As the traditional summer period ends with Labor Day and school has begun, I hope that you and your family – children, grandchildren, and maybe great-grandchildren – have made many meaningful memories. Be sure to keep our service men and women in your thoughts and prayers, especially those currently serving abroad that were unable to spend the summer with their families. Let’s also remember those we lost—and their families—seventeen years ago on September 11th, a day none of us will ever forget.

In this update are notices of several upcoming events to include the Virginia War Memorial’s Patriots Day Ceremony. Several of these require RSVPs for planning purposes but all are free. There are also a number of articles of interest to most veterans to include information on a program to assist low-income veterans in getting internet access, a new program to allow 100 percent service connected permanently disabled veterans to use Space A travel, and information on fraudulent veteran charities. Also included are articles on the Army’s credentialing program, Army screening of older quarters for lead paint, federal legislation on veteran treatment courts, and improperly denied MST-related PTSD claims.

Virginia War Memorial Patriot Day Ceremony

The Commonwealth’s Patriot Day Ceremony will be held in the Heilman Amphitheater on the Memorial’s grounds (621 North Belvidere Street in Richmond) on Tuesday, September 11 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Admission is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

The ceremony will honor and remember those who perished during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington on September 11, 2001. September 11 is officially acknowledged as Patriot Day – A National Day of Mourning and Remembrance as designated by the United States Congress.

Melvin D. Carter, Chief of Fire and Emergency Services for the City of Richmond, will be the keynote speaker.

Fort Lee Hiring Fair

Job Zone will be conducting a hiring fair at Fort Lee’s Regimental Club on 19 September from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. All job seekers are welcome. More information can be found here. Those wishing their resume to be available to participating companies should register at www.JobZoneOnline.com.

Fort Lee Retired Soldiers Appreciation Day

Fort Lee will hold the annual Retired Soldiers Appreciation Day on Saturday, September 29, 2018, 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.(or until finished). The program will be held at the Soldier Support Center Auditorium at 1401 B Avenue, Building 3400, Fort Lee, VA.

The event will feature representatives from several Fort Lee and independent organizations to include free flu vaccinations (if available) and health screenings for retirees and their spouses. Attendees will also have the opportunity to obtain ID cards, update wills and powers of attorney, as well as attend briefings on several topics of interest. This year’s informational briefing topics will be focused on VA benefits, living wills and trusts, TRICARE, and Fort Lee updates

For more information call (804) 743-6555/6973/7345.

Veterans and Spouses Conference

The 6th Annual Veterans and Spouses Conference will be held from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. on 3 November at the Fifth Baptist Church Fellowship Hall (1415 W. Cary Street, Richmond, VA). Veterans and Spouses are invited to attend. The conference is FREE; including lunch. Topics will be items and issues of interest to veterans and their spouses.

Only pre-registered participants can attend this event. There is no same day registration. No registration will be accepted after October 1, 2018. Conference package pick up starts at 8:00 a.m. and the conference starts at 8:50 a.m. Complete the registration form on the flyer and mail it to The Veterans’ Ministry, 405 Bancroft Ave, Richmond, VA 23222 or register online here. Full details may be found in the attached flyer.

For more information on the conference or registration contact Thad A. Jones @ 804-986-2425 or thad.a.jones@comcast.net.

Veterans in the Vineyard

The 4th Annual Veterans in the Vineyard; a salute to military veterans and their families, will be held from 12:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, October 6, 2018 at the Gauthier Equestrian Center and Vineyard, 5000 Farmers Drive, Barhamsville, VA (for directions click here). All active duty military, Guard, Reserve, Veterans, military retirees and their families will be honored. The event is free of charge although donations will be accepted.

Live music will be provided by the famous Code Blue Grass Band, Mission BBQ will serve its fabulous food and fixings, and those 21 years or older, may participate in wine tasting at the vineyard. For more information see the flyer or to RSVP (not required but appreciated) contact Brandon.Hughs.353@gmail.com or fgwickersham@vsecorp.com.

Grand Reopening Women’s Museum

The United States Army Combined Arms Support Command and The United States Army Center of Military History will hold the Grand Re-Opening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the United States Army Women’s Museum on Friday, November 2, 2018 at 2 o’clock in the afternoon at the United States Army Women’s Museum, 2100 Adams Avenue, Fort Lee, Virginia. All are invited to this event but RSVPs are required by 26 October. To view invitation and RSVP, please click here.

Veteran Internet Access

Federal and state agencies have made a concerted push to get more veteran health, job and support services online in recent years, in an effort to make the resources more widely available. However, many low-income veterans do not have internet access. A 2016 Veterans Affairs study found that nearly 30 percent of low-income veterans’ households did not have any reliable means to get online. This can be particularly problematic for veterans looking for a job after leaving the military.

Officials from Comcast recently announced they will expand their Internet Essentials program — designed to help low-income households get internet access — to include veterans facing financial challenges. Officials estimate that roughly 1 million veterans will be eligible for the new service. Individuals who participate are eligible for high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month, laptop purchases for $150, and free digital literacy training through local community partners. More information on the program is available on the Internet Essentials web site. Basic eligibility requirements include being able to prove veteran status AND be receiving state or federal assistance.

Disabled Vets Space “A” Travel

When President Trump signed into law the new National Defense Authorization Act, veterans who have a service-connected and permanent disability rating of 100 percent are authorized to travel on Space-A flights if they can do so without aircraft modifications.

Under the new Disabled Veterans Access to Space-A Travel Act, eligible veterans can hop on any scheduled or unscheduled military flight within the continental United States (and scheduled overseas flights) operated by Air Mobility Command (AMC). Clarification on whether or not required caregiver accompaniment is authorized has not yet been promulgated.

This is a huge benefit to disabled veterans who travel on aircraft as many veterans find airports unaccommodating, and difficult to get around. Military terminals are much less congested and will probably be more suitable for disabled veterans. For more information or to sign up for travel visit the AMC website here. Eligibility for non-disabled personnel can be found here.

FTC and States Combat Fraudulent Veteran Charities

The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement officials and charity regulators from 70 offices in every state (click for State POCs), the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, announced more than 100 state actions against purported veteran charities and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor,” a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and service members.

The FTC and its state partners are also launching an education campaign to help consumers avoid charity scams and donate wisely. The FTC has new educational materials, including a video on how to research charities, and two new info graphics. Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity. Additional guidance for giving to veteran charities can be found at Giving to Charities that Help Veterans, or Giving to Organizations that Help Service-members and Their Families, or Donating through an online giving portal.

If you are approached by a scammer report the charity to the Federal Trade Commission here and to your state charity regulator (in Virginia click here). Give as much information as you can in your report including, the name of the charity, the name of the fundraiser who contacted you, their phone number, website, address, and any other details they gave about the charity.

Army Credentialing Assistance Program

The Army recently announced that it will begin piloting its Credentialing Assistance Program beginning this fall, with full implementation set for FY20. The program will provide soldiers up to $4,000 per year to pay for certifications and credentials that will help prepare them for gainful employment after their transition from the military. Upon full implementation, the program will give soldiers the ability to choose from more than 1,600 programs offered through the Army’s Credentialing Opportunities Online website, and better prepare them for jobs in industries such as health care, information technology, and aviation repair. This new pilot expands on the current Army Credentialing Program, but gives soldiers the ability to gain certifications that are outside their military occupational specialties. To learn more click here.

Army to Screen 40,000 Homes for Lead

Following recent reports that found children living in Army housing faced a substantial risk of lead exposure, the Army announced that it will be conducting a review of approximately 40,000 on-post residences. The report highlighted medical findings showing that 31 children living in communities at Ft. Benning, Ga., suffered lead poisoning after being exposed to lead-based paint. The report also stated that in addition to homes at Ft. Benning, homes at Ft. Polk, Ft. Hood, Ft. Knox, Ft. Riley, and the United States Military Academy also tested dangerously high for lead. Additionally, between 2011 and 2016, more than 1,000 children living on post tested above the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead threshold level. Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated, “…this is a moral obligation we have to the families to provide safe lodging, obviously, for them. And it’s something we take very, very seriously.” Read the report here.

Veterans Improperly Denied MST-related PTSD Claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that investigated denied disability claims for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to military sexual trauma (MST). The findings concluded that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) processed approximately 12,000 claims annually over the past three years for PTSD related to MST. In FY2017, VBA denied about 5,500 of those claims. The OIG review team sampled 169 denied claims and discovered 82 were incorrectly processed, which indicates an overall adjudication error rate of 49 percent. The incorrectly processed denial error projections were mostly found to be due to evidence submitted, VA not requesting adequate evidence, veterans submitting claims not being contacted by VA’s MST coordinators, and insufficient medical opinions. “The Inspector General’s report is very troubling,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence in a press statement. “The VA’s own statistics show that suicide rates among military sexual assault victims are a growing problem, yet here we have VBA — which is the key to all things VA — incorrectly processing almost a quarter of all claims. That’s failing our veterans.” Veterans who submitted claims for PTSD related to MST and feel their claims were improperly denied may contact the VFW for claims assistance. Read the full report here.

Veterans’ Treatment Court

Both the House and Senate unanimously passed HR 2147, Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018, introduced by U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) that calls for the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire at least 50 additional Veterans Justice Outreach specialists within the next year. These specialists help veterans who become involved in the criminal justice system gain access to treatment courts, which remove those veterans from traditional processes and provide assistance for those suffering from veteran-specific issues like post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. The treatment courts help create a rehabilitation program for veterans, tailored to fit their specific needs.

Veterans’ treatment courts have a proven record of reducing recidivism rates, but they are underutilized due to a lack of VJO specialists nationwide. This bill will provide Veterans Treatment Courts with the necessary resources and manpower to deliver tailored and effective treatment to the veterans who need it. The VA shall prioritize the placement of these specialists at medical centers that have an affiliation with a court that was established after this bill’s enactment or is not fully staffed with specialists.

Military History Anniversaries

For those interested in Military History, items of interest for 16-30 September can be found here.

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Sincerely,

Kirk Cox