The New Year brought new perks for some military members and their families.
The Department of Defense expanded shopping privileges at its commissaries to a number of new groups, including Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, all veterans with service-connected disabilities and individuals approved as the primary family caregivers of eligible veterans.
The expanded eligibility went into effect Jan. 1.
Other patrons authorized to shop at commissaries by the Department of Defense include active duty, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100 percent disabled veterans and authorized family members.
Commissaries are discounted grocery shopping facilities located on bases. By law, the shop is required to deliver savings to shoppers, based on prices negotiated with manufacturers. Baseline savings are typically expected to be just shy of 24 percent.
Shoppers are subject to a 5 percent surcharge but no state and local food-related taxes. The surcharge is used for store upkeep and construction.
In addition to commissaries, newly eligible military personnel will also have access to military service exchanges, golf courses, bowling centers, recreational lodging, RV campgrounds, movie theaters and other facilities.
According to the Department of Defense, eligibility is limited because it does not have the infrastructure to handle an influx of more than 15 million additional veterans to the facilities.
Not only did the new year bring new benefits for some veterans, it also brought higher pay for service members.
A Los Angeles-based group is stepping up to help local homeless veterans. New Directions for Veterans is holding an emergency fundraiser to help provide clothing, hygiene products and other resources to help vets living on the streets.
“During my 20 years in the Marine Corps we were always taught never leave a Marine behind both in garrison and in the combat zone,” Leonardo Cuadrado, retired captain for the Marines Corps (USMC) and Executive Director for New Directions for Veterans said.
“These veterans have served our nation honorably and it’s time for us as a nation not to leave any veteran behind.”
Cuadrado said they the emergency fundraiser was to talk about the COVID-19 crisis.
“This is a very unique situation, we’ve never had this type of fundraiser before,” said Cuadrado.
“The veterans that we serve are at highest risk because they’re out on the streets, they’re homeless and so they’re being exposed everywhere they go. And so, we’re trying to get all those veterans in a safe place.”
The items New Directions for Veterans group needs are face masks, gloves, sanitation equipment and anti-bacterial soaps. The group’s executive director says everyday essentials, such as underwear, socks, sheets, and pillows are also needed.
“The whole gamut. Some that think, ‘I’ve been in a wartime situation. I wasn’t killed, you know, by combat. How is this virus gonna kill me?’ and so we’re trying to get those veterans to understand that maybe they’re not gonna die from this,” Cuadrado said. “But maybe other veterans that are more delicate, more fragile, older population that we currently also house could get the virus.”
The public can help through online and in-person donations. Cuadrado says any contributions, in-kind donations – anything makes a difference.
For more information on how to help or donate, visit: ndvets.org
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived in New York Harbor on Monday morning to help the city’s healthcare system, which s overwhelmed by the rising number of coronavirus patients.
The 70,000-ton vessel docked at Pier 90 at around 11 a.m. Its 1,000 beds are designated for patients with non-coronavirus issues. It has surgical rooms, a CAT scan unit, X-ray machines, a dental suite, and even two oxygen-producing plants, all manned by a medical staff of 1,200, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Administrator Thomas Von Essen was the FDNY commissioner during 9/11. Comfort was last in New York then, comforting first responders working around the clock.
“Everybody was affected by Sept. 11, and that’s what’s happening now. Everybody you know is affected by the coronavirus in one way or another,” Von Essen said.
“I can’t tell you how much this means,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the dock. “It’s so much more than even we realized at this moment that our nation has heard our plea for help here in New York City. Our nation is helping us in our hour of need.”
In Central Park, the Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse built a 68-bed facility near Fifth Avenue and 99th Street.
“A lot of suffering in Queens, especially, in Brooklyn. We’re going to open us just, hopefully, in a day or two and help offload some of that and help take care of some of the sickest patients,” said Elliott Tenpenny, of the organization.
As the Army Corps of Engineers completes its transformation of the Jacob Javits Center, another field hospital to treat non-COVID-19 patients, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James MCConville said, “Behind me is a 1,000-bed hospital that our soldiers, New York National Guard, local and state officials, and FEMA put together in a matter of days.”
ARABIAN GULF – Ensign Christopher Cartwright, from Yorba Linda, California, speaks into a sound-powered telephone during ship handling drills aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).
Forrest Sherman is part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group and is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond Maddocks)
The Army sent more than 800,000 former soldiers with medical training an email to gauge their interest in assisting with the coronavirus pandemic response, and received more than 9,000 responses, Army leaders said Thursday.
The volunteers could fill in for current Army medical personnel who might be sent to help civilian leaders domestically, the Army’s top medical officer explained during a briefing at the Pentagon.
“We have had some positive responses,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said. “What we’re looking for is medical expertise.”
An email sent to retirees Wednesday by Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, the Army deputy chief of staff for manpower, listed a series of heath care careers the service is interested in, including critical care officers, various nursing specialties and former medics.
“We’re getting many volunteers,” said Army surgeon general Lt. Gen. Scott Dingle. “We’ll then walk through the process of certification, making sure that all certifications and credentials are straight. Then once we do that, we’ll plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission.”
The email does mention that if recipients are currently working in a civilian hospital or medical facility, to let the Army know, as service officials say they “do not want to detract from the current care and treatment you are providing to the nation.”
Army Medical Command plans to use the volunteers to fill the roles of current medical personnel normally assigned to treatment facilities who may be called upon to deploy.
Within the Army, there have been a total of 288 positive cases of coronavirus out of about 5,000 tests administered to its personnel. That number includes 100 soldiers, 65 dependents, 64 civilian employees, 50 contractors and 9 cadets. So the need for medically-trained soldiers at Army posts is expected to increase.
Volunteers would be leveraged alongside Army reserve soldiers “to fill those holes from the medical treatment facilities, so we can maintain the readiness of our soldiers, as well as the beneficiary population,” Dingle said.
On Tuesday, the secretary of the Army ordered three field hospital to deploy to New York and Washington states to assist governors there in tamping down on the coronavirus pandemic.
Continue on to the Army Times to read the complete article.
Los Angeles County hospitals at near capacity may see relief this weekend as patients who have tested negative for the novel coronavirus will begin transferring to the Navy hospital ship Mercy, which docked at the Port of Los Angeles on Friday.
Navy officials say it will be up to local and state officials to decide who will be transferred, and those patients will have to undergo screening before being allowed on board. Emergency medical service workers transporting patients will be prohibited from entering the ship and will also be subject to screenings.
Officials said they have yet to determine whether or how patients would receive visitors.
During a new conference at the port, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the arrival of the ship from San Diego could not have come at a better time, as health experts expect local hospitals to see a surge in the number of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
“I want to thank the president personally on behalf of a grateful region, on behalf of a grateful state, for sending this ship and the incredible resources that reside within this ship to the state of California,” Newsom said.
The Mercy has roughly 800 medical staffers, 1,000 hospital beds and 12 operating rooms.
The ship will house patients who do not have COVID-19 in an attempt to free up regional hospital beds for those who do. Some patients who are already hospitalized in Los Angeles County will be transferred to the ship for ongoing treatment, port officials said Thursday.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said ship will be the largest hospital in Los Angeles and will bring much needed hospital beds amid the city’s fight against the coronavirus.
“This will be a COVID-19 free bubble,” Garcetti said. Whether a patient is taken to the ship directly from an accident or from a hospital, he said, one less bed taken up at L.A. hospitals means another bed in the ongoing fight against coronavirus. “So this ship is truly mercy on the water … and the expression of who we are as Americans and as people at this moment.”
Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.
PHILIPPINE SEA – The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Pictured moving resin barrels aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 23, 2020 are left, Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class Matthew Roney, from Dallas, and pictured right is Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 3rd Class Richard Truong, from Westminster, Calif.
Crowd-sourced video series will empower veterans to maintain supportive communities as social distancing practices continue
Mission Roll Call recently announced the launch of “Be A Leader,” a new crowd-sourced social media video series that will empower veterans, their families and caregivers to virtually connect with each other and share their experiences during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Content shared using the #MRCBeALeader hashtag on social media will highlight stories and advice from veterans to encourage personal growth, optimistic communities and responsible behavior in the months to come.
“With a wealth of experience handling critical and stressful situations in a calm, positive manner, military veterans are ready to lead by example in this time of uncertainty,” said Garrett Cathcart, executive director of Mission Roll Call. “This campaign will give all veterans an opportunity to share how they are checking in on their buddies, entertaining their families, and staying active so others will be inspired to do the same as the nation continues to practice social distancing.”
In addition to videos created and shared by followers of Mission Roll Call’s social media channels, the series will feature insights and words of encouragement from individuals such as Medal of Honor recipients Sal Giunta and Clint Romesha, as well as retired NFL player and U.S. Army veteran Nate Boyer.
The “Be A Leader” campaign is an extension of Mission Roll Call’s goal to provide veterans with a platform where they can make their voices heard on the key issues impacting their lives. Mission Roll Call is a program of national nonprofit America’s Warrior Partnership that has connected with more than 535,000 veterans, family members, caregivers and advocates since launching in 2019.
Veterans and community members who wish to participate can post content and follow the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by using the #MRCBeALeader hashtag and tagging @MissionRollCall.
About Mission Roll Call
Mission Roll Call is the first-ever movement of its kind — one dedicated to giving every veteran a voice in advocating for the issues that are important to them. The program created a digital community where veterans, their families and caregivers can make their voices heard. Veterans can share their stories through comments on our social media pages and respond to online polls about the most urgent issues facing veteran communities. These messages, views and insights are delivered directly to policymakers and civic leaders with the goal of enacting lasting, positive change.
For more information, visit MissionRollCall.org. Mission Roll Call is a program of America’s Warrior Partnership. America’s Warrior Partnership is a nationally recognized nonprofit with a Platinum Guidestar Seal of Transparency.
By Maurice D. Wilson, MCPO, USN (Ret), and Jim Wong USMC Veteran
On 01 April, National Veterans Transition Services Inc. (NVTSI) aka REBOOT, in partnership with TaskHuman is launching the nation’s first veteran wellness APP: veteranwellness.online, an evidence-based, simple-to-use veteran wellness assessment and intervention tool based on the Life Balance Wheel taught during REBOOT Workshops to help veterans self-prioritize their immediate needs and seek help.
Like many other veteran service organizations and state and county agencies, NVTSI is minimizing direct contact with our constituents to reduce risks to facilitators and providers for the next several months, and are turning to technology to help us continue our mission of serving transitioning military, veterans, and their families. With the COVID-19 crisis looming over America, our mandate to serve veterans and their families remains unchanged. And as “Social distancing,” “Shelter in place,” and “Stay at Home” become the new social norms, we see technology as a viable solution to connect veterans in need of emotional support with coaches to help them through these trying times.
Using a veteran’s own self-assessment across critical wellness domains – health, family life, career, finance, etc. – to guide their reintegration journey, the TaskHuman app provides veterans with on-demand 1:1 live coaching via video call from vetted professionals to address high priority life needs, thereby minimizing personal stress and maximizing the veteran’s chances of successful transition from military service to civilian life.
Early detection and mitigation of veteran reintegration issues, as identified by world-renowned Veterans & Families Research Hub (frhub.com/about/), and corroborated by The Veteran Metrics Initiative Study (TVMI) by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation (https://www.hjf.org/tvmi-study-update) is essential for a successful transition to civilian life. The goal of the program is to 1) Heighten self-awareness, and 2) trigger early intervention, facilitated by 1:1 with live coaches online. This is particularly timely as efforts to contain COVID-19 requires self-imposed isolation, a leading indicator of depression and suicide. Our expected outcome for TaskHuman users is to improve their Wellness Score by 10% in one year.
“Our APP is particularly timely as efforts to contain COVID-19 requires self-imposed isolation, a leading indicator of depression and suicide. And in anticipation of a COVID-19-triggered surge, we are seeking additional coaches to meet demand.” Jim Wong, Chair, National Veterans Transition Services, Inc. and USMC Veteran
We have begun training veterans to use TaskHuman, with wellness scores stored in a secure personal profile, to be used as their benchmark or intake score. In anticipation of a COVID-19-triggered surge, we are also vetting additional coaches. Following enrollment, TaskHuman will prompt users to continue monitoring their wellness, as they receive ongoing coaching. Veterans with a self-assessment score of 6 or less are flagged and automatically monitored for intervention by REBOOT staff. Our goal is to see all veterans achieve a minimum score of 7 or higher in any transition domains, removing them from danger.
Currently 70% of America’s veterans are not enrolled in a system of care, waiting until personal issues reach untenable levels before seeking help. In a majority of cases, a peer or family member advises them to seek help; however, because of stigma and/or fear, veterans are reluctant to seek help, predisposing them to unemployment, under-employment, homelessness, depression and suicide (70% of suicide victims were not enrolled in the VA system or veteran service organization). Furthermore, there is no system or process that facilitates at-risk veterans to self-evaluate their wellness to seek early intervention. The need exists for an online, scalable process so veterans can easily determine their wellness, allowing them connect with veteran-friendly wellness coaches/counselors in a live private, 24/7/365 1:1 secure manner, without going through a lengthly and often embarrassing process to obtain help they need from a trusted counselor.
Services will be delivered in three ways: (1) directly to service members attending Pre-Separation (Pre-Sep) and Capstone orientations aboard military installations before their release from active duty, as well as during REBOOT Workshops and One-Day REBOOT Your Life Seminars. Additionally, outreach will be conducted via social media such as Facebook, Linkedin, PSAs and articles. (2) Once veterans are enrolled on the APP, they will have access to a network of over 400 (and growing) coaches available to provide 1:1 counseling online across a domain of roughly 1,000 wellness topics, such as finance, careers, stress management, combatting drug or alcohol addiction, coping with job loss, managing a small business, parenting, dealing with aging parents, and even managing pets. (3) Word of mouth from users and counselors.
Known nationally for innovative veteran solutions such as REBOOT, Veterans Community Connections, and the Community Information Exchange (San Diego’s coordinated care system for veterans), among other tried-and-true programs, San Diego is the ideal location to validate TaskHuman as a cost-effective high tech – high touch solution, allowing us to serve the nation’s largest concentration of military personnel, from which approximately 24,000 transition annually to the private sector. Each year, 7,500 of these new veterans elect San Diego as home, testing local capabilities to serve them. San Diego also has the nation’s largest at-risk veteran populations: Post 911, female and homeless veterans, who comprise much of those vulnerable veterans “off the grid,” especially if they do not obtain speedy help, and should COVID-19 spiral out of control. Finally, the REBOOT TaskHuman Wellness APP will help to identify ever changing needs of veterans, thus reducing wait time for them to begin their successful reintegration journey. As a form of triage, this APP will help REBOOT staff and sister VSOs to prioritize their work, optimize work flow, and allow everyone to address problems at their onset. As data accumulates, we plan to analyze trends to further improve veteran wellness.
This will be a free service staffed by volunteer coaches and we are seeking experienced coaches willing to volunteer and support this initiative. If you are interested in volunteering please sign up at: taskhuman.com/veterans-program/.
Military veterans interested in studying STEM fields at the University of Arizona are receiving a little extra help, thanks to a new program that was developed to support veterans and increase their participation in research.
The new program is an expansion of the highly successful Arizona Science, Engineering and Math Scholars, or ASEMS program, which provides tutoring, mentoring and specialized coursework for UA students.
“ASEMS has done really well with supporting and engaging students in STEM, so we wanted to take what already exists and adjust it specifically for the veteran population,” said Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Marty, who received a National Science Foundation Career grant to support a veteran-specific program dubbed ASEMS-V.
Identifying a Need
In October 2017, James Rohrbough became the first staff scientist in the Marty Lab. Rohrbough spent nearly 21 years in the U.S. Air Force as a chemist and taught chemistry as an assistant professor at the Air Force Academy. But 18 months into retirement, Rohrbough, who retired as a lieutenant colonel, was bored. When he saw that Michael Marty, an assistant professor of chemistry at the UA, was hiring, Rohrbough picked up the phone.
“I thought, ‘I can actually use my degree back at the university,’” says Rohrbough, who grew up in Tucson and received both his undergraduate degree and his Ph.D. from the UA.
“James told me he’d like to get back into a lab, and with someone of his level of experience, I was happy to have him,” Marty said.
At the time he hired Rohrbough, Marty was thinking about what impact he could have on students. He wanted to do something new and unique – something that would make a difference.
“With James joining the lab,” Marty said, “I thought we might have a unique opportunity to work with veterans.”
Marty started to look at veterans and higher education more closely, and he didn’t like what he found. Among veterans, both graduation rates and persistence in STEM were lower than in the overall student population.
Marty reached out to Cody Nicholls, who oversees programs and resources at the Student Vets Center and the UA ROTC, and spoke with Kimberly Sierra-Cajas, director of the ASEMS. He asked Rohrbough about the challenges veterans face in an academic environment.
For many veterans, their time in the service is a gap between high school and college, so they may need to a refresher on foundational courses that an undergraduate fresh out of high school wouldn’t need. Also, a much higher proportion of veterans have spouses, children and other commitments beyond their studies when compared with traditional students.
“James was really the one who pointed out how different training was in the military compared to an academic environment,” Marty said, referring to the primarily in-the-field training of the military versus the classroom learning of a university.
“Veterans are typically older, more mature and have more experience when they start university, so they’re more ready to jump right into research than a traditional 18-year-old undergraduate might be,” Marty said. “We think that’ll help mimic the on-the-job training they get in the military. It’s practical, hands-on learning.”
Finding a Solution
From their discussions, an idea emerged. Alongside colleagues in the ASEMS program and the Vet Center, Marty would help launch an ASEMS program for veterans, called ASEMS-V. Through the program, he could support veteran students pursuing STEM degrees and bring their skills to research labs at the UA.
“Marty’s work typifies the science that federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, see as both cutting-edge and fundamental at the same time,” says Kimberly Ogden, interim vice president for research at the UA. “Marty embodies a true scholar that is dedicated to research, education and community engagement.”
Through ASEMS-V, veterans at the UA will receive tutoring, mentoring and professional development. They will take courses such as Success in STEM, Professionalism in STEM and Research Readiness, and ideally, will shadow researchers in labs as early as their first semester as a student.
“Hopefully, ASEMS-V will persuade veterans who were on the fence about their degree choices to pursue their dreams and complete a degree in a STEM field,” Nicholls said.
“Veterans are particularly well-suited for careers in STEM,” said Rohrbough, who is helping Marty develop the curricula and will likely teach, as well. “The mindset of military service is mission-oriented. We have a goal; We do everything we can to achieve it. And that’s exactly how we do science, too. We focus all of our energy on the steps it takes to get to a goal, so time in the military is really useful.”
Marty’s NSF grant also supports his research, studying biological membranes and developing new techniques to better understand the interactions of proteins, peptides and small molecules within this complex environment. This grant comes on the heels of a $1.8 million National Institutes of Health grant for this research, as well.
“Research challenges, such as those the Marty lab investigates, are often solved by research teams that can draw upon diverse experiences,” said NSF program officer Robin McCarley, who oversees funding of Marty’s CAREER project. “Veterans bring unique personal and professional perspectives to a university setting. By integrating research and education, Marty is improving outcomes for students of all walks of life and for research.”
Marty hopes to have veteran students participating in the ASEMS-V program and shadowing in his lab this fall, he said.
“The most exciting part of science is being on the forefront of discoveries and being in a research lab is the best way to do that,” Marty said.
Sgt. Darren Watkins was starting a shift in his civilian job as a sheriff’s deputy in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, on Feb. 29 after leaving a daddy-daughter dance with his youngest child.
Things started slowly, as they often do. The Oklahoma Army National Guardsman with 2120th Engineer Battalion, 90th Troop Command answered some routine calls and filled out paperwork that night.
Then, at about 4 a.m., as he was wrapping his shift, Watkins was called to a fire in a vacant house. When he arrived, he realized that a neighboring house was also aflame, and there was someone trapped inside.
A man in the driveway alerted Watkins that an elderly widow was in the house and that he couldn’t wake her to get her out. Watkins told the man to seek safety and radioed the 911 dispatch to tell them he was going to try and get inside the home.
“I knew she was in there, and I knew she needed to get out,” Watkins said in an Army statement. “I really wasn’t thinking of anything else.”
Watkins rushed into the home and found that the woman had gone into her kitchen in an attempt to get to her car in the garage. However, a gasoline-filled car in the midst of a house fire poses a unique set of risks.
“I had to actually hold the door closed to where she couldn’t open it and pull her away from the door,” Watkins said in a Guard video about the event. “The firefighters later said if she would have opened the door the fire in the garage would have flashed into the living room and possibly burned both of us.”
The woman was panicking about her four dogs as Watkins tried to get her out of the home. He had to wrap his arms around her and steer her to the exit.
He, the woman who was not identified in the Army statement, and the four dogs luckily made it to safety.
“I have had some crazy calls in the past, but this was probably the craziest with the best outcome,” Watkins said. “She did lose her house, but we were able to get her out of the residence with her dogs.”
Likely, with littler time to spare.
“As we walked a safe distance away, we heard the garage explode behind us,” Watkins said.