Like last year, Pam took video of the fleet arriving for Seafair this year! GO NAVY!
Our 2014 Video:
Please also see our Daily Veterans Newsletter
Like last year, Pam took video of the fleet arriving for Seafair this year! GO NAVY!
Our 2014 Video:
Hackers, unscrupulous lenders and fraudulent credit card companies are targeting veterans with misleading offers and outright scams. This is, of course, on top of the everyday fraud we read or hear about, including the recent theft of 21.5 million Social Security numbers belonging to federal employees. Read on to learn how veterans in particular can better protect themselves and family members from fraud.
While many organizations and businesses provide special discounts for veterans, take particular care with those that promise additional benefits. Here are a few cited by AARP’s Military Monday column:
In addition to the resources above, check out the LifeLock website for more information on current and emerging scams and tips for safeguarding personal information.
Remember that old credit card ad that asked “What’s in your wallet?” It’s a good question. What are you carrying around?
There is absolutely no need to carry every credit card you own. If you use credit cards to earn reward points, just carry one or two. You don’t need a Costanza-like wallet bulging out to force you to sit sideways.
Similarly, don’t carry your Social Security card. Lock it up in your home safe along with your extra credit cards. You can’t cancel a stolen Social Security card, and getting a number changed is a long and difficult process.
Don’t carry the following: a list of sensitive information (PINs, SSN, account numbers), copies of your birth certificate (or the actual form) and any banking information, including the blank check your parents advised you decades ago to keep in your wallet.
It’s practically impossible to remember all the accounts, PINs and passwords you might use on a regular basis. Here’s an idea: Enter them in a note on your smartphone, and keep the phone locked. This way, you only need to remember one PIN that should, of course, be random and not associated with birthdays, anniversaries or addresses. Some people use their childhood phone numbers, which they can remember more easily than their own.
Also, invest in a password protection program. These programs are often free on desktops, and track your passwords for you. They alert you when it’s time to change one, or if you log on to a site that has the same password as another. Best of all, they create crazy new passwords for you, and automatically enter them when you visit a password-protected site.
The catch? You do have to remember a single PIN to get in the program.
Now that you’re retired it’s time to get out there and enjoy yourself. But where are the best destinations for the activities you enjoy the most? From fishing and hunting, to relaxing on sandy beaches, there are just so many choices. If you’re having a difficult time deciding on the best place to visit for your next vacation here are some ideas to inspire you.
There are a lot of things to consider when researching the best hunting and fishing destinations. Visit the Fox River Valley which has some of the best whitetail deer hunting in the United States. Bucks killed within a 50-mile radius have broken (or come close to breaking) the record for largest Whitetails in Wisconsin. But hunting Whitetail deer is just one of the many attractions in Appleton.
Lake Winnebago isn’t far away, and the Fox River runs right through town. Both the lake and the river are fantastic walleye fisheries. Thirty miles to the north is Green Bay, which is heavily populated with smallmouth bass. Nicolet National Forest plays host to deer, bear, geese, and grouse, and is considered one of the last true wildernesses in the Northwoods.
If you’re looking to get out of the country, Vancouver Island in British Columbia is one of many BC hot spots for fishing enthusiasts and thrill seekers. The city itself is located on an island tucked in a cove and surrounded by mountains of the Northern Cascade Range. While the city of Vancouver has a thriving culture, it’s nice to get out on the open water for some fishing and fun. Off the coast you can catch halibut, different kinds of salmon and more. If you’re looking to get even further outside the city, about 50 miles east is the Fraser River which is a fly-fisherman’s dream, with beautifully clear river water surrounded by mountainous terrain.
While fishing is a generally low-key pastime, being on open water is always risky, so it’s important to have the right permits and training for operating a boat. Whether you’re parasailing, or just relaxing with your line out, you’ll need the correct permits before you debark from the dock. While this may seem like a hassle, peace of mind that you can keep yourself and your passengers safe is invaluable.
While it’s fun to get out into nature and experience the great outdoors, sometimes all you want is to lounge on the beach, go swimming, and from time to time, toss out a line to see if anything is biting.
There are many beaches known for surf fishing in Florida. Relax with a good book and enjoy the sinking of the sun as you tan. Enjoy the night life of South Beach with drinks and wonderful sea food. Swim off the coast of white sand beaches and take a load off. The beaches of Florida offer so much relaxation as well as some great surf fishing. While staying in Florida, don’t forget to ask about veteran discounts at hotels, restaurants and merchant shops. Many establishments can help you save money if they know you’ve served in the armed forces.
Not only do the beaches of Florida provide you with ample opportunity for surf fishing, you can also take up spearfishing, which is more involved and adventurous.
This is certainly NOT the message we hear from President Obama today as the world faces barbaric terrorism that is only spreading… – Roger Young, co-editor
As a veteran, you are probably aware of some of the benefits to which you are entitled. Most veterans know about the medical care services that you can receive through a VA hospital, and you might already be familiar with education programs that you can apply for through the G.I. Bill.
These more common programs are at the tip of the veteran benefit iceberg. From help with mortgages, to assistance with figuring out your taxes, and even identity theft protection, there is a nice variety of benefits that veterans can and should take advantage of.
As a veteran, both you and your spouse are eligible for long-term medical care. You already know about medical benefits, so the keywords here are “long term.” As the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notes, should you ever become housebound due to medical issues, you might be eligible for additional payments in addition to the monthly pension you are already receiving. The Aid and Attendance program applies to veterans who need help from others to do basic everyday tasks like bathing and dressing, as well as veterans who are in a nursing home, and/or have limited eyesight. In addition, the Housebound program involves an increase in your monthly pension when some type of disability confines you to your home for most of the time. Your surviving spouse may also be eligible to receive funds to cover long-term costs. In order to apply for these benefits, write to the Veterans Affairs office that handled your initial pension claim.
As a veteran, you spent part of your life protecting our country. Thanks to a discount that is available through LifeLock for Veterans of Foreign Wars members, the identity theft protection company will protect your personal information and private data. Right now, members of the VFW can save 10 percent on new identity protection services, which will keep vital information like your Social Security number, military ID, and other account numbers safe both here and overseas.
As a side note, the VFW website is an outstanding resource for veterans; its Member Benefits page lists dozens of discounts that you will receive for being a member. These include deals on everything from travel-related services to haircuts.
As anyone who has ever tried to organize piles of receipts and W2s knows quite well, preparing taxes is a cumbersome and confusing job. As Military Benefits notes, veterans and their families can get help with their taxes—all at no cost. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices are typically found on military bases and are staffed with people who can help prepare your tax return. In addition, the IRS offers free tax returns for elderly veterans who need help figuring out the complicated military tax forms.
As a veteran, you can also get help to become a homeowner through the VA. Active service members and surviving spouses can also fulfill their American dreams of homeownership. In addition to various programs like refinances, interest rate reductions, and guaranty benefits, the VA website features helpful information and advice on how to apply for the various benefits. VA Home Loans are funded through many traditional private lenders like banks and other financial institutions.
If you are a first-time home buyer and have questions about the process, Veterans United Home Loans is also a terrific resource that can help guide you through everything and offer accurate advice on your various mortgage-related benefits.
Joining the military is an honored and respected tradition in this country, often following from generation to generation as children see the good that their parents are doing and seek to emulate that sense of duty. Training to join the military can be, however, a challenge. The physical fitness requirements of military service are demanding and grueling.
Take the U.S. Marine Corps, for example: the physical assessment for a young man in his early 20s includes running three miles in under 28 minutes, doing 50 crunches in under two minutes and nine unassisted full-body pull-ups. This may not sound like a lot on paper, but if you haven’t practiced and conditioned your body for these challenges, they will be more than difficult.
Take the proper steps and get prepared. Joining a gym or hiring a trainer is an option some take, but for the truly dedicated one of the best options is to build your own backyard boot camp that you can use whenever you want. Below are a few tips and suggestions to help you get started.
This classic exercise requires taking used tires (at least 10) and staggering them so that as you run your feet land within the tires. Place your hands behind your head and lift your knees as high as you can to work not only your thighs but your core and stomach as well.
Use a long row of elevated bars to help strengthen your forearms, shoulders, biceps and triceps, as well as get your body used to supporting itself in that position. For increased difficulty and training, do the bars one at a time with a pull-up at each bar.
While most backyards don’t allow room for a full track, set up an area to do wind sprints. Practice these high-speed, short-distance runs to quickly increase speed, stamina, and strength. To take it to the next step, consider getting a harness and attaching a tire or other weight behind you as you run.
This simple but effective exercise requires a great deal of upper body strength and coordination, and help to increase strength and stamina in your forearms and grip.
These are great for increasing your balance as well as working your core. For greater difficulty, increase your speed across the beam or hold weights out to either side of your body.
This exercise requires you to alternate jumping over a hurdle and crawling under an obstacle. This is a full-body workout, and is great for working your core and increasing all-around stamina and endurance.
Many of these obstacles like the wall or the monkey bars require you to build large, durable structures that can withstand the strain you put on them during training. If you are comfortable doing it yourself, rent a scissor lift and other equipment that can make the task much easier. If construction isn’t your thing, don’t be afraid to hire someone to assist.
Whatever service you are going into, remember that the biggest advantage you have is mental discipline. Be sure to prepare your mind as well as your body, and know that your service and dedication is always appreciated.
President Barack Obama announced this past May that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be reduced from 32,000 to 9,800 by the end of 2014. That means over 20,000 veterans will be returning to their homes and re-acclimating to civilian life in the coming months. But this transition can be a difficult process for some.
A 2011 Pew Social Trends survey found that 44 percent of U.S. service members who returned from deployment after 9/11 reported having a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. It can be challenging for returning combat veterans to reconnect emotionally and socially with family and friends after experiencing the ugly realities of war.
Fortunately there are social and economic opportunities, along with common everyday activities, that can ease the transition process and help build a strong support group.
Washington State’s total population is 9 percent veterans, more than the 7.7 percent average of all states, according to Governing. Unfortunately the unemployment rate for Washington veterans is nearly twice the rate of the general population. Endless free time and no job are an awful combination that will only exacerbate an already difficult situation for returning veterans.
Former Governor Christine Gregoire created a task force known as the Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG) to address this issue before leaving office last year. The idea behind the initiative is to bring together representatives from every state agency to create jobs that veterans pre-qualify for based on their military training. Gregoire said the initiative would set an example private sector employers would eventually follow. Oregon’s Work Employment Tax Credit also seeks to encourage employers to hire veterans with tax incentives from $2,400 to $9,600 for every eligible service member hired.
Several private companies in the northwest have also enacted measures to help veterans find meaningful work. Microsoft’s Elevate American Veterans initiative invested $12 million for job training, placement, child care, and counseling services for returning veterans. Puget Sound Energy is listed on Military.com’s Top 35 Veteran-Friendly Employers. JP Morgan Chase, State Farm, Cintas, and several other companies formed the 100,000 Jobs Mission in 2011 and has since hired over 161,000 veterans.
The aforementioned Pew survey found that veterans who are actively involved with church and other religious activities have the easiest time transitioning back to civilian life by far. Keith Ethridge, director of the VA’s National Chaplain Center, told Christianity Today that it’s not enough for an institution of God to simply advertise itself as “military-friendly.” Ethridge has since held training sessions for clergy all across rural America so they can better understand the challenges veterans face upon returning from deployment.
The VA maintains a list of churches (organized by city, state, and denomination) that are led by chaplains who either have military experience or have gone through one of the training sessions. Veterans who don’t necessarily consider themselves religious can still attend churches as places of refuge in difficult times. Churches are also great places to meet new friends and share your experiences with people who care.
President Barack Obama spoke about the mental health challenges veterans face upon returning home from combat in his 2014 State of the Union address. Dr. Keith Tidball of Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources not only agreed with the president, but believes a study he’s been working on can help address this issue.
Dr. Tidball, who is also a veteran, said in a press release that the “Returning Warriors: Outdoor Recreation, Restoration, and Resilience” (REWORRR) study by Cornell demonstrates that outdoor activities provide numerous therapeutic benefits to returning veterans. He said the study has shown that connecting with the natural living world in turn helps combat veterans rebuild those intimate bonds with family and friends that have been damaged by their experiences overseas.
Fishing, hiking and hunting are the three most obvious activities. The Wounded Warriors Project has an office in Seattle. The nonprofit arranges two to three day outdoor sport excursions for small groups of veterans with similar experiences. Another idea is to treat yourself to a new pair of motorcycle riding boots and join a riding club. You’ll be able to soak up the outdoors while also meeting new people with a similar recreation interest as your own.
The transition from active duty back to civilian life is not easy even for the toughest minded of soldier. The kind of people you choose to work for and associate with will go a long way in determining how seamless your experience will be.
Americans hold a special place for vets returning from active duty. Even closer to our nation’s heart are female veterans who often return from combat duty to take up lives as mother, wife, and friend. Though no more or less difficult than a male’s transition into civilian life, studies show female vets experience unique challenges and need special assistance. Research published in the Journal of Women’s Health found women use more outpatient services than men, while men use more inpatient services. One interpretation of this is that women, if given the right assistance, can come back to a state-side life without needing large interventions. As loved ones, we can help make the transition easier.
If your returning vet was a desk jockey at Fort Drum then civilian life may not be a stretch, but a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan needs a veneer of mindfulness to keep her safe. The safety habit can turn into ungrounded fear and paranoia if not properly focused. At home, an alarm system will allow her to get a good night’s sleep. Since the first six months back may be filled with forms, documents, and signatures as the veteran reestablishes her new life, identity theft protection will help her stop looking over her shoulder. With time and a loving environment, she will be able to leave some of the fear overseas.
She does not need you to fix her problems. A therapist can handle mental trauma and a physician can prescribe medication. What she needs from you is a support network. The lack of social support is one of the biggest factors in the mental decline of veterans suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a variety of other military service-related mental health issues, reports the American Psychological Association. Studies show that vets with good friends have less severe symptoms, are able to transition into civilian life easier, and are more likely to avail themselves of help if they need it. Be a source of laughter and a shoulder to cry on.
At the 2013 American Public Health Association conference, panelists discussed the importance of allowing a soldier the opportunity to define her own perception of combat. Many women in the military services hold caretaking roles and never lift a gun. For these women, combat means caring for the wounded and potentially seeing them die. Though they have never pulled a trigger, their experiences are no less horrific, traumatizing and significant as a front line soldier’s. Whatever experiences your vet has, acknowledge them as uniquely hers.
Sometimes laughter, conversation, and a hug are not enough. Almost 3 percent of female veterans are diagnosed with an eating disorder, reports Psychology Research. About one-third are diagnosed with PTSD and nearly half are at high risk of drinking abuse, notes Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health. This is where friendship has its benefits. You cannot make your veteran get help but you can be a resource for her. The Veteran’s Administration website is filled with helpful resources, advice and interventions that you can use to support the well-being of our returning military personnel. With the right care, returning female veterans do not need to struggle to have a new, happy life.
This video was sent to me and is one of the most inspirational videos I’ve ever seen! The video producer writes:
“On June 6th, 2014, my 11 year old son wanted to say thank you to the soldiers who fought and died on Omaha beach on D-Day morning 70 years earlier. This is how he did it.”
Parade of ships & aircraft, Seafair Fleet Week. Video by Pam Young:
When we talk about our fellow veterans, especially returning vets, one size does not fit all. Some vets return willing and able to find a job and go back to domestic life. Others want to go back to school. Some returning vets need more assistance, especially if they are suffering from physical or mental health complications. These are some of the factors that need to be addressed when deciding where to live.
For the returning veteran, the housing market may be the determining factor in the house buying decision. Of course, these are the same motives for people that have not served in the military but VA loan caps give housing price a different significance. Lenders will typically make VA loans up to $144,000 without a down payment. Over that amount, the government still guarantees but there may be a down payment. To get the best bang for your buck, Forbes recommends Fort Worth, Texas as the best place to buy. The average house in the area is a little under $170,000 with a reasonable prediction of market growth.
If you are looking for a place to contribute some sweat equity then Madison, WI should catch your eye. Madison is a hotbed of economic development in the housing sector. As the capital of Wisconsin, small renovations to your property become multiplied by the economic growth of the city. Home exterior improvements such as new roofing, window replacements or additions like sunrooms are more than just renovations, they are a statement for community growth, bringing up the value of your home and the area in which you live. Madison is a place where your service skills can build a city.
Not everyone is coming back with a marketable skill set. The GI Bill has made it easy for service people to go back to school, to the tune of more than 800,000 vets in school. If you are planning on joining academia then U.S. News and World Report says that Massachusetts has two out of ten of the best college towns with Amherst being one of the best. This small East Coast town has three schools, including the University of Massachusetts. Since you are competing with students for jobs, this is a place where your military skills and training will put you a step above.
If you are returning to the loving arms of spouse and children then Fayetteville, North Carolina is the place for you. This is one of the largest military communities in the nation. The citizens of the city have a true affection for those that are or have served our country. Being the home of Fort Bragg, employers are accustomed to working with ex-military and vets are able to get access to services. This is the kind of place where families hang together, help each other on home improvement projects, and watch each other’s children.
For those that need some assistance then the Veteran Administration’s medical facilities are important resources. According to the Veteran Administration’s website, the Portland, Oregon VA Medical Center has been rated as a Top Performer for two years running. Portland is also the home of the Returning Veteran’s Project which offers counseling and other health care services free or at a reduced rate. As a community, Portland takes care of their service people. For home buying, the city’s housing market has flattened without some of the radical ups and downs of other markets in the country. No matter where you decide to go, remember that you are not alone and that there are people in this country that are thankful for the time that you spent protecting our country.
An OUTSTANDING video on the Vietnam Veterans Monument in Austin, Texas, brought to my attention by Spur 3, Chuck Oualline:
Produced by Pleasant Valley Middle School: