Getting Homeless Veterans Off the Streets in Tampa

For United States veterans who have fallen on hard times, getting some help from fellow veterans can bring about an extremely powerful feeling. For an Air Force veteran named Randy Levelle in Tampa, getting into an apartment after years of living out in the streets felt like having a clean and pressed uniform back on.


According to a news report published by Tampa television news station WTSP, the Tampa Crossroads charity is determined to get all homeless veterans off the streets, and this is something that starts by working with landlords at the community level. Like many burgeoning metropolitan areas of the country, affordable housing has become very scarce in the Tampa Bay region; this is a socioeconomic factor that interferes with charitable missions such as the ones pursued by Tampa Crossroads.


One of the strategies practiced by Tampa Crossroads is to enlist the help of landlords who may be declining homeless veterans from getting leases due to their backgrounds. Many landlords do not even realize that the applicants they deny could be veterans, and this is an issue that emanates from using third-party vetting services. For example, a potential tenant may be turned down because of an arrest on her record, but the landlord may not realize that there was never a conviction or that the applicant is a veteran. Tampa Crossroads sets the record straight and tries to get a discount on behalf of veterans.


The primary mission of Tampa Crossroads is to get housing for homeless veterans because it is easier to work with them on other issues once they are off the streets. Counseling, education and employment assistance follow once veterans are placed in stable homes.


Getting identification documents and transportation to VA medical centers is also important. The charity tries to negotiate discounted gas cards or public transport vouchers; in other words, they assist veterans with the basics they require to be able to stay in their homes. Many Tampa Crossroads employees are veterans or come from military families.


American Legion in Central Illinois Performs Solemn Duty

Members of two American Legion posts in Bloomington and Normal have come together to take on one of the most honorable and dignified duties for Americans: to render military honors at the funeral and burial of veterans.


According to a recent feature report published by The Pantagraph, a newspaper in Central Illinois, the American Legion Honor Guard fills in an important role that is not always available to every dearly departed veteran, although it should be; to provide a rifle team for the firing of the customary three fire volleys, commonly mistaken as a “21 gun salute.”


In the past, members of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts used to fill in ceremonial duties for fallen veterans whenever servicemembers were not available. In 1999, this was deemed unacceptable, and now an honor guard of at least two service members should be provided when requested by family members; alas, this minimum would leave out the traditional playing of Taps and the three-volley fire. The American Legion Honor Guard provides a bugler plus a ceremonial rifle team of seven members, who are also veterans and volunteer for this duty.


In 2017 alone, the American Legion Honor Guard of Central Illinois has conducted 59 funerals for veterans and their surviving families, who are presented with an American flag as well as three casings from the rifle salute. The members of the honor guard may not cut a sleek figure as they did in their younger years; the little hair they still have may be fully gray by now and their uniforms are larger than they used to be, but they are dedicated, sharp and fully committed to this very honorable duty.


In the Illinois region served by the two American Legion posts, military families are happy to have count on the honor guard, which many considered to be sharper than the active duty counterparts. The honor guard expects to be at more than 100 funerals this year, and they feel that paying final respects to fellow veterans is their most special military duty.



Hope for Troubled Veterans as Government Expands Mental Healthcare to Former Vets

At some point in our lives, we’ve all done things that left us full of shame or guilty feelings. What if whatever you did was such a profound violation of your moral compass that you feel undeserving of happiness, unable to forgive yourself, perhaps even unworthy of life? These are the feelings that an untold number of servicemen and women deal with after they leave the war zones. The atrocities witnessed or faced in the combat zone leave emotional wounds that not even time can heal. This can radically change a person and how they deal with the world.



The Iraq Drawdown



After the US government withdrew its troops from Iraq about six years ago, the military came under immense pressure to cut back quickly. As a result, thousands of combat troops were expelled from the force. As a result, a large number of vets were left without access to healthcare services accorded to former service members who leave the force with an honorable discharge. A large number of the expelled lot only had minor infractions on their records. After their expulsion, some committed suicide. To relieve the mental distress and physical pain from the combat, many turned to substance abuse while others wound up homeless.



A Lifeline?



Three months ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to start providing emergency mental health care to these veterans. The program will be rolled out starting this summer. According to David Shulkin, the VA Secretary, the goal of the program is to save lives. There are about half a million war veterans with less than honorable discharge in the US. Though the government doesn’t know the exact number of vets who are struggling, it became apparent after the Iraq downsize that many of them have acute mental health problems.




Many Veterans Discharged for Misconduct Had PTSD or Other Brain Injuries, Report Shows

A new study shows that nearly three-fifths of veterans who were discharged from military service for misconduct had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of brain injuries, according to the New York Times. The Government Accountability Office released the report, which Congress mandates.


For the first time in the report’s history, the data that showed veterans who were discharged for misconduct also included information about the veterans’ staffing and medical data. The report states that thousands of military veterans who suffered injuries as a result of their service were kicked out of the Armed Forces, which caused them to lose their VA benefits.


According to the report by the GAO, nearly 92,000 veterans were discharged from the military for misconduct from 2011 to 2015. Some of the reasons veterans can be discharged for misconduct include testing positive for drugs, suicide attempts and repeatedly showing up late for duty. Of the 92,000 veterans discharged, 57,000 were reported to have a PTSD diagnosis or a traumatic brain injury.


After years of scrutiny and several media reports stating the military was discharging veterans for misconduct in higher than average numbers, the military implemented standards requiring mental health screenings before veterans were punished for misconduct. However, the GAO report concluded that many of those veterans discharged for misconduct from 2011-2015 did not receive mental health screenings before receiving their punishment.


The report concluded that the hardest hit veterans were those who received other-than-honorable discharges. Most veterans who receive the punitive-discharge status do not qualify for VA benefits, including disability pensions and access to health care. Although veterans can appeal the discharge status, the process is slow and rarely successful. In recent years, over 87 percent of veterans with other-than-honorable discharges have not applied for an appeal or their benefits.



How Sandboxx is Getting Veterans Better Jobs

Military social network wants you to hire a vet for your next tech opening


Veterans are an important human resource to nations they represented in war. Unfortunately, veterans often lack access to sufficient health care, lodging, food, and water all humans need to survive. Many foundations, charities, social programs, and generosity or people and businesses have given to veterans, including the new social-based mobile app in Sandboxx.


Sandboxx is a mobile interface that connects veterans to people and businesses needing computer, IT, coding, and other technological work. The mobile app has paired with Betts Recruiting to spread awareness and positivity of what Sandboxx stands for and how it can help veterans in the United States lead more fulfilling lives after leaving the military. Other mobile applications have recently aided veterans in living more freely and with more satisfaction, but none have set a precedent for what Sandboxx hopes to accomplish in getting veterans on board with occupations in technology.


Sandboxx helps military members and veterans alike set themselves up for a better shot at landing employment in technological settings. Current military members are provided plans from Sandboxx to learn various computer and IT skills so they will be prepared for work directly after discharge from military branches. Military life away from home, friends, and family provides for a lifestyle in which learning new skills is easier than once already discharged. The veteran-helping mobile app also teaches computer illiterate veterans to become more familiar with modern computers and service them.


Sandboxx, an honorable mobile app with solid values, is certain to help thousands of veterans live more meaningful post-military lives in the near future.


Starbucks Plans to Hire an Additional 15,000 U.S. Veterans

Starbucks announced in late March that it would hire an additional 15,000 veterans this year. The coffee chain said it has reached its goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and their spouses one year ahead of a self-imposed 2018 deadline. The coffee giant states that its goal is to hire 25,000 U.S. veterans by the year 2025. The company made the announcement not long after receiving harsh criticism for outlining a goal to hire 10,000 refugees over five years.


The company took a huge hit in consumer perception after the company’s former CEO, Howard Schultz, announced plans to start hiring refugees back in January. Some consumers, including veterans, launched a campaign not long after the announcement to boycott Starbucks. Schultz released a statement saying the company would hire both refugees and veterans. Despite backlash across the country, the coffee chain said it will continue with its plan to hire refugees. Schultz stepped down as CEO of Starbucks in April.


The company also has plans to help educate refugees and to develop skills that will help them find jobs. Starbucks formed partnerships with the International Rescue Committee and the UN Refugee Agency to help develop strategic investments in social initiatives. The company continues to face strong criticism for its efforts to help refugees. Critics say the company should spend more time focusing on the needs of unskilled workers in the U.S. as opposed to the job needs of refugees.

Shulkin Defends Trump’s Budget Proposal That Could Cut Payments to Disabled Elderly Veterans

The new secretary of the VA, David Shulkin, recently defended a measure in Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal that would cut thousands of dollars in payments to disabled elderly veterans. The issue has to do with the expanded choice program, which allows veterans to choose private health care services over the VA’s network of services. Shulkin wants to offset the program by reducing benefits to elderly veterans, including capping the age restriction on a veteran’s eligibility for the VA’s Individual Unemployability benefit. Some veteran’s advocates fear that capping the age to qualify for the program could send thousands of elderly veterans into poverty.


The Trump administration’s proposed $1.1 trillion federal budget does increase spending on veterans issues by six percent, Shulkin noted. However, the budget proposal cuts many other federal programs that could affect veterans. Some House of Representatives members, including Tim Walz, a Democrat from Minnesota, stated that Trump’s budget proposal could drive many veterans who currently rely on programs provided by the federal government into the current VA health care system, which would drive up costs.


Shulkin praised members of the Senate and the House on moves that gave him more power to fire poorly performing employees. However, Shulkin did not address issues regarding the VA’s antiquated information technology systems. He stated he was looking into other ways to upgrade and would make a formal decision on July 1.


VA Secretary Shares Same Goal as Former President Obama- End Veteran’s Homelessness

The new secretary of the Veterans Administration shares the same goal as former President Barak Obama, to end homelessness among U.S. veterans. David Shulkin stated he would like to reduce the number of veterans who are homeless from 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 during the Trump administration, according to Business Insider. The VA secretary stated that veteran’s homelessness in Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut was virtually over in 40 communities. The outgoing secretary, Robert McDonald, stated those figures should be attainable nationwide by the end of 2017.


Some skeptics believe that the new VA secretary is being “cautiously optimistic,” and he should undertake a more aggressive approach to end veteran homelessness. One Connecticut Democrat, Richard Blumenthal, stated that homelessness among U.S. veterans should be over by the end of Trump’s first term.


Secretary Shulkin stated that some veterans prefer help from private sources instead of the V.A., and a shortage of available houses and high real estate prices are hindering the VA’s efforts to end homelessness. According to the secretary, the biggest challenge the VA faces is in Los Angeles, where skyrocketing home prices are making it next to impossible to find suitable housing for low-income veterans. Business Insider reports that voucher programs for veterans will receive more funding for the fiscal year 2017, which will help agencies such as the United Way of Los Angeles help find transitional housing for veterans facing homelessness.



Social Media Vs PTSD

It has been long understood that soldiers who return from battle often face challenges when they return to civilian life. It is hard to imagine how any human being could overcome so many of the struggles that those who serve have to face. Just considering all of the horrible things that one might have seen while in service is enough to make a lot of people unable to adjust to their new life back home.


This is why some veterans are now turning to social media to try to help each other out with these struggles. They are using something called the “buddy check on 22” on social media to help each other out. What this serves as is a simple reminder to check in on one another regularly. It can be as simple as giving a friend a call to make sure that he is doing okay.


It is set up to remind the veterans to check in on one another on the 22nd of each month the New York Times reports. There are similar programs for combating other things such as diseases like cancer.


Having one specific day set aside each month is a huge help because it means that it sticks out in the mind and helps make it easier to remember. This program may well have helped saved the lives of countless veterans.


PTSD remains a serious problem in the military and social media activism like this is helping the very brave soldiers get the assistance they may require.


Veteran Lays on the Floor in Pain While Waiting for Care

A woman in North Carolina recently snapped a photo of several U.S. veterans lying on the floor of a veteran’s hospital in the state. One veteran was slouched in a wheelchair while squirming around in pain and another veteran was on the floor crying out in agony. According to the Huffington Post, one veteran asked for permission to lie down on the floor to help ease his pain, and the staff at the hospital promptly denied his request and told him he can “sit in a chair and wait, like everyone else.” Witnesses indicate the man lied down on the floor anyway until someone offered him a reclining chair.


The man in the wheelchair was identified as Jesse Lee, a Vietnam-era veteran who lost both of his legs to diabetes. Lee stated that it was the worst thing that ever happened in his life, and he also stated that it is not uncommon for veterans to wait for hours before someone at the hospital offers assistance. The photo is now viral, which led to the daughter of Sen. John McCain, Meghan McCain, calling the scene “despicable and shameful.”


A public affairs officer representing the hospital will conduct a full investigation. The officer stated the photos were taken on one of the hospital’s busiest days, and it was not indicative of the level of service veterans receive.