Veterans Affairs – May/Jun 2015

I must humbly admit that I keep finding benefits for veterans and retirees that I never knew existed. Some of these could have a major impact on your lifestyle and boost your wallet! Three that I find most interesting follow.

 

Transferability of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  The Secretary of Defense has authorized the transfer of all or some GI Bill benefits to a spouse or children. Service members must have served at least 90 days on active duty on or after 11 September 2001. Benefits accrue on a sliding scale, and certainly have some limitations. But benefits can cover tuition, fees, up to $1,000 a year for books and other living expenses.

 

Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance.  Even if a service member has used his GI Bill benefits, his spouse or children may be eligible for tuition assistance. This could apply to job training, an apprenticeship or to earn a degree. In this case, the service member must be totally or permanently disabled as a result of service, or have died from a service-related cause, is missing in action, or other situations.

 

Military Spouse Career Advancement Account.  Military spouses can receive up to $4,000 in tuition assistance for various high-demand career fields. This is available to spouses of service members in grades E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, and O-1 or O-2.

For more information on all of these, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs web site and do a search on GI Bill. There are lots of other benefits you may not be aware of.

 

Are you hearing disabled and have hearing aids from VA or DOD? Are you eligible for free hearing aid batteries from the VA Denver Acquisition & Logistics Center? I highly recommend their new automated 24-hour reorder system. Just call 303-273-6200 and follow the prompts. You will be asked to enter your Social Security number and mailing zip code. I used it for the first time last month and was amazed at how simple it is. And I got my new batteries a lot faster than using the old mail-in-the-card system.

A couple of items from the Military Archdiocese.  In this year’s “Ordination Season” the Class of 2015 will turn out almost twice as many military vets compared with each of the past two years. For this year, 24 men being ordained to the priesthood report previously serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. And on March 27, the Senate confirmed the promotion of Father Paul K. Hurley from the rank of Colonel to Major General (Yes – he skipped Brigadier General) and his appointment as the 24th U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains. Say a prayer for Father Hurley, and for all our military chaplains of all faiths and services.

Finally, please remember to thank a Veteran or an active duty Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

 

 

J J Kelly

Walk for the Wounded

We were at the Walk for the Wounded on May 2, in Media, PA. Black Jack Kehoe Division of Delaware County, PA, have supported each of the eight annual walks put on by Operation First Response.

They announced that in the eight years of the walks, over $1.2 million has been raised to support our wounded troops and their families. They claim over 95 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to support the troops and families.

J J Kelly

 

Veterans Chairman JJ Kelly, Delaware County Vice President Tony Mielich and Bill Hart, past president of the Black Jack Kehoe Division.

Veterans Chairman JJ Kelly, Delaware County Vice President Tony Mielich and Bill Hart, past president of the Black Jack Kehoe Division.

The officers and brothers from Black Jack Kehoe Division.

The officers and brothers from Black Jack Kehoe Division.

Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs

 

JJ Kellly

As I write this, we are “leaning forward in the foxhole” heading into November and its important dates – November 10th – the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps – and November 11th – Veterans Day – which honors all those who have served honorably in our armed forces. Following those two days we had the Sixth Annual Benefit for the Archdiocese for the Military Services. While this event is a wonderful opportunity to support the Military Archdiocese, it is not the only opportunity. I have often written about the need to continue to support this great Archdiocese. Just go to their website, www.milarch.org/, and click on the DONATE button. Again, the Military Archdiocese receives no funds from the United States Government. They need our help!

November is also Military Family Appreciation Month. The term “family” really means more than just relatives and immediate family. It also applies to those folks in the community who pull together to support one another. All those who stand behind our nation’s service members are a part of helping our military readiness. While November is the official month for this, don’t limit our support of our nation’s military families to just this month. Do it every day of the year – let our service members and their families know we are one hundred percent behind them.

I am always looking for organizations and opportunities for easing the transition from military to civilian life for our veterans. I just came across a new one for me – Voices of Valor. This program provides an opportunity for veterans, most of whom have no musical experience, to learn to channel their experiences into song. The claim is that participants often see a reduction in stress, anxiety and emotional health issues. Meeting in groups of eight to ten with facilitators, they explore and write about their experiences and collectively write a tune that reflects their challenges in returning to civilian life. While at the current time all options appear to be in New Jersey, the program is expanding. Go to www.voicesofvalor.org.

Finally, please remember to thank a Veteran or an active duty Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

Veterans Affairs

Kelly

J J Kelly, Chairman

A special thank you to all the state level and division/county level Veterans Affairs chairmen who attended the St. Louis convention, and who attended the session devoted to Veterans Affairs. I continue to be impressed by the work you all are doing to support our veterans, our active duty members of the armed forces and their families. From spreading the word, to raising funds for education and helping our wounded warriors, you all are doing wonderful work. I encourage you to keep letting me know what you are doing so that through this venue and others we can get the word out to others.

One area where I encourage all to get involved is in support of those needing assistance at our VA hospitals and medical facilities. So many of our elderly and disabled veterans need help in getting to and from their appointments, and even just navigating the hallways of the hospitals. Every VA facility has a volunteer coordinator. Please find him or her, let them know you are an AOH member and are available to help.

Irish Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Project

We covered a lot of areas in our discussions in St. Louis, but an area I need to stress again is the Irish Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Project. To iterate, this project has as its goal to honor and memorialize the service and sacrifice of those Irish nationals who gave their lives in service to the United States during the Viet Nam war. A permanent memorial has been designed and approved to be built in the City of Ennis, County Clare. It will list the names of those 29 individuals who lost their lives. This is a 501 C 3 non-profit organization. For more details, go to their web site at www.ivnvmp.org.

Some help from Congress

I suspect many of you, as I, continue to follow the troubles and scandals ongoing in the Department of Veterans Affairs. It sure looks like help is on the way with new folks at the top, and Congress getting involved. Both the House and Senate voted to allow many more thousands of vets temporary access to private-sector health care at government expense. It is only a stop gap measure, but at least it is a good first step.

One other item. Have you ever heard yoga and Army used together in the same sentence before? One of the new approaches the Army is trying to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is an ancient yoga practice known as Yoga Nidra. You may be aware that the Catholic Church has some reservations about yoga and its meditative practices. So we will just have to see where this process goes.

Finally, please remember to thank a Veteran or an active duty Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

Veterans Affairs – JJ Kelly

Are you a “veteran”? You may be surprised to find out that according to US law, you might not be – at least for now. There are more than 200,000 National Guard and Reserve retirees denied that status under current law because their military careers of monthly drills and annual training did not include at least 180 days on active duty under so-called Title 10 orders. These men and women may draw retired pay, use TRICARE and shop at the local Post Exchange and commissary. But the laws do not consider them as veterans. That hopefully is about to change. Congress is moving forward this year to expand the definition of veteran to include Guard and Reserve members who served at least 20 years – enough to earn retirement benefits at age 60, even if never called to active duty. Most affected retirees served in the Cold War era, when it was not unusual to complete Guard and Reserve careers without going on active duty. This is unlikely today, given how Reserve Component forces have been deployed for wartime operations since 9/11. However, currently denied the honor of veteran status are many retired Guard members who served under other types of orders at Ground Zero on 9/11, after Hurricane Katrina, and the BP oil spill. Those affected point out that they aren’t seeking more benefits. They only want to be recognized as veterans under the law. They soon could be.

One organization who does not feel bound by the government’s definition of “veteran” is USAA – United Services Automobile Association. If you have paid any attention to their many commercials on TV of late, you know how they are eagerly recruiting “members” – veterans, spouses of military, children of military. One aspect of USAA’s activities involves their efforts in helping veterans make the transition from military to civilian life. It is estimated that between 2011 and 2016, about one million service members will separate from the military and make the transition to civilian life. Finding the right job is always difficult. Today’s economy makes it even more daunting. USAA, along with other companies, is offering advice and tools designed to ease the transition, as well as making veteran hiring a priority. This is not meant as an endorsement of USAA – rather a place to guide veterans and those leaving the military to go see what is out there.

Two final notes: The Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) will hold their annual benefit on Thursday, November 7th, at The Army – Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. Go to www.milarch.org/events for details — how to contribute. With such a wonderful mission, the AMS needs all the help they can get. Also, keep an eye out for the first ever USA Today Special Edition “Veterans Affairs: Saluting Our Troops” Commemorative Publication due out on Veterans Day, November 11th.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

 

 

J J Kelly

Veterans Affairs

In the past, I have written on the origin of Taps – hopefully dispelling some of the “romantic legends” surrounding its origin. As we know, this bugle call has been a part of our military ceremonies since Civil War days. In December of 2012 Congress designated Taps as the “National Song of Military Remembrance.” As stated in House bill, H.R. 595, taps was created in July 1862 by bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton and Union General Butterfield. This took place at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. A memorial at Berkeley Plantation takes commemorates this event. The Bill goes on to state, “Taps has become the signature, solemn musical farewell for members of the uniformed services and veterans who have faithfully served the United States in times of war and peace.” A “Sense of Congress” resolution in the acts states: “It is the Sense of Congress that the bugle call knows as ‘Taps’ should be designated as the National Song of Military Remembrance. Thank you, Congress, for this.

On a totally different note, the VA has announced new grants to help reduce or end veterans’ homelessness. Under these new programs, providers can apply for funding to enhance the facilities used to serve homeless veterans and to acquire vans to help transport these vets. This is all part of VA’s Grant and Per Diem Program, which has over 15,000 operational transitional housing beds nationwide. The program is designed to provide community-based organizations with funding to develop and operate transitional housing and support services for our homeless vets. Hopefully in time we can report that the number of homeless veterans has been reduced to zero. God Bless them all.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

 

 

J J Kelly

Veterans Affairs – J.J. Kelly

Major kudos are in order for Bill Halpin, Veterans Affairs Chairman for the Virginia State Board. Bill has been working for several years with folks both here in the US and in Ireland to establish an Irish Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. Several different proposals have been considered, evaluated and dropped. One such proposal is to renovate the 18th century Edenville House Cavalry Barracks in Roscommon. At a cost of several million Euros, this project seems to have foundered a bit.

Now comes grand news from Ennis, County Clare. The elected members of the Ennis Town Council have voted unanimously to support a proposal for a memorial to Irish men and women who served and died in Allied service in South East Asia from 1959 through 1975. It is planned to erect the memorial in the vicinity of Clonroadmore Park on November 11, 2013, as part of International Remembrance Day.

The driving force behind the project is an ex-veteran and frequent visitor to County Clare, Mr. Matthew Carroll. In his recent visit with Mr. Carroll, Bill Halpin says that Carroll and his associates are quick to point out that the memorial is only 15 miles from Shannon Airport. Nicely timed to possibly be featured as part of The Gathering Ireland 2013, the Memorial could serve as quite a tourist attraction for the many veterans in America.

Underway is the formation of a 501 (C) (3) organization called “The Irish Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Project.” Certainly they will be looking for sponsorships, donations, and help from many organizations to include the AOH, Embassy of Ireland, etc. As the project matures, I suggest we, the AOH at all levels, give consideration to this excellent project.

The Ennis Town Council referred to the sensitivity of any war memorial in Ireland, but further stated they did not wish to turn their backs on those Irish men and women who lost their lives and those who served and may be in need of advocacy and support. Their focus, then, is creating a space for reflection for families and for those who served in allied military service in South East Asia. Again, thanks, Bill for your efforts in this project. And stay tuned for further developments.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

 

J J Kelly

Veterans Affairs

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Father Kerry Abbot, OFM, Director of Vocations for the Military Archdiocese. Father Abbot is quick to point out that the U.S. military is facing a crisis in faith. He notes that the number of Catholic Chaplains has fallen sharply over the past decade, leaving thousands of soldiers going months without access to a priest. Father Abbot, in his position of vocations director, is charged with serving all the armed services. Catholics make up the largest single religious denomination in the military, with over 275,000 among the active duty troops. Add their dependents, government personnel serving overseas, and the number grows very quickly. The Military Archdiocese is now down to 216 Catholic chaplains.

Of course the priest shortage is not unique to the military. With shortages in many of our civilian dioceses, bishops are reluctant to approve of current priests and seminarians going into the military. Now comes a new scholarship program initiated by the Military Archdiocese. It calls for a civilian archdiocese and the Military Archdiocese to split the cost of training a seminarian. Upon ordination, the priest becomes a military chaplain until he reaches retirement age at 62. At that time, he returns to a local parish where he may serve another 15 to 20 years. So far, the program is working. A couple of years ago, there were just two seminarians on the path to becoming a Catholic chaplain. Now there are 31. With this success, however, the Military Archdiocese needs our support to help pay for these seminarians. I strongly encourage you to go to the home page of the Military Archdiocese at www.milarch.org and click on the donate button.

 

On another subject – Pennsylvania just became the 40th state – Commonwealth – to sign the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. Participating states follow common guidelines to resolve hurdles faced by children of military families when they move between schools of different states. Issues include class placement, records transfer, immunization requirements graduation requirements, and extra-curricular opportunities, among others. Thank you, Pennsylvania and the other 39 states to have done this. Now for the final ten!!

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

Veterans Affairs

A couple of unrelated items this month. For starters, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced the expansion of the Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) program to include injuries servicemembes and veterans received outside of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).  Under the original TSGLI law, it was made retroactive by Congress to October 7, 2001, for those qualifying service men and women who suffered injuries in the combat zones of OIF and OEF. In 2010, Public Law 111-275 removed the OIF/OEF requirement. Therefore, TSGLI coverage is now provided retroactively for those men and women who incurred qualifying severe injuries or illnesses between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, regardless of where the injury occurred and whether or not they had Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage at the time of the injury or illness.  TSGLI covers a wide range of injuries and losses, including amputations; limb salvage; paralysis; burns; loss of sight, hearing or speech; facial reconstruction; and certain traumatic brain or other traumatic injuries. If you or anyone you know falls into this category, claims can now be submitted, which will be payable starting October 1, 2011.

From time to time, items are passed around the Internet on the origins of certain military customs. A few months ago I reported on the origin of Taps. The following on the Origin of the 21-gun salute comes from the Arlington National Cemetery web page. The tradition of saluting goes back to the Middle Ages. By placing yourself in an unarmed position, you have placed yourself in the power of the ones being honored. Thus, the cannon salute might have originated in the 17th century with the maritime practice of demanding that a defeated enemy expend its ammunition and render itself helpless until reloaded – a time consuming operation in that era. In the Anglo-Saxon Empire, seven guns was a recognized naval salute, seven being the standard number of weapons on a vessel. Because more gunpowder could be stored on dry land, forts could fire three rounds for every one fired from sea, hence the number 21. With the improvement of naval gunpowder, honors rendered at sea were increased to 21 as well.

Beginning in our colonial period, the United States fired one shot for every state in the Union. This was continued until 1841 when it was reduced to 21 from 26.  Although it had been in use for more than 30 years, the 21-gun salute was not formally adopted until August 18, 1875. This was at the suggestion of the British, who proposed a “Gun for Gun Return” to their own 21-gun salute.  So now you know!

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced the expansion of the Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) program to include injuries servicemembers and veterans received outside of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Under the original TSGLI law, it was made retroactive by Congress to October 7, 2001, for those qualifying service men and women who suffered injuries in the combat zones of OIF and OEF. In 2010, Public Law 111-275 removed the OIF/OEF requirement. Therefore, TSGLI coverage is now provided retroactively for those men and women who incurred qualifying severe injuries or illnesses between October 7, 2001, and November 30, 2005, regardless of where the injury occurred and whether or not they had Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage at the time of the injury or illness. TSGLI covers a wide range of injuries and losses, including amputations; limb salvage; paralysis; burns; loss of sight, hearing or speech; facial reconstruction; and certain traumatic brain or other traumatic injuries. If you or anyone you know falls into this category, claims can now be submitted that will be payable starting October 1, 2011.

The annual benefit for the Archdiocese for the Military Services is coming up on Tuesday, November 8, at the Army Navy Country Club, Arlington, Virginia. This is such an important event in the annual schedule of the Archdiocese. The funds they need to support our Catholic men and women serving around the world must be generated by the Archdiocese. They receive no funding from the U.S. government. If possible, I encourage you to attend. If you cannot, please make a donation to the Archdiocese. Go to www.milarch.org/events to RSVP or to make a donation.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.