Female Veterans Face Their Own, Specific Challenges

All military veterans face challenges when it comes to returning to civilian life, but as the conservative media outlet Newsmax.com pointed out in a recent story, the growing number of female veterans must cope with some unique ones.

Soldier holding folded American flag
Soldier holding folded American flag
The article  by Tony Piccoli, in noting the rapid growth in the number of female veterans in the past 15 years, focuses on five of these:

  • Invisibility

“Many returning female vets have felt isolated, unacknowledged and invisible in a civilian society that either can’t fathom what they’ve been through, or discounts their military experience as somehow less challenging than that of male veterans,” Piccoli wrote. “Even as their numbers grow, these women have sometimes struggled to find and connect to one another and build mutually supportive veteran networks of the kind that are more established and taken for granted among male veterans.”

  • Falling through cracks

“Women say that sense of female invisibility can persist even in the institutions created to help the military population. Benefits and service programs operated by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs “tend to lag behind in serving women,” The Wall Street Journal reported, citing the 2014 DAV study and other sources.”

  • Self-isolation

“Women veterans will sometimes place themselves beyond the reach of help,” according to the story.
“We have found that women veterans underutilize VA care, largely because of a lack of knowledge about VA benefits and available services,” the agency’s chief consultant for women’s health services wrote in 2013.

  • Unemployment

The DAV report found unemployment among recently discharged female veterans running more than a point above jobless rate for male service members in 2013.

  • Homelessness

Female veterans were no more likely to suffer from PTSD than male veterans, according to a 2012 VA study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. Yet they were the fastest-growing segment of the veteran homeless population, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported in 2011.

Innovative Project Allows Veterans to Help Health Care into the Future

Portrait of a Mature Male Veteran Standing in Front of a Stars and Stripes Flag Wearing Election Badges
Portrait of a Mature Male Veteran Standing in Front of a Stars and Stripes Flag Wearing Election Badges
A remarkable research project is under way that will enable veterans, who have given so much to their country, to give even more.
Recently, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald brought to 441,196 the number of those volunteering for the Million Veteran Program.
According to the official blog of the department, in an announcement that McDonald had donated blood for the innovative research project, the Million Veteran Program “is a partnership between the VA and veterans with the goal of using genome mapping to help Veterans of today, and the future, transform their health care.”
“To me the Million Veteran Program is one of our premier research programs,” McDonald said. “It’s fundamental to the precision medicine initiative that the president has been leading.
“As a Veteran, you want to keep serving, and this is another opportunity to serve.”
“Veterans can volunteer to submit blood samples, which are entered into what is becoming one of the world’s largest medical database,” the announcement continued“Medical researchers can take the data and use it for studies on diseases like diabetes and cancer, and military-related illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The group targeted is a very special one, and not only for what they have done.
“Veterans are unique patients,” the blog stated. “Some have more than 40 years of medical records that followed them from their time in military service through their treatment at VA facilities. With the blood samples provided, researchers can use their extensive medical history to get a precise prognosis of where they’re heading.”
The samples are stored in a secure VA central research program database and are labeled with a code. Researchers who are approved access to analyze samples and data will not receive the name, address, date of birth or Social Security number of participating veterans.
“MVP will help researchers better understand the role genes play in our health,” states a frequently asked questions section on the VA’s website “For example, this research may tell us why some people are more responsive to certain medicines or why certain individuals are more likely to develop diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Your participation may not immediately benefit you. However, research findings may lead to new ways of preventing and treating illnesses in veterans and all Americans in the future.”
“The research that the secretary is now a part of will probably yield information to us for decades to come,” Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, one of the principal investigators in the program, was quoted as saying in the blog. “This is a quantum leap forward in understanding how genes affect disease. This isn’t just for the health of Veterans. What we learn will benefit mankind, as VA research has done over the decades. By agreeing to join the program, the Veterans who enroll are providing a generous gift to future generations; we can never thank them enough for their participation.”

HR Departments Realizing That Veterans Make Good Employees

young man with split careers businessman and soldier
young man with split careers businessman and soldier
All across the country, according to a recent article on the website employerroadmap.org, officials in human resources departments for major corporations are catching on that hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do, but also a wise move.
“Veterans and transitioning service members have more resources available to them in their job search than ever before,” the article declares . “Human resources departments and recruiters play a critical role when companies make veteran hiring a priority. An inspired and educated HR and recruitment team can make all the difference in the hiring process for both veterans and employers.”
Employerroadmap.org is a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The piece goes on to describe several instances where this turnabout is taking hold, including at La Quinta Inns and Suites, based in Irving, Texas. There, the members of the talent acquisition team have created a guideline for hiring veterans and their spouses.
“This guide includes information on finding, interviewing, hiring, onboarding and training veterans and transitioning service members. The guide also includes a list of local and national veteran hiring resources. Available to the entire company via intranet, it helps everyone be on the same page about veteran hiring.”
The most important concept for Miami-based Ryder Systems Inc., the story quotes Kirk Imhof, group director of diversity, inclusion and engagement, is “how to solicit concrete examples from veterans around not only their primary job duties, but also their other training and experience.”
Veterans often argue that while their military experience translates well to the private sector, it’s often difficult to get this across.
“Capital One, headquartered in McLean, Va., coaches its human resources staff to focus on skill sets and competencies, rather than chronological work history, when interviewing spouses,” the story adds. “Because of their frequent moves, many spouses’ work histories are interrupted, resulting in gaps on their resumes. Many spouses gain valuable experience through their volunteer work and should be encouraged to talk about these experiences, even if they are not clearly listed on a resume.”

Ruses That Target Veterans Termed ‘Despicable’

Proud saluting male army soldier on american flag background
Proud saluting male army soldier on american flag background
Along with the elderly, heartless scammers frequent target veterans and their families, according to a recent American Association of Retired Persons blog, which referred to these confidence games as “despicable.”
“Scammers are calling widows of military veterans, saying the deceased had a hefty life insurance policy but payments are in arrears, and a few thousand dollars will bring the life insurance policy up to date,” according to the article by Sid Kirchheimer
“Whether you’re an active-duty member or a military veteran, a family member or an everyday civilian who appreciates the duty and sacrifice of veterans, con artists have you in their sights.”
Among the scams cited in the blog are people posing as officials with the Veterans Administration seeking to obtain personal and financial information.
“Don’t provide personal or financial information, including Social Security number, driver’s license or bank or credit accounts, in unsolicited phone calls or during visits from self-described employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs; it’s fraudsters who are asking under the guise of supposed policy changes for dispensing drugs or receiving benefits,” Kirchheimer writes.
Bogus charities are another strategy of criminals targeting members of the military and their families.
“Before donating, verify charities by checking their names and reputations at the Wise Giving Alliance, operated by the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator or GuideStar,” the blog advises.

The Challenge of Successfully Applying for Veterans Benefits

The government’s helping hand can be a little slippery and hard to hold on to — especially for veterans.

For the last few months, NPR has featured an ongoing series called Back at Base, which chronicles the lives of American troops all around the world. A special part of that series, released just a few weeks ago, looks at the experience of veterans as they deal with healthcare concerns following their years of service.
Part 2 of that series is entitled “Without Help, Navigating Benefits Can Be Overwhelming for Veterans,” and it’s really helping a wider audience to understand just how difficult this well-meaning process really is.
They tell the story of Tom Nichols, a 29-year-old veteran of Indiana’s National Guard, who returned from Iraq a few years ago and has suffered from PTSD and addiction since.
Tom’s had trouble getting the help he needs. He tries applying for benefits, but the questions are tough and the application is long. Tom isn’t a doctor. He’s suffering. The idea that he can’t access the help he needs because the application itself is an obstruction seems acutely unfair, but for many, it is reality.
There is good news, though. The system is accessible to veterans like Tom. They might just need a little help.
“You never want to apply for benefits on your own,” a Veterans Services Officer tells NPR, “unless you have some experience with it.”
Too often, otherwise eligible veterans have their applications rejected because they tried to undertake the effort entirely alone. Others are eventually approved but only after significant delay.
This problem isn’t exclusive to veterans, actually. The elderly face similar application hurdles when trying to access government assistance for long-term care, as recently highlighted in News-Press.com, a spin-off of USA Today.
But in both these cases, professional help can make all the difference. In fact, NPR cites official data in reporting that veterans who seek assistance with their applications can receive double the benefits compared to those who don’t — and months or even years sooner.
Part of my practice is helping our nation’s heroes access the Veterans Benefits to which they are entitled under the law. The complex application process keeps too many people away from assistance that could make a radical difference in their lives.
If you have questions about your own eligibility for benefits, or if you need help with the applications, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. After all, you’ve served our country. Now, I welcome the opportunity to be of service to you.

Special Courts Deal With Special Problems Of Veterans

Veterans deserve special treatment for the sacrifices they have made in serving their country.

They also often have special problem as a result of their military experience, and that’s why there is a growing trend across the country to create special courts to deal with ex-servicemen and women.
“Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury,” according to a website devoted to Veterans Treatment Courts.
The site estimates that one veteran out of every five has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. One in six who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse issue.
“Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat–related mental illness,” the article continues. “Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.
“The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances … as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use. Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the armed forces. However, a few will struggle and it is exactly those veterans who need a Veterans Treatment Court program the most. Without this structure, these veterans will reoffend and remain in the criminal justice system.”
“Veterans Treatment Courts seek to treat veterans suffering from a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder, while helping ensure public safety,” notes a press release from the White House. “These special courts combine rigorous treatment and personal accountability, with the goal of breaking the cycle of drug use and criminal behavior.”

ABA Has Committee Focused On Legal Needs Of Veterans

Because the legal issues faced by veterans can be so complex and particular, the American Bar Association has a Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services.
Many who serve on the panel were themselves in the military and approach the legal problems from their own experiences.
“The challenge is huge, but the ABA has stepped up,” Paul Freese, co-chairman of the committee, is quoted as saying on the association’s website.
Freese was among those who participated earlier this year on the “Serving Those Who Served: A Roundtable Discussion on Meeting the Legal Needs of Veterans” at the 2014 ABA Midyear Meeting in Chicago.
“Meeting speakers focused on success stories including two programs from Chicago that aid veterans in need,” according to the article.
One was the John Marshall Law School Veterans Legal Support Center and Clinic, which was established by three John Marshall Law School students. Since the program was started, it “has grown from a low-resource, small volunteer project to a well-funded clinic with 21 students this semester and a network of more than 100 pro bono attorneys.”
“Benefit claims are the most frequent issue handled by the clinic,” the account states. “Recently, the clinic and a pro bono volunteer attorney helped a veteran receive $177,122 in back pay.”
The Chicago Child Support Project, which seeks to help homeless veterans facing huge child support burdens, was also highlighted.
“Many homeless veterans are so far behind in child support, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, that they cannot hope to pay the local authority or the other parent,” according to the piece. “In those cases, (Marian Scott-Steele, the homeless veterans liaison at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Division of Child Support Services) helps the veteran apply to have the authority agree not to pursue the debt and sometimes for the other parent to agree not to press for the child support.”

Veterans Generally Need Accredited Help Filing For Benefits

Veterans may receive assistance from anyone at all in making claims for benefits – but only once.
After that, according to federal law, the person offering the help must be accredited as either an attorney, agent or representative of a service organization, as noted on the website longtermcarelink.net.
“Federal law dictates that no one may help a veteran in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of an initial claim for VA benefits unless that person is accredited,” according to the article.” The only exception to this law is that any one person can help any veteran, one-time only with a claim. To help any veteran a second time requires accreditation.
“In order to be accredited to help veterans with new claims, an individual desiring this certification from VA must submit a formal application, must meet certain character requirements and work history requirements and, except for attorneys, must pass a comprehensive test relating to veterans claims and benefits. There are also requirements for ongoing continuing education.”
This is not, the article points out, a prohibition on a veteran talking about his or her claim with a spouse, other relative or friends.
“The point at which discussion narrows down to specific information about the veteran’s service record, medical conditions, financial situation including income and assets and other issues relating to a claim specific to a veteran or dependent triggers accreditation,” according to the site.
The threshold for the VA, the story noted, comes once the veteran “has expressed an intent to file an application for veterans benefits.”
“It does not matter whether physical help with filing the claim is provided or not. The need for accreditation occurs at a much earlier stage than becoming physically involved in the claim. For a better understanding of how VA General Counsel interprets the need for accreditation please go to the VA Office of General Counsel Website — Frequently Asked Questions about Accreditation at http://www4.va.gov/ogc/accred_faqs.asp.

Medicare And Veterans Administration Benefits Don’t Work Together

Veterans trying to decide between using their VA benefits or Medicare can use both, but only to a limited extent, according to the website Medicareinteractive.org.
“You can have both Medicare and Veterans Affairs benefits,” the site states. “However, Medicare and VA benefits do not work together. Medicare does not pay for any care that you receive at a VA facility. In order for Medicare to cover your care, you must receive care at a Medicare-certified facility that works with your Medicare coverage.
“In order for your VA coverage to cover your care, you must generally receive health care services at a VA facility.”
A lot of veterans, according to the site, use their service-related benefits for things like over-the-counter medications, annual physical exams and hearing aids.
“However, you may want to consider enrolling into Medicare Part B, medical insurance, even if you have VA coverage,” the story states. “Part B may cover services you receive from Medicare-certified providers and provide you with medical coverage outside the VA health system. In addition, if you do not enroll into Part B when you are first eligible to do so, you will most likely incur a Part B premium penalty for each 12-month period you were without Medicare Part B coverage.
“Some veterans only use their VA drug coverage to get their medications, since VA drug coverage may offer more generous prescription drug coverage than Medicare Part D, the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Since VA drug coverage is considered creditable, meaning it is as good as or better than the Medicare prescription drug benefit, you can delay enrolling into Medicare Part D without penalty. If you do lose VA drug coverage, make sure you enroll into a Part D plan within 63 days of losing your VA benefits.”

Foundation Urged Cognitive Screening For Veterans

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recent revelations about the myriad failings of the Veterans Administration to address the physical health of many who served their country have overshadowed the quality of care those who do manage to get treated receive.
A posting on the website of California-based The SCAN Foundation, “an independent, non-profit public charity devoted to transforming care for older adults in ways that preserve dignity and encourage independence,” a few years ago points out a VA failing that may be just as problematic for servicemen and women.
“The Veterans Administration does a good job of screening hospital patients for physical functions when they are discharged,” states the posting. “However, it does a poor job of screening to see if they have cognitive problems that might require them to need extensive long-term services and supports.”
The SCAN Foundation announcement was based on a 2010 report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs titled, “Healthcare Inspection – Hospitalized Community-Dwelling Elderly Veterans: Cognitive and Functional Assessments and Follow-up after Discharge.”
Cognitive problems include issues with memory, confusion and concentration.
The Inspector General report ““… found that assessments of functional status were completed for more than 97 percent of the hospitalized elders whose medical records we examined.”
“In contrast, less than 40 percent of patients had evidence of any cognitive assessment during their hospitalization or in the six months prior to admission,” the SCAN Foundation stated. “Hospitals with and without geriatrics academic programs did not differ substantially in these aspects of performance. The inspector general stated that the DVA should ‘implement a plan to ensure that vulnerable elderly veterans admitted to VA hospitals have a documented assessment of cognitive functioning.’ ”
The SCAN Foundation went on to recommend that the “Under Secretary for Health develop and implement a plan to ensure that vulnerable elderly veterans admitted to VA hospitals have a documented assessment of cognitive functioning.”