COLORADO SPRINGS - The Wounded Warrior Project and Lifetime Fitness are coming together to help wounded veterans improve their health. The fitness center held a special group workout session for about 20 local veterans. The group's latest numbers show more than 80 percent of the warriors are obese or overweight, which is why this new program is so important. "The camaraderie is the most important part I think. That's why we've started doing this big expo where we're bringing 20 warriors together. They really get to meet their other brothers and sisters and feel like they have a community of support around them, and they're not just doing this on their own," said Dani Larson with Wounded Warrior Project. Warriors are also learning about nutrition, goal setting and proper sleep habits. The program lasts three months at a time and is running at Wounded Warrior offices across the country.   By: Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is pleased to announce the VFW-SVA Mental Health Stand-To grant in support of its commitment to the Student Veterans of America (SVA) and to changing the dialogue surrounding mental health.  The VFW will support events planned and executed by SVA Chapters in support of mental health awareness with a $500 VFW-SVA Mental Health Stand-To grant. Chapters are encouraged to be creative in hosting events focused on educating their members and their communities about the important topic of mental health and wellness, offer proven tools to intervene on behalf of veterans in crisis, and to participate in or host a community service event. Events may include hosting a run/walk, march or other sporting event, a community clean-up, or cookout, culminating with a gathering to initiate dialogue about mental health concerns.  “The VFW is leading from the front in the effort to change the national dialogue on mental health, so we’re very proud to offer this grant. Gathering together with their family members, and members of the community to connect in a positive environment to promote emotional well-being provides the best opportunity to work toward change,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy. The creation of this grant is the VFW’s latest offering in support of Student Veterans of America since the organizations first partnered in 2013. Other VFW and SVA initiatives include the VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship, access to college scholarships, GI Bill assistance, and grassroots level support. SVA Chapters interested in receiving the $500 grant should prepare a brief overview and apply online.
For more than a year, members of Johnston-Blessman Post 38 in Wisconsin had the cloud of a six-figure debt hanging over their heads. The town of Grand Chute had assessed the post a bill of more than $100,000 to pay for road improvements on West College Avenue, a road the post resides on but does not use. The original bill was for $114,966, though the actual job ended up costing just over $103,000. Payment was due May 1, leaving Post 38 in a jam. It had just spent more than 10 years paying off a similar bill of $65,000 for improvements to Bluemound Drive, on which the post also resides. Not paying the current bill off in time would have resulted in being charged steep interest rates. "It was panic mode," Post 38 Adjutant Laurel Clewell said. "We were all trying to figure out how we could possibly (pay the bill). We thought we might have to close. At one point we thought there was no way it was going to happen." But it did happen, thanks to incredible community support for a post that has meant so much to its community. It addition to regular community flag retirement ceremonies, Post 38 also awards $6,000 yearly in college scholarships, provides flag donations and flag etiquette lessons to local schools, puts on egg hunts and Christmas parties for low-income families, and lets other community organizations use its property for their fundraisers. The post also has a big presence in the annual Appleton Flag Day Parade and last year was invited to 14 Veterans Day events, attending as many of those (nine) as it could. The post's efforts in its community obviously have been noticed. After local media reported on Post 38's dilemma, donations began to pour in, and post members also were able to get other community members and organizations to match their donations. "We had one gentleman come in and give us a $25,000 check," Clewell said. "His brother used to be a member of our post, and he had died and left him money. He said he wanted to give it right back to us, to the veterans. I just wanted to cry." Attendance at the post's fundraisers spiked. A local band donated time at the post's annual corn roast. "Our corn roast usually makes like $2,500," Clewell said. "We were way up around $12,000. The community stepped up so large." The post ended up raising $112,000 and with the leftover money was able to put in a new air conditioner at the post that had been needed for more than a year. "We're just looking at things in a different light now," Clewell said. "We just had a lot of people do some really good things. It's amazing how dedicated they are to helping veterans. The community stepped up large, and we are so grateful." Clewell believes the post's image in the community made the effort so successful. "I think a lot of people relate The American Legion to good," she said. "They see that we're not in it for us. I think people understand that we're a good organization. You could see it when they came through (the post). They were all thanking us for our service, throwing $5 in the bucket or $10 in the bucket. All of that added up. It was awesome."
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump signed a bill Wednesday to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise. The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early next year. The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over. Trump said veterans have "not been taken care of properly" and that the program will continue to be able to see "the doctor of their choice." "You got it? The doctor of their choice," he repeated for emphasis. Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said Wednesday that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system. Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care. "It's this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we're going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans," he said after Trump signed the bill. The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center. The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own. The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records. Major veterans' organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers. Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care "at a private service provider of their own choice." Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned "quick fix" to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities. "Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen," Lucas said. "We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to." Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise "lagged" in the VA scheduling system. More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year. McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension "sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care." He said more work is needed, but called the legislation "an important first step." Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans' access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program's current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and "customer service," something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive. --- Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report. --- BY DARLENE SUPERVILLEASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS "MinuteClinics" to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans. The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans' wait times. Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA's Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center's help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when "clinically appropriate." Shulkin has made clear he'd like a broader collaboration of "integrated care" nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and "customer service" - something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration's plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress. "Our number one priority is getting veterans' access to care when and where they need it," said Baligh Yehia, the VA's deputy undersecretary for health for community care. "The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods." Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans' expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an "important step forward." "Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care," he said. The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif. Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee. The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere. The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice's 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is "clinically needed." Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data. Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA's chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran's medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran's VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed. The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it's pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it's ready to roll the program out nationally if successful. CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia. "We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients," said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic. --- BY HOPE YENASSOCIATED PRESS
Newswise — Bingley “Barker” Squire (Class of 2017) first realized he could sing in public when his middle school choir director persuaded him to play the Beast in the school’s stage version of the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast.” “I knew I could sing at an early age, but I had not sung in front of anyone else until then,” Squire said. “I enjoyed it, and it gave me more confidence.” In the decades since that first performance, Squire, who will graduate from theUniversity of Virginia Darden School of Business in May, has tested his abilities on several different stages. He has served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, earned multiple scholarships to finance his education at Darden and proposed to his fiancé, fellow Darden Second Year Molly Duncan. He also hasn’t let his musical talent go to waste; he is a published singer-songwriter and the president of Darden’s a cappella group, the Cold Call Chorus. His self-titled album, published in 2014, includes original country and jazz tracks inspired by the places he has been and the people he has met. Finance professor Marc Lipson, one of Squire’s mentors who also plays alongside him in a faculty-student band, said that Squire’s creativity helps him to stand out even among a class of extraordinary achievers. “Creativity is more than anything an outgrowth of cooperative thinking. You have to want to work with other musicians, respect each other and put the group ahead of your own performance, and Barker brings that quality to any group,” Lipson said. “He is more than a magnificent student. He has the ability to bring people together to do things that are meaningful in a way I have never seen other students be able to do.” Squire, who grew up in Emporia, Virginia, earned his undergraduate degree from the Virginia Military Institute, where he graduated as the second-highest-ranking cadet militarily and highest-ranking cadet academically. He subsequently served four years in the Marine Corps, including a 2012–13 stint in Afghanistan, where he commanded a 100-person outpost and supervised 300 combat missions. “I had an interest in the military from an early age, and I think some of that came from my grandfather, who served in World War II,” Squire said. “I was interested in leading and helping other people, and looking for opportunities where I really could lead, make an impact and be a part of something bigger than myself.” In Afghanistan, Squire worked with fellow Marines, the Afghan army and police force and local tribal elders to promote peace in the region. He challenged himself not only to master the logistics of running a base nearly 30 miles from the nearest military outpost, but also to learn a bit of the local language, Pashtu, and bridge the cultural divide between the American Marines and the Afghan citizens. “I learned how to negotiate and work through all kinds of problems in a Third World country,” he said. “On the whole, the Afghan people were very nice. They just wanted to keep their families safe and make a living, and unfortunately they are in a part of the world where that is really hard to do.” Squire also discovered that he truly enjoyed, and had a talent for, building organizations. After four years in the military, he was eager to test that talent in civilian life, and business school seemed like a natural next step. “I had a tremendous experience in the military, learned so much about myself, about leadership and working with other people,” he said. “I also have a creative side and love building organizations, and my ability to do that in the military was somewhat restricted. I wanted a bit more autonomy.” At Darden, Squire, who studied history at VMI, focused on mastering finance and other quantitative skills and exploring entrepreneurship. He also continued his interest in history, taking courses like “Post-Watergate U.S. Presidents,” taught by Dean Emeritus Robert Bruner. “We have been working through the memoirs of post-Watergate presidents, starting with Ford and concluding with our current president,” Squire said. “I love reading about the situations that heads of state found themselves in and seeing how they worked through those situations.” To hone his general management skills, Squire spent last summer working for a subsidiary of Danaher Corp., helping the manufacturing firm launch a new customer platform. After graduation, he plans to purchase and manage a company in Charlotte, North Carolina, where his fiancé has accepted a position with consulting firm McKinsey & Co. “Longer-term, I would love to start my own business, but right now I am hoping to buy an existing business,” he said, noting that the scholarships he received, including the Colonel James L. Fowler USMC Scholarship and the Frank E. Genovese Second Year Fellowship, have made it possible for him to take on that challenge. “Those scholarships have helped me limit my debt and feel more comfortable about the large risk that I am about to take on.” Whatever comes next, he is confident that his time at Darden has prepared him well. “I am much more equipped now,” Squire said. “I have always had the passion and the desire to build great things, but I have such a great foundation now to actually do that and do it successfully.” This story originally appeared on By Caroline Newman
One of the most important ways for veterans to rejoin their communities after their service is to find a job when they return. That’s why The American Legion, nationally and locally, maintains such a strong presence at job fairs across the country. “This is part of our mission,” said Walter Ivie, commander of the Department of Texas and chairman of the Legion’s Media and Communications Commission, during the department’s Mid-Winter Conference in January. “We need to get out and help our veterans, and one of the most critical needs for our younger veterans in particular, is when they come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, they need to be employed, they need to learn the skills to get employed, in order to become productive members of their communities. And so it’s the one thing we can do that will really help them reintegrate into society.” As part of the Texas department’s Mid-Winter Conference, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a Hiring Our Heroes job fair at the event. The Legion’s partnership with the Chamber for such events has been a successful one, regularly drawing hundreds of job seekers. At 81 hiring events last year, some 24,000 on-site interviews took place. At a career event in Boston last May, Hiring Our Heroes President Eric Eversole touted the relationship between the Legion and his organization. “We know that partners like The American Legion are a strong part of that local community, and so having The American Legion as well as a lot of other local community representatives out, it really creates not only the economic opportunities, but the larger community opportunities,” Eversole said. Legion departments also work with local and state employment organizations to help veterans and other job seekers find new careers. “We’re always working closely with the Legion to organize events like this,” said Chris Zafra, state veterans coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions at the Operation Hiring Heroes job fair last month at Albuquerque Post 13. “We have a lot of veterans that are unemployed and looking for jobs, and this gives them the perfect venue,” District Commander Leon Martinez said. “They can associate with the Legion.” The Illinois department has hosted a job fair at its state convention each of the last three years, drawing more employers each year. Last July’s event drew 90 employers offering over 250 jobs. And besides the job opportunities, such events allow veterans, servicemembers and military spouses the chance to hone interviewing skills, polish their resumes and gain a better sense of the overall job search process through a variety of workshops and seminars. “Nowadays, searching for a job has changed so dramatically from the way it used to be, and no more one-on-one, it’s all done through the computer,” Illinois Assistant Adjutant Gary Jenson said. “You need to learn to use keywords to make your resume jump out.” “We want all of our servicemembers, and even our veterans that have been out for awhile, we want them fully employed, we want them to be productive members of society, we want them to have all the things in life that everyone gets, and of course, employment is required for the veteran to receive the resources to do that,” Ivie said. “So it is probably the most crucial thing; it’s also a matter of respect for themselves when they get that job, I think it improves their morale, improves their confidence, and so it’s probably, particularly for our young veterans, it’s the most important thing we can do to get them integrated again.”
Together, The American Legion, the GCO Consulting Group and The Veteran Market will host "The DC Metro Veteran and Military Spouse Entrepreneur & Resource Event" for veterans and military spouses on May 24 from 4-7 p.m. The event will be held at the Legion’s Washington office, at 1608 K Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20006. The event will feature networking opportunities, entrepreneur and veteran benefit workshops, single malt scotch and bourbon tasting and the official launch of The Veteran Market, a new online marketplace for veterans and their spouses to sell goods and services. “(The DC Metro event) is a little bit of a different spin. We are bringing the best in class when it comes to making sure that military spouses, and of course veterans, know what’s available to them," said GCO Consulting Group Managing Principal Scott Davidson. "The American Legion is at the top of the list when it comes to making sure that people know about their benefits and that they’re well represented for different programs, especially if you are a veteran.” Davidson, a retired U.S. Army captain who is an Operation Iraq and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veteran, said veterans and military spouses will get to enjoy entrepreneur networking with subject matter experts on different topics related to business start-ups, access to capital, compliance accounting and marketing. The other part of the event includes getting the word out about other resource organizations like Blue Star Families, StreetShares, The Millennium Group, Ranger Up, Baker Tilly, Kilpatrick Townsend, BOOST and govmates. “That’s where the marrying of the event takes place,” said Davidson. “It’s great timing for veteran entrepreneurs and military spouses to get access to capital, especially if they are starting a business or somewhere in between it.” The red carpet launch of The Veteran Market, which is currently open for veterans and their spouses to sell their wares, enables veterans and their spouses to start a virtual store within minutes and sell anything they want, but also gives some assurance to civilians in knowing that they can buy with confidence, Davidson said. “It’s very harsh to kind of weed through what’s good and bad,” he said. “If the American public wants to put forth and show veterans its support for veterans, (The Veteran Market) is the place to do it.” For Davidson, The DC Metro is more than just an event; it’s a new beginning for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to serve others on and off the battlefield. “We want to make things easier. That’s the whole point of what we’re doing,” Davidson said. “I want everyone to understand that … there are ways and resources that are reputable, credible and you can build a business from it (if) you know what sources to go to.” Admission is free for all veterans, National Guard, active duty, military spouses, caregivers and additional family members upon registration. For those who wish to apply for a table at the event, for an application.
Newswise — DETROIT – Governor Rick Snyder has appointed Spencer C. Hoover, vice president and executive director of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, to serve on the prestigious nine-member Board of Directors of the Michigan Veterans' Facility Authority.  The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency currently runs two homes for veterans, The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and the D.J. Jacobetti Home in Marquette. The Michigan Legislature in December voted to create an authority that would eventually take over operations of for the two veterans’ homes and possibly build new homes. As a decorated and disabled U.S. Army veteran with a wealth of professional knowledge and experience in healthcare and finance, Hoover is uniquely suited for this appointment. The Authority and the Board of Directors will initially oversee a $110 million budget to create long term care facilities and other services for the approximately 640,000 veterans of the State of Michigan. Hoover will serve an inaugural appointment for a four-year term on the Board of Directors following Senate confirmation. Beyond this, the authority will oversee construction of any new homes, and ensure their design follows current best practices: one story, with fewer residents (100-140) and more community and open spaces. Along with design changes, the homes’ services must transform to fit the changing medical needs of veterans. Today’s soldiers survive injuries that would have been fatal in previous wars, including traumatic brain injuries and amputations. In addition, more women are experiencing combat-related injuries. Michigan has nearly 50,000 women veterans. During four years of service as an infantry soldier in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Hoover was awarded six medals, four special qualification badges and three combat patches. He served combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his role at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, Hoover co-leads the building and implementation of the new Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, a destination center for cancer care in Detroit expected to open in 2019. Additionally, he oversees the Cancer Institute’s plethora of services across southeast Michigan. Hoover also is a delegate member of the Association of Cancer Executives. He received a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Troy University, Sorrell College of Business, and his Master of Business Administration degree from Pennsylvania State University, Smeal College of Business. Hoover also holds a Master of Finance degree from Pennsylvania State University. 
Join us April 22nd & 23rd at the Castine Center in Mandeville, LA.  Finding the best deal at gun shows means shopping around.  This often means visiting every table.  Be prepared to spend a little time looking around.  Sometimes you may find something you want to buy right away, however, if you haven’t fully visited every table to make sure you’re there’s not something you desire more.  In addition, you may be upgrading from your current firearm and want to make sure you have received the best offer as part of the sale.  In fact, gun shows are the ideal place for trade-ins.  This is because you’ll have multiple interest in your trade-in (at shows) compared to one or two shops in your town. Shows do not mean that your price (for the gun) is lower then other places, but it does mean that you can negotiate between vendors! Most of the vendors let you touch the merchandise. Those who do not will usually have prominent signs stating not to do so, but will assist you with anything you want to see. If you’re looking for a specific gun, most vendors will have them grouped by manufacturer.  If a Glock 27 is on your shopping list, you will usually find them quickly if the vendor is carrying that model.  Not every firearm vendor has the same selection and pricing.  In fact, exhibitors can be pretty competitive.  If you are looking to buy something, consider first finding a vendor with the model you want.  They will be very happy to answer any questions you have about the firearm and let you handle it for comfort.  Each firearm has a price listed on a tag, but this is almost never the final price.  Asking them for their best offer can often take some off the price you see. Sometimes you can lower your cost a much as 15% off.  Some people will write the price down, or get the vendor to write the price down on one of their cards…and then keep looking.  There are usually other dealers selling the same weapon – and that’s where you begin negotiating. Once you have the best offer, some will match the price or throw in a cheaper accessory like an extra magazine. It’s worth it to go around with informed with prices and let the companies try to get your business. What should you bring to a gun show? Years ago you had to bring cash to a gun show. Now most vendors are able to take credit cards. And there’s usually an ATM machines close by. You do not have to have loads of cash on hand.  Also, consider making a list of what type of firearms your interested in. What kind of people go to gun shows?  People who attend are young and old, all colors and races…and they share the same interest in guns. These are mothers and fathers, businessmen and homemakers who have a common interest. And bring a friend! Most people agree that you’ll have a great time and learn more about firearms in the process. If you interested in attending a show, and you are in the Mandevelle, LA area April 22nd and 23rd, we invite you to attend our show at the Castine Center! For more information, visit Jean Lafitte Gun Shows by clicking here