally ill,

chronically mentally ill or who care for minor dependents.

 

Eligible programs must provide up to 24 months of housing or services,

such as case management, crisis intervention, counseling and so on. The

goal, quoting from the news release, is to help “homeless veterans achieve

residential stability, increase their skill levels and income, and gain

greater self-determination.”

 

Sounds great, but the fine print is confusing. A notice in the Federal

Register outlines the details. Here are some of the services provided:

* Frail elderly are to receive services for safety, opportunities to stay

mentally and physically agile, walkers or other necessary devices, and

monitoring of medications.

 

* The terminally ill program will help address end of life issues, provide

transition and closure actions, and provide legal counsel and pain

management.

 

* For the chronically mentally ill, it will help participants engage with

the community, facilitate reintegration and ensure opportunities to re-
establish relationships with family.

 

* For those who care for minor dependents, the program will provide

transportation, offer referrals for child care and ensure health needs are

met, especially immunizations.

 

* For women, it will ensure transportation, especially for health and

education, and will address safety and security issues.

Doing the math, the $5 million could give $200,000 to each organization,

if divided evenly … except the fine print of the Federal Register notice

says that $3.5 million is expected to be made available.

 

Where’s the other $1.5 million?

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Women Veterans React Differently to TBI

by Freddy Groves

 

Treatment of veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury has been difficult

because of the many symptoms that the illness presents. Now add another

barrier … there are differences in symptoms between men and women.

Women veterans with TBI suffer from chronic pain, joblessness, PTSD,

homelessness and depression in greater numbers than male veterans. They

are more likely to suffer from anxiety, neurological problems and sleep

disorders. Additionally, women veterans are more likely to suffer from

multiple symptoms. If PTSD is part of the package, women likely take

longer to heal.

 

Odette Harris, associate professor of neurosurgery at the Palo Alto

Veterans Affairs Health Care System) studied the effects of TBI on women

veterans. She began with the fact that women veterans are more likely to

be single parents and more likely to suffer from harassment and assault

related to gender, both of which add to stress of TBI.

 

Her research concluded that women veterans with TBI are:

–Four times more likely than male veterans to have substance-abuse

problems.

–Seven times more likely to be homeless, and 2.7 times more likely to be

unemployed.

–30 percent more likely to also have PTSD. (The good news here is that

women are more likely to ask for help and respond to treatment as well as

men, if not better.)

 

Harris produced video narratives of women veterans describing their

conditions in the hope that fresh approaches to treatment will come out of

the new paradigm: men and women who have TBI need different care because

they have different symptoms.

 

To learn more, visit the Veterans Resource Center on nami.com, the site

for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Also see the VA’s TBI site

at www.polytrauma.va.gov. The www.ptsd.va.gov site has information for

veterans, and friends and family of veterans with PTSD.

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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VA Stonewalls Congress Over Deaths of 40 Vets

by Freddy Groves

 

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans

Affairs, has called for a complete investigation into the travesty of the

40 veterans who died while awaiting care at the Department of Veterans

Affairs medical center in Phoenix. In his statement, Miller wrote of

the “growing pattern of preventable veteran deaths and patient safety

incidents at VA medical centers across the country,” and specifically

mentions Atlanta; Columbia, S.C.; Augusta, Ga.; Pittsburgh; and Memphis.

A week later, Miller wrote directly to VA chief Eric Shinseki about the

delay in preserving evidence of “secret” wait lists at the Phoenix VA. He

cited several witnesses to the fact that paper lists were shredded, and he

had requested more specific information about the who, what and when of

it. He got nada — even though he’d made a request for the preservation

of the documents as far back as April 9. It turns out the VA’s general

counsel hadn’t passed along the request for eight days … plenty of time

to shred a lot of documents.

 

Miller is someone to watch. A few months ago, he launched a program called

the VA Honesty Project, which is “designed to highlight the Department of

Veterans Affairs’ lack of transparency with the press, and by extension,

with the public.” He pointed out that the VA has 54 full-time employees

who are tasked with handling media requests … or ignoring them, as the

case may be.

 

Miller’s project documents 70 cases so far in which the VA failed to

respond to questions, saying that the VA’s “media avoidance strategy can’t

be anything other than intentional.” The Veterans committee itself has

been waiting on more than 100 information requests dating back to 2012.

To view the evidence, see: http://veterans.house.gov/VAHonestyProject.

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Semper Fi Fund

by Freddy Groves

 

Grab your checkbook. I hope by the time you finish reading this, you’ll be

ready to cut a check to the Semper Fi Fund.

 

In spite of the name, SFF helps post-9/11 veterans from all the services.

They cover family support, adaptive housing and transportation, special

equipment, rehabilitative sports and so much more for injured and

critically ill service veterans, as well as families of active-duty

members.

 

Unlike many veterans “help” organizations, this one is mostly made up of

either retired military or spouses of military personnel. In fact, it was

one of those spouses who started SFF nine years ago.

 

The Semper Fi Fund (http://semperfifund.org) has garnered what so many

veterans help groups haven’t: a four-star rating by Charity Navigator and

an A-plus rating on CharityWatch. According to its 2013 Annual Report,

only 6 percent of donations are spent on overhead.

 

In 2013 alone, it helped 5,472 service members and their families and

delivered 15,545 grants for a total of $14,559,793 in assistance. Here’s

a partial list of what that included: 92 adaptive vehicles, 2,277 Team

Semper Fi grants for rehabilitative athletics, 198 companion dogs, 160

camperships for the kids, 541 PTS/TBI devices, 16 grants for adaptive home

purchase, 6,286 family-support assistance grants, 2,733 medical-support

assistance grants and $1,151,777 from its America’s Fund, which supports

families of injured and critically ill service members.

 

Here’s where your checkbook comes in: SFF continues to receive

applications for help on a daily basis. Donations are needed, whether from

community fundraising events, golf tournaments, motorcycle runs … or

individuals. To write a check, go online to the SFF site and print out a

donations form. Write your check and mail it to:

Semper Fi Fund

825 College Blvd, Suite 102

PMB 609

Oceanside, CA 92057

For more information, call: 760-725-3680

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Stand Downs: Help for Homeless Vets

by Freddy Groves

 

At one point this winter, 49 states had snow on the ground. That made it

extra tough on homeless veterans trying to keep warm. The Department of

Veterans Affairs has been working hard to meet its goal of eliminating

veteran homelessness by fiscal year 2015 and getting veterans into

permanent and stable housing, but the need is still great. Stand Downs for

homeless veterans have already started all over the country.

If you’ve never organized or participated in a Stand Down, let this be

the year you step forward. There are many ways to help. Stand Downs span

a variety of types of services. There are three- and four-day events

with shelter, resource fairs lasting one or two days, health fairs and

job fairs. Services offered can range from referrals for employment,

substance-abuse treatment and health care to food, shelter, legal help,

dental services and clothing. Veterans also can get benefits and Social

Security help and counseling.

 

To participate individually, go online to the National Coalition for

Homeless Veterans (nchv.org) and look under Service Providers.

To host a Stand Down with your veterans service group, go to the same

website and read the Guide and Overview. Be sure your event is listed

there as well as on the VA site at www.va.gov/homeless.

 

Depending on the statistics you read, the number of homeless veterans is

either going up or down — or the veterans are moving to other locations,

altering the count. In any event, there are still too many veterans on the

street. You can help by participating in a Stand Down.

 

If youÕre a veteran seeking services from a Stand Down event, call

202-461-1857 to find out when one will be held in your area.

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Homeless Vets Get Big Boost in Aid

by Freddy Groves

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has printed in the Federal Register its

intention to provide a record $300 million to address veteran homelessness

for both fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The money will go to non-profit

organizations in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program that

work with homeless veterans and their families.

 

The list of areas where these groups provide assistance is lengthy: Moving

and relocation expenses, child care, rent and utilities for those who

are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, transportation, housing

counseling, advocating with property owners, security deposits and

emergency expenses. In 2013 alone, SSVF assisted 39,000 veterans and

62,000 veterans with families.

 

Once the veteran and his or her family are in permanent housing, the

program continues, assisting the veteran with medical care, benefits and

services, daily living, financial planning, legal services and more.

While veteran homelessness has declined by 24 percent since 2009, in

January 2013 there still were 57,849 homeless veterans on the street. More

than 7 percent of those veterans were women.

 

If your non-profit organization wants to qualify to provide support

services to homeless or very low-income veterans and their families, start

online at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp. There is a lengthy process to be

accepted into the program. You also can call 877-737-0111 or via email at

SSVF@va.gov. Work quickly because your application has to be received by

March 14, 2014. Grants are for three years and will begin Oct. 1, 2014.

 

If you’re a veteran who is homeless or at risk to be homeless,

call 1-877-424-3838 (4AIDVET). Someone will answer 24/7, and many of those who

respond are veterans themselves. For information about VA and DOD programs

for brain injury, go to www.dvbic.org

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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VA Links 5 More Illnesses to TBI

by Freddy Groves

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has added five illnesses to service-
connected Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). What this means is that veterans

who have those illnesses as well as TBI will have an easier time getting

additional disability benefits.

 

The VA based its decision on a report by the National Academy of Sciences

Institute of Medicine that found “sufficient evidence” to link moderate

to severe TBI with the five conditions: Parkinson’s disease, certain

types of dementia, depression, unprovoked seizures or certain diseases

of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Those secondary illnesses will

be considered service-connected and won’t require medical opinions to

establish whether there is correlation to TBI.

 

There’s a time period for three of the five illnesses, however.

Parkinson’s disease or unprovoked seizures don’t have a time frame.

* Dementia, if it manifests within 15 years with moderate or severe TBI.

* Depression, if it manifests within three years with moderate or severe

TBI or within 12 months with mild TBI.

 

* Diseases of hormone deficiency from hypothalamo-pituitary changes if

they manifest within 12 months of moderate or severe TBI.

Even if you don’t meet the guidelines for severity of TBI or length of

time between TBI and the onset of the second illness, file your claim

anyway, says the VA.

 

If you have questions or want to file a new claim, go online to

www.eBenefits.va.gov/ebenefits or call toll free to 1-800-827-1000. If

you’re still active duty but within 180 days of discharge, you can file a

pre-discharge TBI claim at the same link to phone number.

 

To see the whole final determination (the comment section is informative),

go online to www.regulations.gov and put this in the search box: VA-2012-

VBA-0029-0212

 

For information about VA and DOD programs for brain injury, go to

www.dvbic.org.

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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