Saturday, April 23, 2011

The unique challenges that veterans face with unemployment and health problems.

Many Americans are currently unemployed due to struggling through this current recession. Unemployment seems to be around ten percent or higher for most areas of the country. However, amongst the veteran minority, unemployment is higher. It is difficult to speculate what causes a difference between veteran employment rates and civilian employment rates. Because I am a veteran I believe I have some inside knowledge as to why veterans are struggling to find and keep jobs in America.

Veterans face a unique set of challenges compared to their civilian counterparts. These challenges are the direct result of the veteran experience. Service to this nation has left some veterans with different social, medical, and psychological difficulties. With wars still ungoing, veterans will continue to struggle with issues such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder),TBI (traumatic brain injury), substance abuse problems and wide range of serious physical maladies ranging from amputation, paralysis, and various forms of cancers.

The veterans that are struggling with these problems today share the same fight as their fathers and grandfathers. Take for grandfather. He served with the Air Force in World War II as a navigator. Grandpa flew in B-24 heavy bombing aircraft over Germany during the close of World War II. He had a very difficult experience while serving his country. Grandpa was shot from the skies at least three times and survived multiple crash landings and was captured by the German Nazis.
My grandfather survived all of this but ten years ago he was diagnosed with cancer and the doctor strongly felt that his cancer was related to his military experience.

I also struggled with my own medical problems. I am still suffering from PTSD and a mild traumatic brain injury. For years I was chronically unemployed and in all senses of the word...I was “lost” for years. It was at times unthinkable to work and maintain employment when every morning I was struggling just to keep myself alive. Suicidal ideation was a terrible problem for me. In the mornings I would have to convince myself that I had to stay alive and not kill myself.

I only say these things because I know that I am not alone. I know that things will get better because they slowly have. Even though I continue to struggle with employment, depression and financial trouble, I feel that time has been a great healer. With each passing day I will get stronger just as other veterans will gain strength, find jobs and lead stable productive lives despite these unique challenges that each of us face.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Minnesota Veteran's Administration is overwhelmed by donated quilts.

An "Honor Quilt" made by Sandy Tuzinski of
Bloomington, MN
I’ve been to Minnesota and have always appreciated the warm hearted attitudes of the good folks that live there. Apparently, an act of charity has overwhelmed the VA system. Quilter’s from the cold north have been busy producing handmade blankets to donate to veterans. The Quilts of Valor is a sewing group that is hoping to warm the hearts of veterans with the blankets that they made. Unfortunately, the Minnesota VA is asking these kind quilters to stand down.

There are storerooms full of quilts at the VA that have yet to be distributed. Although this has become somewhat of a logistical problem for the VA staff, I think it serves as evidence that Minnesotans are a caring group of people. Don’t ya know? (Sorry I couldn’t resist a Minnesota dialect impersonation)

I think it is wonderful what these quilters are doing for veterans. What is more heartwarming than a handmade blanket made by people who care? I received a similar quilt in California. It was a patchwork quilt that was beautifully made and on the back of it, the quilters signed their names and wrote the city that they are from. I was very appreciative to receive this item and was moved by the idea of it.

Hopefully, the VA can find a way to get these quilts out to the veterans that would enjoy them.

Free Cellphones for Veterans

Safelink wireless has a program that gives free cellphones with no cost for eligible veterans. This is a great option for unemployed or disabled vets to apply for. Many veterans are facing record high unemployment rates and can't afford expensive cellphone plans. It is a shame that our veterans have to return home and face such difficulties on top of various other problems.

If you need a phone and you are a veteran, take a look at the safelink wireless website for a chance to get a free phone. Free wireless phone plans may be available through other providers but I can verify that safelink wireless is a provider of free cell phones.

Find your military friends using a modern tool

Many of us veterans have lost contact with those that we served with. When it came time for the discharge papers to be signed, many quickly signed the DD214 and went on their way. How can we find our friends that we served hard time with?

A Facebook Profile Page
My top recommendation might apply to recent veterans more so than the older generation. I found hundreds of my military acquaintances using Facebook. In fact, I have found so many of my old military friends that I am now planning our first official reunion. It seems like nearly everyone is on facebook. Heck, many of us are addicted to facebook. It is the most popular social networking website.

It all started with finding the first military friend. Once I found one person, I found another military comrade in that first person’s friend list. I asked that first find about the whereabouts and information of other veterans. Slowly but surely, my military friends list grew. We now have a military group page and a reunion page on facebook. This website has done allot for us. We wouldn’t be in touch with eachother if it wasn’t for facebook.

If you haven’t signed up for facebook, you might want to give it go. You will be surprised at who you can find on it. Relatives, coworkers, old classmates and even war buddies! Heck, I even found my daggone battalion commander using this method. Before I knew it, the sergeant major was giving me a call to say hello. It scared the hell out of me to take that call. I thought I was in trouble for something!

Anyhow, facebook is great way to reconnect and find your military buddies. Another social networking tool worth mentioning is the social network of professionals. Linkedin is a popular website where business professionals connect online with each other. Some folks don’t use facebook but use Linkedin. So if you are serious about finding your friends, you may want to give both a try.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TRX Fitness is offering a discount to veterans on their exercise equipment

The TRX cable workout.
You can save money on TRX fitness equipment if you are a veteran. It might be a great addition to your physical therapy or normal routine workouts. I have used TRX in the past but do not currently own one. I'm considering purchasing a TRX for use at home because it is easy to use and portable. It is basically a set of tension cables that provide resistance for strength training. I was introduced to the product during a veteran's program for Marines in the Wounded Warrior Regiment. The system was designed by a former US Navy SEAL, who was addressing the fitness needs of those SEALs deployed in submarines.

You can get 20.00 off your TRX equipment if you are a veteran. Check out the TRX system at the link below. I will be posting more special deals for veterans in the future. Please subsribe to this blog or check back often for more deals aimed towards our nation's veterans.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kindness at the VA (Personal)

Earlier this week at was at the VA hospital in my area to get a medical problem checked out. I sat down in the waiting area and sighed as I looked at the clock and all the other patients that were waiting with me. I knew from past experience that this could be a long day. I did not have an appointment so I figured I would be stuck in the chair, watching soap operas on the television for hours. The thing is, I can't stand soap operas, and there wasn't a single veteran that seemed interested in them either. We were are stuck in this situation together and it wasn't a pleasant one.

I watched as this middle aged woman walked into the waiting area. She carried a large bag full of sandwiches. She kindly smiled at each veteran that was sitting in the waiting area and offered them a sandwich. She did not work for the VA or any other service organization. She just cared about veterans and wanted to make sure that they were well fed. She got to my location and offered me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I had not eaten that day so I gladly accepted it and thanked her warmly.

I mention this experience because I have encountered so much negativity at VA hospitals in the past. There have been many times where staff has been excessively rude and uncaring. I guess I have developed an expectation to not be treated well during my appointments. Your experiences will vary! Yet this kind and compassionate woman has changed my mind. People like her probably don't know how much people like us appreciate these kind acts. I wish I got her name and learned more about her.

So if you are reading this post Ma'am, I would like to thank you for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It really made my day!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Welcome to a new blog about veteran's benefits, support, and advice.

It is my pleasure to introduce this new blog that covers issues that are related to Veterans of the United States Armed Forces. I hope to cover many topics such as disability benefits, healthcare, mental health, post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other issues that apply to veterans of all eras. Veterans in this day and age have unique situations compared to the rest of the general public. These issues are addressed by many different service organizations and veteran's groups. It is my commitment to help any veteran access the resources they need to succeed and live happy, healthy and productive lives.

I am not an outsider to these issues presented on this blog. I am a veteran of the United States Marine Corps (orahh!) and I served in Operation Enduring Freedom. I've traveled all over the Pacific Rim and the Middle East serving the security goals of the country I love. My job code was 0351. I specialized in assault rocketry and demolitions. My unit was helicopter bourne, attached to an amphibious ready group and marine expeditionary. I sustained injuries in the field and have received a disability rating for these injuries. I was likely one of the first Operation Enduring Freedom veterans to enter the VA system in 2002.

When I first started attending appointments at my Veteran's Hospital in California, I was known as a "youngblood." I recall looking around and noticing that I was always the youngest veteran at the hospital. I was surrounded by peers from wars stretching back to World War II. This slowly changed as I started seeing more troops come into the VA system. It is my hope to impart some of the knowledge that I have acquired with my experiences to these younger vets. This blog is not exclusive to recent veterans. I would appreciate any guidance that the older veterans can offer to us "young bloods."

Thank you for visiting my blog. Let us leave no man behind.

Semper Fidelis,


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