National PTSD Awareness Day-Tuesday, June 27th

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Douglas and Marc

Most people do not realize just how much Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects the general population until National PTSD Awareness Day comes around on June 27 every year.

One astonishing fact that most people don’t realize is 70% of people in the U.S. have experienced some type of highly traumatic event at least once in their lives, that’s approximately 223 million people and up to 20% of these people develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Zeroing in on the veteran population alone, Studies have shown that roughly 20 veterans with PTSD commit suicide each day, but what about those people that “conquered” the statistic and walked away with a second chance at life?

Marc Raciti is a PA-C, veteran, published author, philanthropist and suicide survivor who served 24 years in the military and is on an active mission to continue serving his community by properly educating people about PTSD and how to have their own “second  chance” at life. Marc works side-by-side with his wife, Sonja who happens to be a psychologist and veteran, to make a substantial difference with their inspiring story. Since the moment they met, Sonja has been helping Marc with his symptoms and gaining that second chance at life and now they have been married for five years with a child of their own.

Marc Raciti shares what it was likely to personally go through (and Marc Raciti Book Covercontinue to go through) the side-effects of PTSD and how to slowly but surely overcome those demons one step (and one day) at a time in his new book, “I Just Want To See Trees: A Journey Through PTSD.” Sonja Raciti shares the external perception of PTSD from the standpoint of a wife and on the opposite end of the spectrum, as a psychologist and she delves into how to handle someone close to you who is struggling with anxiety, depression PTSD etc.

Marc and Sonja share how they started the charitable foundation, Healing Wounds to help all walks of life who are struggling with PTSD through organized motorcycle rides, video-blogging and public speaking opportunities.

 

About Marc Raciti

Marc C. Raciti is a veteran and author behind “I Just Want to See Trees: A Journey Through P.T.S.D.” Marc enlisted into the Army in 1989 as a clerk typist (71L). Shortly after completing basic training and advanced individual training, he deployed to Bahrain in the Middle East, in support of Operation Desert Storm with the 47th Field Hospital. It was there where he fell in love with medicine and decided to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant (PA). In 1997, he graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and was commissioned to second lieutenant. In 2001, he complete d his Fellowship in Orthopedics through Womack Army Community Hospital.

Marc spent the rest of his army career treating and caring for the sick and wounded. He deployed four more times, twice to Iraq, the Balkans and to Africa; frequently providing good medicine in dangerous places. In 2013, after 24 years of service, he retired from the Army as a Major. His last assignment was in Hawaii where he met his current wife Sonja. Marc presently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with Sonja and his adult son, Marco, and baby, Makana.

He continues riding his motorcycle with a veteran motorcycle club, working as an orthopedic PA and serving a very active role in the veteran community. Douglas, his service dog, is happy living out his days basking in the Arizona sun and gobbling down any and all treats.

 

About Sonja L. Raciti LPC, ABPP, Psy.D, CSAC

Sonja Raciti has an extensive and comprehensive background in psychology and pre-medical clinical studies with an emphasis in family and child therapy. Being originally from Germany and having lived on the West Coast and Hawaii for years, Sonja has a well-cultured, diversified background that has led to her ultimate passion, aiding the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of others.

Sonja graduated with her bachelor of arts and science in Psychology and Pre-Medical Studies from Hawaii Pacific University and then went on to receive her Masters and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University in San Francisco. Upon completing her rigorous educational programs, Sonja spent time teaching at the college level about addiction and substance abuse disorders and provided various forms of counseling to adults and then children.

In 2006, Sonja received her Post-Doctoral Psychology Residency/Fellowship at Kapi’olani Child Protection Center where she conducted psychological evaluations for both children and adults, specifically addressing issues of child maltreatment.

After providing various forms of therapy for two years, Sonja started working for the Hawaii Army National Guard as a Clinical Psychologist and then moved to the Department of Defense at the Schofield Barracks Health Clinic to specialize in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy within the Child and Adolescent Assistance Center.

In 2013, Sonja made the move to Arizona with her husband and business partner, Marc Raciti, to her first duty station as a captain at Luke Air Force Base andwas responsible for training technicians to become certified alcohol and drug counselors while also directing the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program and later heading the Family Advocacy Program.

At the beginning of 2016, Sonja decided to take on her own business Sonja Racitiventure as the owner and director of Healing Wounds, LLC, a private practice with an emphasis on treating children and patients suffering from trauma while offering individual, family, marital and group counseling depending on the needs ofclients. Sonja and Marc released their first book together based off of Marc’s personal journey with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) after serving in the military for 24 years. They now reside in Scottsdale, Ariz. with their child, Makana and service dog, Douglas.

From Farmer to Fortune, How One Medical Device Revolutionized An Industry

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iwalk-free

Each year, many entrepreneurs bring their products to market. Yet, research shows that the majority of them will not make it. Among those new products each year, there will be rare items that not only make it, but that completely revolutionize an industry. That’s exactly what happened with the iWALK2.0, a medical device that is essentially giving crutches and scooters a run for their money and longevity. In fact, the company has seen such success from the sales of the device that they expect to hit their 100,000th unit sold this year.

“Crutches have been around for 5,000 years, but the iWALK2.0 has already earned its place in the industry as the device of choice for those who have a lower leg injury,” explains Brad Hunter, the innovator of iWALK2.0 and the chief executive officer of the company, iWALKFree, Inc. “Not only have we won multiple awards for the device, but the feedback we’ve gotten and the sales statistics we’re experiencing all point to a robust future for the iWALK2.0.”

The story of the iWALK2.0 begins with a farmer who created the original version to give himself an easier way to be more mobile while recovering from a lower leg injury. Little did he know he was sitting on a billion dollar idea. It was when Hunter came along and saw the potential in the product that the idea was brought to fruition for the mass market. Hunter purchased half of the company, took the device concept to a whole new level, and introduced it to the world.

During Hunter’s first year, the company had a million dollars in sales, confirming what Hunter had suspected, which was that this was going to be a successful product launch. A serial entrepreneur, he was no stranger to the hard work and dedication that it took to help products find their place in the market. While the device continued to do well, it really saw a huge increase in interest and popularity when Harrison Ford was seen using it. Ford then used it again, for a different injury, which further boosted awareness. Since that time, additional celebrities and athletes have used it, including surfer Kelly Slater and hockey player Nick Bonino, among others.

Hunter knows that there is more that goes into a successful company than just having a great product. His secrets to entrepreneurial success include:

  • Have a clear vision before you start anything, and stick with it – no matter what.
  • Do your homework and lay a strong foundation before you make your first commitment.
  • If others say you can’t do it, prove them wrong.
  • Don’t give it 100%. Give it 150%… or more.
  • Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
  • Mediocrity is the enemy of excellence.
  • Build a strong team.
  • Watch your finances – daily. Always know exactly where you are.
  • Be proficient at changing hats minute by minute. Advanced multi-tasking capabilities are essential.
  • Know when to quit. Here’s a hint – never.

“Creating a truly great product is really hard. Building a truly great company is even harder,” adds Hunter. “But if you are dedicated to your vision, work hard, and believe in what you are doing you will increase your chances of success. Believing in yourself is a large part of the equation. I’m thrilled with where the iWALK2.0 is and in its future.”

Sales have soared, the company has won awards for the design and concept of the device, and it is literally revolutionizing the industry. Increasingly, people are opting for the iWALK2.0, which resembles a high-tech pirate’s peg leg, and makes it easier for them to be mobile while they are recovering from a lower leg injury. The iWALK2.0 attaches just below the knee, attaching to and recruits the user’s leg, giving people the ability to stand and walk as they normally do, thus replacing the need for crutches or a scooter. With this route, they are hands-free, which allows them to do things they are used to doing, such as walking their dog, drinking their coffee, using their cellphone, or carrying groceries. In 2017, sales were up 50% over the prior year, and on Amazon the sales were up 154% over the prior year.

The iWALK2.0 is hands-free, easy to learn to use, it’s intuitive, and safe. From the knee up, the leg is doing the same walking motion that comes naturally to it. The device is essentially a temporary lower leg, which gives people their independence and mobility back as they recover from an injury. The device is pain-free, and makes it possible for people to engage in many of their normal routine activities, such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, and walking up or down stairs.

Clinical research, the results of which are on the company website, shows that patients using the iWALK2.0 heal faster, and have a higher sense of satisfaction and a higher rate of compliance. The iWALK2.0 sells for $149 and is available online and through select retailers. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the device. The device can be used with a cast or boot, and comes with a limited warranty. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at iwalk-free.com. To see a video of the iWALK2.0 in action, visit iWALK2.0 video on You Tube.

About iWALKFree

The iWALK2.0 is a hands-free knee crutch, made by iWALKFree, Inc. It’s a mobility device used instead of traditional crutches and knee scooters. It offers more comfort and independence, with the hands and arms remaining free. The device offers people a functional and independent lifestyle as they are recovering from many common lower leg injuries. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at iwalk-free.com

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Lending A Helping “Paw”—Veterans gifted companion dogs through country star Brantley Gilbert

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Companion Pets

They say a dog is man’s best friend—and through the generosity of country music star Brantley Gilbert and several partners, eight deserving veterans are being paired with new canine companions.

“There is nothing like the loyalty, love and companionship of a dog,” said Gilbert. “For some people, a dog can connect unlike even a best friend for those who gave beyond the call of duty to our nation.”

Gilbert partnered with DAV (Disabled American Veterans) to identify veterans who would benefit from the addition of a four-legged friend in their lives, to be gifted as part of his 2018 U.S. tour. Each dog was professionally trained by Custom Canine Unlimited and paired with a veteran and his or her family.

“I love the idea of matching them up with dogs specially trained for Companion Petsthe task of getting their lives to a better place,” Gilbert said.

Marine veteran Jason Hassinger was paired with his dog, Charlie, backstage at Gilbert’s Albany, N.Y., concert in February.

“Brantley was amazingly humble, and you could tell his care for veterans is very genuine,” said Hassinger, who earned a Silver Star for gallantry in Afghanistan. “Charlie has become a friend and an incredible addition to our family.”

Crystal Keiser-Plunkett, a Marine veteran from Tifton, Ga., said the experience of receiving her canine companion, Athena, was life-changing for her and her family.

“Bringing Athena into our lives has brought joy, happiness and has even decreased my anxiety,” she said. “Athena ensures I don’t lie around all day. She wakes me with kisses in the morning, my kids and I spend the days playing with her, and she’s right beside me at night. I’m so glad someone like Brantley thinks about us veterans.”

“This partnership illustrates how DAV transforms the lives of veterans and their families,” said DAV National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster. “I’m very thankful Brantley partnered with us and used his platform to amplify our mission of service.”

CVS Health Fights Back on High Cost Drugs by Launching Industry’s Most Comprehensive Approach to Saving Patients Money

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New CVS Health initiative seeks to solve one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of consumer financial worry.

Recognizing the threat of rising drug prices and high out-of-pocket costs, CVS Health providing most advanced solutions for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

CVS Pharmacists are key resource for patients in identifying opportunities to maximize their prescription benefits and save money at the pharmacy counter in communities nationwide.

CVS Caremark mitigating impact of high drug costs by providing members and prescribers with robust information and innovative tools to choose lower-cost prescription drugs.

The high cost of prescription drugs is one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of financial worry for consumers across the nation. While CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) has made significant progress in mitigating the impact of high list prices set by pharmaceutical manufacturers, for too many Americans annual out-of-pocket drug costs are still significant. In response, CVS Health announced today that it is fighting back by launching the most comprehensive program in the industry to help patients save money on their medications.

According to a recent national poll, commissioned by CVS Health, 83 percent of Americans said they were concerned personally about the impact of rising prescription drug prices.[1] As prescription drug prices continue to rise and enrollment in high deductible health plans grows, many patients are shouldering higher costs for their prescription medicine.

CVS Health will address this problem with a robust set of initiatives, including the new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder, which will enable the company’s retail pharmacists for the first time to evaluate quickly and seamlessly individual prescription savings opportunities right at the pharmacy counter. This new tool further enhances existing savings opportunities the company’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) CVS Caremark is currently offering its clients such as the preventive drug lists that make medications for many common, chronic conditions available at a $0 copay. In addition, CVS Caremark provides real-time, member-specific drug costs and lower-cost alternatives to prescribers through their electronic health record system and to CVS Caremark members through the member portal and newly updated app. These programs are part of CVS Health’s commitment to helping consumers find the lowest cost prescription drugs by offering more pricing transparency for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

“Today’s consumers are faced with higher prescription drug prices than ever before and many of them are now paying for a larger share of their prescription drug costs out of their own pockets at the pharmacy counter due to growth in high deductible health plans,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, CVS Health. “Until now, patients haven’t had the appropriate tools available to them to help them manage these costs. To address this, CVS Health is giving expanded tools to patients, prescribers and pharmacists so they can evaluate prescription drug coverage in real-time and identify lower-cost alternatives. We are committed to finding the right drug at the lowest possible cost for patients to ensure they are able to access and stay on the medications they need. That’s our promise.”

At the Pharmacy Counter

The new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder enables the retail pharmacist to quickly and seamlessly review a patient’s prescription regimen, medication history and insurance plan information to determine the best way for them to save money on out-of-pocket costs – with the primary goal of helping the patient find the lowest cost alternative under their pharmacy benefits plan.

“Our direct experience is that patients who are confronted with high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter are less likely to pick up their prescriptions and are less likely to be adherent to their prescribed therapy,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, Retail Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy.

“Armed with the information available through our Rx Savings Finder, our more than 30,000 CVS pharmacists can play an important role by helping patients save money on their medications, providing advice on how and when to take them, and ultimately helping them achieve better health outcomes,” Hourican added. “We are beginning this process with our CVS Caremark PBM members and expect to roll it out more broadly throughout the year.”

The Rx Savings Finder will show pharmacy teams:

  1. First, if the prescribed medication is on the patient’s formulary and is the lowest cost option available.
  2. Second, if there are lower-cost options covered under the patient’s pharmacy benefit – such as a generic medication or therapeutic alternative with equivalent efficacy of treatment.
  3. Third, if the patient may be able to save money by filling a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription.
  4. Finally, if neither a generic nor a lower-cost alternative is available, other potential savings options for eligible or uninsured patients where allowed by applicable laws and regulation.[2]

Pharmacists can also help patients enroll in the ExtraCare Loyalty Program and sign them up for Pharmacy and Health Rewards. Through Pharmacy and Health Rewards, patients receive $5 in ExtraBucks for every 10 prescriptions filled, earning up to $50 in ExtraBucks annually.

At the Doctor’s Office

Another component of the company’s comprehensive savings approach is the recently launched real-time benefits program, which helps bring greater drug price transparency to prescribers and CVS Caremark members. At the point-of-prescribing, providers are able to see the member-specific cost for a selected drug, based on a member’s coverage, along with up to five lowest-cost, clinically appropriate therapeutic alternatives based on the patient’s formulary. PBM members have access to the same information on the CVS Caremark app and member portal. Early results show that prescribers accessing the real-time benefits information through their electronic health record switched their patient’s drug from a non-covered drug to a drug on formulary 85 percent of the time. In addition, when the patient’s drug is covered, prescribers using real-time benefits switch their patient to a lower-cost alternative 30 percent of the time. When the prescriber switched to a lower-cost drug, the difference was approximately $75 per prescription.
“We have been working hard to keep prescription medications affordable for patients,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “In fact, in 2017, nearly 90 percent of our PBM plan members spent less than $300 out-of-pocket for their prescription medicines. While this signals progress, for those patients that cost is not insignificant. That is why we are committed to doing even more across our enterprise to help patients find and access the lowest cost drug at the pharmacy which ultimately will help improve clinical outcomes and remove higher downstream medical costs from the system.”

Using Pharmacy Benefit Management Solutions

CVS Health is also making a variety of PBM solutions available to help further drive down drug trend for its PBM clients and drug costs for the patients they support. The company’s Point of Sale (POS) rebate offering allows the value of negotiated rebates on branded drugs to be passed on directly to patients when they fill their prescriptions – and the savings from this program can be significant. In 2013, CVS Health led the industry with the introduction of POS rebates to clients, and today nearly 10 million members are covered by and able to benefit from the program.

In 2017, despite manufacturer brand list price increases on drugs near 10 percent, CVS Health PBM strategies reduced drug trend for CVS Caremark commercial clients to the lowest level in five years, keeping drug price growth at a minimal 0.2 percent. In fact, 42 percent of CVS Caremark commercial clients spent less on their pharmacy benefit plan in 2017 than they had in 2016. CVS Caremark helped members reduce monthly out-of-pocket costs and improve adherence to its highest level in seven years in key categories such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Prescription drug trend is the measure of growth in prescription spending per member per month. Trend calculations take into account the effects of drug price, drug utilization and the mix of branded versus generic drugs as well as the positive effect of negotiated rebates on overall trend. The 2017 trend performance is based on a cohort of CVS Health PBM commercial clients, employers and health plans.

About CVS Health

CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its more than 9,800 retail locations, more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 94 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, expanding specialty pharmacy services, and a leading stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable and effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

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[1] The Morning Consult poll was conducted from February 22-26, 2018, among a national sample of 1992 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

[2] Prescriptions submitted for reimbursement to Medicare, Medicaid or other federal or state programs are not eligible.

Veteran Disability Compensation — Unraveling the details of the compensation you deserve

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Army man sitting

Disability Compensation

Disability compensation is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to Veterans who are at least 10 percent disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. A disability can apply to physical conditions, such as a chronic knee condition, as well as a mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Benefit

The benefit amount is graduated according to the degree of the Veteran’s disability on a scale from 10 percent to 100 percent (in increments of 10 percent). Compensation may also be paid for disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service. Generally, the degrees of disability specified are also designed to compensate for considerable loss of working time from exacerbations or illnesses.

If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your combined disability is rated 30 percent or greater. Your compensation may be offset if you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments. More information about disability compensation benefit amounts can be found on the Compensation Rates page.

Eligibility

  • Service in the Uniformed Services on active duty, or
  • Active duty for training, or
  • Inactive duty training, and
  • You were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, and
  • You are at least 10 percent disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated during active duty or active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

Note: If you were on inactive duty for training, the disability must have resulted from injury, heart attack, or stroke.

Evidence Required

  • Medical evidence of a current physical or mental disability, and
  • Evidence of a relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event in military service. Medical records or medical opinions are required to establish this relationship.

Note: Under certain circumstances, VA may conclude that certain current disabilities were caused by service, even if there is no specific evidence proving this in your particular claim. The cause of a disability is presumed for the following Veterans who have certain diseases.

Presumed Disability

  • Former prisoners of war
  • Veterans who have certain chronic or tropical diseases that become evident within a specific period of time after discharge from service
  • Veterans who were exposed to ionizing radiation, mustard gas, or Lewisite while in service
  • Veterans who were exposed to certain herbicides, such as by serving in Vietnam
  • Veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War

Example 1

During a weekend drill, an Army Reservist injures her knee while participating in a physical training class. She is eligible for compensation for residuals of the knee injury.

Example 2

An individual enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1988, and served for a period of 3 years. He was honorably discharged on June 9, 1991. During his active duty, he fell from a bunk and injured his back. Based on his active service, he is entitled to service-connected benefits for the residuals of his back injury.

How to Apply

For more information on how to apply and for tips on making sure your claim is ready to be processed by VA, benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/apply.asp

Veteran advocates rally to bring more resources to Southern California veterans

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Kevin is the principal attorney at Snyder Law, PC an Irvine based firm focused on protecting families through estate planning, administration, and elder law. In addition, a unique portion of Kevin’s practice also involves veteran defense –  defending criminal justice-involved military and veterans across Southern California. Kevin earned his LL.M from the California Western School of Law; his JD from the University of Richmond School of Law, and completed his undergraduate studies at Boston College. Prior to law school, Kevin served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps where he met his wonderful wife, business partner, and mother of their tribe of three.


Deirdre is the President-Elect of the Orange County Bar Association and will be its President in 2019.

For more than 25 years, Deirdre has worked with many of the richly diverse elements of the legal community.  As a law student, Deirdre conducted 25-30 juvenile trials with the LA District Attorney’s office.  She started at Jones Day after graduation, and was then brought in as Vice President and Legal Counsel of American Savings Bank in Irvine, where she resolved legacy issues from the S&L crisis.  Afterward, Deirdre joined a vibrant trial group at Kindel & Anderson, and later practiced real estate litigation with Paul Hastings.  Deirdre then became a law school professor and today is Director of Career Services at Chapman University Dale Fowler School of Law and runs Chapman’s Professional Development Program.

Deirdre is the former Chair of the OCBA’s Judiciary Committee as well as Chair of the OCBA’s Law School Task Force.  She also has been an active member of the OCBA’s Diversity, Mommy Esq., and Pro Bono Committees.  Deirdre is the Treasurer of the OCBA Charitable Fund Board, and serves on the Public Law Center’s Dinner Committee.  Deirdre is active with the Orange County Coalition for Diversity in the Law, the Celtic Bar, ABTL, and the William Gray Legion Lex Inn of Court.  Deirdre is a Past President of the Orange County Women Lawyers Association.


Mischa Martineau is the Founder and President of Martineau Systems – a marketing and training company, since 2003, that empowers individuals and enterprises to articulate their unique value and execute strategy for sustainable growth and transformation.

Martineau Systems brands include, California Life Solutions and its flagship product I AM Who I Say I AM – Believe & Achieve™ a cognitive neuroscience-based curriculum that empowers -private and public sector – participants to believe in their greater capabilities, set and achieve lofty goals.

Martineau Systems partners with ON-STRATEGY® – a consulting firm operating in Latin America and North America – on a joint mission to empower mid to large market enterprises to increase their global competitiveness.

Ms. Martineau recently delivered a keynote for Women in Technology International and is a Business Advisor for Executive Next Practices – a C-Level advisory and thought leadership group headquartered at UCI Applied Innovation. It was featured by Forbes as one of the most innovative and relevant organizations for middle to large market leaders and nominated by the Orange County Business Journal as Innovators of the Year.

On the lighter-side, Mischa has performed stand-up comedy at the Brea Improv, California and appeared in independent films, television and stage. She is an extraordinary keynote speaker!


A long time supporter of various non-profits, Wendy and her significant other Mick (who is a US Marine) are delighted to be involved with Veterans Legal Institute.

Wendy Hooper is a residential real estate expert in Orange County. She began her career in 1984 and has seen pretty much everything since then. She loves helping her many clients make the smartest real estate investment decisions, addressing their uniquely individual needs. This includes aiding veterans to maximize their VA home buying benefits.

In her spare time you will likely find Wendy tossing balls to “Harley” her beloved Louisiana Catahoula at Huntington Dog Beach.

Personalized Smart Home Technology Restores Independence for Wounded U.S. Air Force Veteran

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Gary Sinise Foundation

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA,  — While stationed in Iraq in 2006, Brandon Byers, a Sr. Airman in the U.S. Air Force’s Security Forces, volunteered to take the position of rear gunner on the last truck of a team securing a bridge. During the mission, an IED exploded directly under the truck, doing great damage to Byers’ left leg, necessitating numerous surgeries and eventually amputation.

In recognition of his heroic actions and service to the United States, the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) recently built and gifted the Byers family with a new smart home designed to specifically address his needs.

According to Pat Devlin, President of Dallas-based Smart Systems, which installed the home’s technology, “No one is more deserving of a life-simplifying ELAN smart home system than wounded soldiers. Small things, like being able to adjust the lights or heat from the couch without having to get up, to big things like security and remote control, can make a major difference in daily life and comfort. This was our first project working with the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program, and we were thrilled to be able to show our appreciation for a local veteran.”

Sr. Airman Brandon Byers’ new home is as smart as they come, with electronic door locks, outdoor surveillance cameras, a security system, multi-room and outdoor audio and video, motorized window shades, touch screen video intercoms, a video doorbell, enterprise-grade WiFi and cell phone signal boosters. That’s quite a list, but what makes it officially a “smart home” is the ELAN control system that ties all of those things together and makes them accessible from a single smartphone app that can be used anywhere in the world.

“The ELAN system is the brain,” Devlin said. “Through the ELAN app, or from any of the ELAN touch screens or handheld remotes in the home, each family member can adjust and monitor every one of the technologies installed. If Brandon wants to turn on the air conditioning and open the garage door before he and the family arrive home one day, he can do that from his smart phone. If Mrs. Byers wants to see video of who is at the door from her bedroom, she can do that. If the kids want to shut the blinds, turn up the heat, put on a movie and raise the volume, they can do all of that from a single app. That’s what ‘smart home’ means to us – the ability to control many systems from a single interface. That’s what makes it so useful, and why it was such a vital element in the Gary Sinise Foundation’s goal to provide the Byers family with the simplest living situation possible.”

Gary Sinise FoundationSmart Systems worked with top manufacturers to build out the home, which also includes three Sony HDTVs with one outdoors, 16 SpeakerCraft speakers with two outdoors, a surround sound system with a powerful in-wall Sunfire subwoofer, a Sonos streaming system and Panamax surge protection and battery backup that ensures smooth operation and protection of all the expensive equipment. Through the Panamax equipment’s BlueBOLT functionality, the integrators at Smart Systems can access the system remotely for maintenance and any required troubleshooting. This even goes for the outdoor TV located on the back patio.

Byers’ family can control the system through two ELAN gTP7 touch panels in the master bedroom and the great room, as well as with the couple’s iPad, mobile devices and three ELAN remotes. With electronic door locks, a connected garage door and a Doorbird video door bell, the Byers family has total access and dominion over entering the home. This means they could be away, and log in remotely to unlock the doors and let in a neighbor to water plants or check on the house.

Smart Systems also programmed special “Away” and “Welcome” modes that automatically adjust every home system with a single command. With one touch of the “Away’ button, the security system engages, all the doors lock, the garage door closes, the TVs, lights, and speakers turn off, and the HVAC goes to a pre-set level. Then when they return, the “Welcome” button brings every system back to the way it is normally set.

Gary Sinise FoundationJudith Otter, Executive Director of the Gary Sinise Foundation, added, “Each new home we build is an emotional project where we add another deserving member to the R.I.S.E. community. Sr. Airman Byers and his family have worked hard to regain normalcy for more than a decade, and we are proud to help them gain more independence and control of their environment both in and away from the home. We all know life isn’t easy, particularly for wounded veterans. Where we can make it a bit easier, we try.”

About ELAN

ELAN, now part of Nortek Security & Control, develops an award-winning line of whole-house entertainment and control solutions distributed through a comprehensive channel of select dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and countries worldwide. The ELAN 8 update was honored with the “2017 Human Interface Product of the Year” award and continues to expand its intuitive functionality. To learn more, visit elanhomesystems.com.

About Nortek Security & Control

Nortek Security & Control LLC (NSC) is a global leader in smart connected devices and systems for residential, security, access control, and digital health markets. NSC and its partners have deployed more than 4 million connected systems and over 20 million security and home control sensors and peripherals. Through its family of brands including 2GIG®, ELAN®, GoControl®, Linear®, Mighty Mule® and Numera®, NSC designs solutions for national telecoms, big box retailers, OEM partners, service providers, security dealers and consumers.

Headquartered in Carlsbad, California, NSC is a subsidiary of Melrose Industries PLC, a global investment company specializing in acquisition and performance improvement. With over 50 years of innovation, NSC is dedicated to addressing the lifestyle and business needs of millions of customers every day. For further information, visit nortekcontrol.com.

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Army Vet Helps Wounded Troops Find Way Back to True Selves

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army veteran coaching volleyball

At 6’2″, Army veteran Sarah Hughbanks has a bird’s-eye view of wounded warriors on the sitting volleyball court.

The assistant coach also has a clear view of what sitting volleyball and other adaptive sports can bring to the lives of wounded, ill and injured soldiers who are training for the 2018 Warrior Games.

“After injuries, some veterans may feel as if they’ve lost opportunities, but things like volleyball can be part of their journey to find their way back to their true self and help them realize they can conquer anything put in front of them,” Hughbanks said.

Her own connection and love of sports began at the age of 4. She learned the fundamentals of sports from her father while she was growing up in Idaho.

“My dad was a big baseball person, so when I came along he started teaching me how to throw a baseball. That basically helped me develop my hand-eye coordination early on,” Hughbanks said.

“I started out playing softball and, of course, basketball, because I was so tall. I made the volleyball team in high school, but I was terrible. I believe it was the height and eye coordination that helped secure my position,” she laughed while recalling her first experience with the sport.

A Welcome Challenge

Hughbanks has come a long way since those high school days. After being honorably discharged from the Army, she eventually found her way to coaching volleyball. “I believe I have a special talent for coaching volleyball. Understanding the game and finding new ways of teaching it is a welcome challenge.“

After a stint coaching at a high school, she was recruited to coach the Armed Forces Volleyball Team at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. While coaching at West Point, Hughbanks volunteered to help coach the Army’s sitting volleyball team there during the 2016 DoD Warrior Games. She enjoyed the experience and made an impression on Team Army sitting volleyball coach Linda Gomez.

“I loved Sarah’s energy and spirit,” Gomez said. “We talked about adaptive sports and her having been in the Army. She fits into my philosophy of working hard and staying humble. She takes direction very well and from a leadership standpoint to administrative things she just gets it. She’s a hard worker.

“This is a labor of love,” she continued, “and we have to remember who we’re serving and we’re always on the same page. She’s been a godsend, and I just think she’s a phenomenal person.”

Hughbanks will tell you that sitting volleyball is much harder than standing volleyball because the ball comes at you so much faster. Your hand-eye coordination has to be spot on, and that’s a challenge. But teaching players to overcome that challenge is very personal for Hughbanks.

“I’ve had battle buddies that have committed suicide,” she said. “I think volleyball, or other sports and activities, can help people connect to something and maybe help them not feel like they should make that decision. I can see it in their faces when they get it. When it all clicks and it comes together and they begin to understand the sport and that connection is made, this is definitely not just about sports or volleyball.”

Hughbanks said she takes particular pride in teaching a sport she loves to soldiers who have never played and seeing them fall in love with the game as she did.

“Knowing that many of the soldiers did not play the sport before they got injured and watching them find a love for it is incredible,” she added. “I love to see the light in their eyes. It’s gratifying to watch them play so hard and know you’ve played a part in this life-changing moment. It’s wonderful.”

Continue onto the USO to read the complete article.

True Car Announces New Partnership for DrivenToDrive Program with Disabled American Veterans (DAV)

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TrueCar-DAV

DrivenToDrive, a program created to help injured veterans get back behind the wheel, is seeking entries for one deserving veteran to win a vehicle

COLD SPRING, KY (March 15, 2018) —  TrueCar Inc. announced today it is partnering with Disabled American Veterans (DAV) as part of its DrivenToDrive program. DAV is a non-profit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1 million veterans in positive life-changing ways each year. Launched late last year, DrivenToDrive honors injured American veterans by helping them get back behind the wheel of a retrofitted vehicle.

In celebration of the new partnership with DAV, active members of the military, veterans or immediate family members can enter to win a vehicle through March 18, 2018 at truecar.com/driventodrive.

“DAV is grateful to partner with TrueCar and their DrivenToDrive program, which is designed to help the brave men and women who served our country regain their freedom and independence,” said Marc Burgess, CEO of DAV. “Awarding a vehicle is a special way to recognize the sacrifices a veteran made and dramatically improve his or her quality of life. We’re additionally grateful to TrueCar for supporting DAV’s mission to honor our heroes and make them aware of the assistance we provide at no cost.”

“Driving is an expression of freedom and independence,” said Lucas Donat, Chief Brand Officer at TrueCar. “Helping injured veterans, those that have sacrificed so much for our freedom, to drive again is a cause close to our heart. Last year we had such an incredible response that we are excited to open up the contest again, and we’re honored to be working with DAV.”

This marks the second year TrueCar is running it’s DrivenToDrive vehicle giveaway. Last year, TrueCar presented the keys to a brand-new cargo van to its first-ever winner.

For more information about DrivenToDrive and its mission please visit truecar.com/driventodrive.

About TrueCar

TrueCar, Inc. (NASDAQ: TRUE) is a digital automotive marketplace that provides comprehensive pricing transparency about what other people paid for their cars and enables consumers to engage with TrueCar Certified Dealers who are committed to providing a superior purchase experience. TrueCar operates its own branded site and its nationwide network of more than 15,000 Certified Dealers also powers car-buying programs for some of the largest U.S. membership and service organizations, including USAA, AARP, American Express, AAA and Sam’s Club. Over one half of all new car buyers engage with the TrueCar network during their purchasing process. TrueCar is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, with offices in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. For more information, go to truecar.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. TrueCar media line: +1-844-469-8442 (US toll-free)

About DAV

DAV is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans of all generations and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; linking veterans and their families to employment resources; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a nonprofit organization with more than 1 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U. S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at dav.org.

There just isn’t any better way to salute the military and veterans from Country Singers, than to dedicate a CMT video to them.

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Rosemarie

Country Music Stars have kept new and old soldiers near and dear to their hearts and dedications for decades. And now a song and video, by rising Country Singer, Rosemarie, “Since You Let Me Go” does just that!

The song and video are on their way to Military soldiers and Veterans Associations around the World!  To commemorate a Celebration for those who defend our freedom, a special all afternoon concert and “thank you” are planned at the Biggest Fairgrounds in Lebanon, TN.  It will be taking place at the Wilson Pike Fairgrounds, this April 15th 2018. Who better than all-time favorite of the military other than Lee Greenwood, as the headliner with Rosemarie opening up for him and singing her CMT video song, “Since You Let Me Go.”  The show is to benefit the Operation Stand Down in Tennessee.

The video keeps audience’s attention with its fast action and drama of a short film which tells a story through time travel.  It reminds us of the struggles and hardships of loved ones leaving their families and sweethearts to go to war.  Sometimes for a very long time, and for others, never to return.

The video starts out in present time as Rosemarie’s band is setting Rosemarieup for a show.  As she turns and looks into the distance, she believes she sees her sweetheart from many years ago wearing his Military suit from WW2. She calls to him and runs frantically calling for him to stop.  As he proceeds down a hallway and out a door, he is gone.  As she cautiously opens the door, she finds herself back in time in the 1940’s during WW2.  After 3 hours of makeup and hair design, the room and actors have transformed back in time and we see the sweethearts as they danced back in the day for the first time.

A tribute concludes ….. Thanks to the greatest generation for all you did for America!

Rosemarie was born with the desire to perform and sing as a small child. “At 4 and a half I got the “fire in the belly” and have thought about it every day of my life since!!  I spent every day singing along to music and this is how I learned to sing.  It’s something that has to come out of my body and spirit.” “SOME PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD ARE BORN TO DO A CERTAIN THING.    I WAS BORN TO SING”.

“My singing has been my dream and my endeavor alone. I’ve had no Teachers, Mentors, No Publicity, No Financial Support, No Sponsors, Investors, No Family Support, No Voice Lessons, No Agents,  No Connections for Gigs   ……….  JUST ME AND THE DRIVE TO DO IT.  IT’S MY PURPOSE IN LIFE”.

On June 8, 2017 she risked it all and moved 3,000 miles to Nashville, TN with only her Boston Terrier Buster, and made it her second home.  On June 29, 2017 Redridge Entertainment in Nashville created the story to her song “SINCE YOU LET ME GO,” and filmed it.  By the end of August it was edited an finished. Brian Nutter, who tours with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban plays the lead guitar on the video song, “Since You Let Me Go!!!” He makes the guitar sound like a sexy saxophone!

RosemarieRosemarie, a natural born entertainer and vibrant multi-talented stage personality has been exciting the Country Music community with her stellar concerts. “I always think about performing and remember the compliments and happy faces from the audiences during my performances!”  She has performed for tens of thousands of people from every walk of life in the San Francisco Bay Area! Her newly released CD has 5 of her original debut songs written by Nashville writers and produced by Rick Durrett of Rick Durrett Productions and Gary Sadker of RedRidge Entertainment, in Nashville, along with the cover tune “Round the Clock Lovin’ by KT Oslin from back in the 1980’s.

Chris Leuzinger, one of Garth Brooks G men for 25 years, takes lead on, “Cry ‘n Try Again”, “Do Me A Favor”, “Let the Stranger In” and KT Oslin’s, “Round The Clock Lovin’”. Chris was inducted into the Nashville Music Hall of Fame, June 2016. He can play like no one else.

“MY MUSIC COMES WITHIN MY HEART AND SOUL.  AFTER ALL, MUSIC IS WHAT FEELINGS SOUND LIKE”!

The world is finally hearing Rosemarie’s music on a worldwide scale.  AVA Live radio played her song, “Behind Those Eyes” from her Album, January 3, 2018.  It went out to 800,000 listeners internationally.  Jaqueline Jax did a 15 minute live interview after playing her song.  After just 4 weeks they could measure that more than 400,000 listeners had clicked and listened to her interview with the number climbing every day. “Since You Let Me Go” has been released to Midwestern mid-level radio markets and Aritso Management group will be sending out her CMT video to multiple TV stations to get air play.  Be on the look out to see her name in print. She secured a spot at the Radio Convention in February 2018 which is hard to do.  She wowed the radio disc jockeys and producers, many who had never heard her rich timber and unique voice.

And so, what is her plan? Besides having achieved the titles of Corporate Manage, Teacher and Volunteer for Kaiser Hospital and Medical Center in CA and a Volunteer on the San Ramon Library Board and Director of the Jazz Concerts……….Her goal is to raise money for the DISABLED VETERANS OF AMERICA ORGANIZATION, but more importantly to spend time with the disabled from the wars.

“A pang of sorrow tugs at my heart strings whenever I see a Veteran who has been permanently disabled!” I know their lives have been changed forever.  Everything has changed and will probably never be the same again!!  Every minute of every day is hard.  Every hour.  It takes a deep strength down in your body and soul to keep going.  And often times they don’t. I want to be there for them with my music but also with the touch of my hand giving support and hope and encouragement to the disabled and those who have lost limbs.  What a daily, and honestly, hourly struggle to get through life like this.  Permanently changed.  Changed forever. How often it is for other people to forget that they have to fight their disability with courage every day.  Tasks that were every day occurrences now are a struggle.  How often, as is human nature, we forget.  We get tired of seeing them struggle.  Being reminded life can be rough and we stop helping. My goal is to let them know, they are not forgotten.  Give them a happy moment through my music, knowing someone cares and loves them but also understands human suffering on their level. My goal is to have 4 concerts year dedicated to the military and veterans engaging performers like Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood.  An appreciation, but to let soldiers know “We haven’t forgotten.”

“I want to visit the disabled once a month and provide love and encouragement through my music and a touch of my hand and human caring. I understand what it’s like.  I really do. At a very young age of 25 my husband and I both became disabled for a very very long time.  I had an injury to my mouth and large nerve that runs from the brain down through the teeth and jaw.  Trigeminal Neuralgia.  Listed as one of the top 10 most painful afflictions known to mankind.  Life as I knew it was worth less.  I had no quality of life.  Shocking unbearable nerve pain every day 24/7 for 8 years without any relief.  I lost the will to live. Only to find out 2 years later, my handsome husband and National Athlete Winner for the hi-hurdles in College, was to have a brain tumor the size of a golf ball inside his head.  After 2 long 10 hour surgeries, he lost all his hearing on one side with constant pain throughout his body and now had only the energy of an 80 year old man.  He was disabled, couldn’t work for the remainder of his life.  Puttered around the house and fed our animals. His nick name prior to this was “Hercules.”  Family and friends didn’t want to hear we weren’t doing well after a while.  We had to be okay, didn’t we?  We were young and beautiful and had the world by the tale.  They soon dropped off one by one and we didn’t talk about it anymore.  We realized it was just a tendency of human nature”.

“I want to be the support person for these soldiers.”  I want to be the Clara Barton of our time who soothed the souls and the wounds of the soldiers during the Civil War. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT TO ME:  You need to keep giving your gift of singing back into the world.  You need to make others happy, even if it’s for a moment, and heal the hurt in the world.  You need to say “thank you” for the gift.” And so I will “carry on my mission”, and wage the war to fight for them with my voice and compassion, with my first major concert for the Military and on and on it will continue……never to forget”!

View the video and listen to her music below!
rosemariesmusic.com

2018 Gerber Baby comes from Army National Guard family

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Georgia Army National Guard Spc. Jason A. Warren, an aircraft powertrain repairer with the Marietta, Georgia-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, and his wife Cortney garnered national media attention on Feb. 9 when their son Lucas was named the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby.

The Warrens were amazed when they received the news of Lucas’ win.

“Absolute shock,” said Jason. “It was hard to believe he won out of 140,000 entries.”

Lucas, diagnosed with Down Syndrome, is the eighth Gerber baby since the contest began in 2010. Inspired by the original Gerber baby sketch of Ann Turner Cook, families began sharing their baby photos with Gerber. In response, Gerber launched its first official photo search competition in 2010.

“We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have potential to change the world,” said Cortney. “Just like our Lucas.”

The Warrens hope other families with special needs children can look to Lucas as a source of inspiration.

“We hope this will help people kick-start their own lives and give them more confidence,” said Jason. “They might think if Lucas can do this, what can I do in my life?”

The winning photo shows Lucas, sitting in an overstuffed chair, grinning from ear to ear wearing a black and pink polka-dot bow tie.

“He is very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” said Cortney. “He loves to play, loves to laugh and to make other people laugh.”

“He is just the absolute cutest thing ever,” said Staff Sgt. Misty D. Crapps, supply sergeant with Company D,171st Aviation Regiment. “He always smiles at everybody he sees.”

Jason looks forward to continued service in the Georgia Army National Guard. He feels a sense of pride and family being part of the organization.

“I absolutely love the Guard: the ability to help my community and serve my country,” said Jason. “The benefits of service are always great to have, and it allows me to serve my country the way I want to.”

Continue onto the U.S. Army Newsroom to read the complete article.