In the state of New Jersey, there are joint efforts being made between law officials to share knowledge about the veterans tax exemption benefits that veterans will be eligible for and relieve confusion about the upcoming change. Assemblyman Ryan Peters and fellow 8th District lawmakers Dawn Marie Addiego and Joe Howarth are working with acting Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio on this project. From Burlington County Times’s website this information was made available: (A link will be provided at the end of this article) There are some very clear steps that need to be made for this process: First, veterans need to take is to fill out and return a veterans tax exemption submission form to the Division of Taxation, along with documentation from the military, such as a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty or DD-214. The submission form can be found on the department’s website. It and the certifying documents can be sent to the division by mail, fax or by a secure online upload feature on the website. The exemption is intended to assist New Jersey’s approximately 400,000 veterans. It was part of other tax reductions, including a small sales tax reduction, an enhanced retirement income exemption and an increased earned income tax credit. Those reductions were intended to help make the state more tax-friendly. It was noted that, to assist veterans, the 8th District office has created its own step-by-step directions, which the lawmakers intend to distribute via social media and email. Paul Reuter found about the upcoming changes a few summers’ ago, but it was earlier this year when he realized that there were some veterans that just didn’t know the information he did. “I was at the gym on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and was talking to some other (military) retirees there. Some of them knew about it; some of them didn’t,” Reuter said Monday. “I’ve tried to pass the word around, but a lot of veterans don’t know.” Howarth believes that their effort will benefit the over 30,000 veterans who reside in the nearby Burlington area, but that the Treasury Department could help ensure veterans statewide are aware of the benefit. This change can only bring good and it will be great to see what is next. You can find more information about what you learned in this article here: http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/news/20180129/nj-lawmakers-trying-to-raise-awareness-about-new-veterans-tax-exemption
Veterans have a battle long after the literal battle they are fighting is over. And for some, it never ends. The battle is for recognition for their service in various wars. Take World War II, more than 260,000 Filipinos fought for the United States and most did not return home to their families. It is a tragedy and it’s not the only one these veterans suffered. The tragedy of not being recognized as veterans does take a toll on their families, those who served whom are living. Their sacrifices weren’t broadcasted like other veterans were. Some retribution is happening because this past Saturday, surviving veterans and their families if the veteran in their family was no longer living, , received Congressional Gold Medals, to honor those who served. This particular civilian award is given to an individual or a group of individuals that have had a significant impact on U.S. culture. To say that Filipinos were misrepresented and disrespected is a vast understatement. This past Saturday, 25 veterans were honored for their service in World War II. “They served their country. They died for their country. So, this is about duty to country worth dying for,” said Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, a Filipino and a retired U.S. Army Officer. And the honor and respect for others, especially in this sector, is important as anything else. If there’s no respect or honor, we have failed people that need it most. It’s important to combine historical significance, respect and honor when talking about veterans, especially those who fought so hard for our country and for the simple recognition. It is unacceptable for this issue to be an issue. History does have a part in the lack of recognition. Congress in 1946 passed a Rescission Act, which in turn, did two things to them. One, it took away their dignity and their honor, by declaring they were not in active duty, thereby they were not entitled to receive their benefits … and it also took away their U.S. nationality, even though they were part of the U.S. as a colony.” This is criminal, if not legally criminal. "Although [President Harry] Truman had to issue the Rescission Act after the war, people do not understand the impact of that on the community because a lot of people lost their citizenship and their benefits ... As (Filipino veterans') families migrated and their children grew older, they didn't have pension. They didn't have a legacy to leave for their children," Christy Poisot said, Region 7 Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project director shares her thoughts on the subject. "It’s important to recognize failure and then make changes to give people what they deserve. We have the opportunity to turn a page and honor, love and respect people for their acts of service, regardless of their nationality or who they are." You can find more information about this issue on the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project at https://www.filvetrep.org/
The author of this article is Jim Perkins who was an active duty Army officer for 11 years and now is sharing his perspective on new and upcoming specialities in the military. The military has so many openings to serve in a lot of different capacities to match the talents and interests of those choosing to serve. But serving isn’t just being a pilot or a sniper or any number of “popular” military careers. The U.S. military’s “tooth-to-tail” ratio, the number of direct combat forces compared to support personnel, is around 1:5. Vehicle and aircraft machines are, of course, important and extremely integral in the ability to be able to support our country and its citizens but those careers are not the only way to serve our country. Technological advances have provided an opportunity to serve our country. Supportive roles in the military are just as important as more “defined” roles. The steady thread between history of warfare is unwavering support. When not physical support, it is mental support. This has been an active tie since the beginning of warfare, in the earliest of circumstances. As we’ve evolved from bow and arrow to computers doing the majority of technical work for us, we’ve begun to understand that we need to learn how to access improvements, failure and support as well as everything in between. We haven’t done the best job of that as a society. We have used digital technology for the past few decades. We need to cultivate digital experts and offer them space in the military. As Perkins states: “To remain a dominant force in the Information Age, the U.S. military, all four services must create a corps of software developers in uniform.” And with that, it’s a new age, both concerning the military and the digital age. Information technology is a booming business and had been for years. For the military to capitalize, train people to use the technology to their best advantage for the deca is a smart decision that is long overdue. There are many examples of innovation and how it propelled the modern world to change and adapt to new things. It can, however be challenging while dealing with all the complexities and as Perkins puts it: New technology and weaponry is soon worthless without the requisite maintenance and repair. ... The services must immediately begin identifying, training, and employing software developers across the force.” It’s important to recognize failure when dealing with something that is so overreaching in today’s society. For the sake of future generations, we must take care of the language we speak about such pieces of innovation. You can find more information on this subject at: https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/next-new-military-specialty-software-developers/
Janna Schaefer is a woman who cares for our military personnel and their families. She realizes the importance of supporting people who supported us in our time of need. Now, it’s time to turn the tables. Although she resides in Durango, Co, Schaefer has had the opportunity to help people in the United States as well as in Nepal and other developing countries around the world. Schaefer is the owner of Healing Touch which is a holistic energy-based practice. She also spends her time working with several nonprofits and support groups located in the Four Corners. \Schaefer wanted to make a difference in families that were in the military and all the ramifications they they dealt with on a daily basis. She knew of the pain and the grueling emotional trauma that existed with serving in the military. Her father served in the military in both the Korean War and World War II. Her husband served in the Gulf War and later passed away. With her heart for those serving and her talents as someone who works with different types of alternative energy therapies, she was a perfect match to help others work through past or current trauma. Her studies of energy therapy was at first limited to reiki but then grew to include Healing Touch, a five-level, reading and writing intensive program that spanned two years.” Schaefer goes on to say “It (Healing Touch) helps balance your system, helps you relax and eases your pain,” she said. “It has been very helpful for people who need cancer support, and those preparing for surgery or coming out of surgery.”Schaefer describes Healing Touch as a “light touch” on the major and minor chakras, or wheels of energy throughout the body, that restores balance in the energy system.“That energy goes to where it needs to be,” she said. “Someone might come in for back pain, but also have an emotional release of something else that is going on.” The Denver Post reports that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that on average, 20 veterans a day completed suicide in 2014. In addition to that statistic, suicide among military veterans is especially high in the Western U.S. Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico are known to carry the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014. Greg Hopkins, a disabled veteran, is a true believer in Schaefer’s therapy. His 20-year-old son, Finn, is also disabled and sees Schaefer for Healing Touch therapy. Their weekly appointments have helped tremendously. Finn is like a new person after meeting with her, Hopkins said. “He has been seeing Janna for about a year, and you see the most amazing change in him after,” Hopkins said. “He can think more clearly, stay calmer and focus on things more easily. She works wonders with him.” This is a reason why alternative therapy works seamlessly to provide health to those who need it most. When people work with other people who are marginalized, the original helpers realize that they have so much to give to others who are in pain. And in turn, the original helpers are being helped which create a relationship that carries away from therapy into friendship.
It’s not a secret that the housing market has experienced ups and downs in the recent years and the current economic climate is not helping. Veterans have consistently struggled with finding permanent, suitable housing. The Department of Veteran Affairs is of course aware of this problem but there is no easy, simple solution. Some of the problem is that there isn’t as many available as there should be to remedy the need. And it’s not just the resources but the time component that is also making the need challenging to find an adequate answer. The VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are both working together to find an answer. While the government can’t meet all the needs, there is a gap and some of that gap is being filled by non profits who do have time, passion and in some case, expertise or personal experience in this matter. Veterans, as previously noted, have not taken an easy road to housing. It isn’t their fault, but it’s not hard to see how the current struggle is something unprecedented. You see, the number of homeless veterans are the highest they have ever been in the last seven years. The government knows this and is trying to lower the number, but situational troubles make the challenges harder to clear, yet there is some measure of progress as there are 46% less veterans unhoused, which is something to celebrate. However, the number of veterans that are currently living on the streets is still high and hard to calculate the exact number. Stephen Peck, the president of U.S. VETS, a nonprofit that provides housing and employment assistance to homeless veterans has much to say about the situation: “It seems to us there is no longer an emphasis and determination to get every veteran off the streets,”. Understanding the challenges the government faces while enduring this crisis is paramount to understanding the issue of homelessness. Peck continues: “There has been a tendency to look for a single fix. .. I think it’s critical that we provide those more intensive services.” The end goal is to effectively eradicate homelessness for veterans and not veterans alike. Veterans are able to receive services that have helped them escape homelessness and these governmental projects have helped shave the numbers but not the entire climate. At a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing Jan. 17, VA Secretary David Shulkin reiterated that ““We need to do this better,” Shulkin said. “We have to rethink our effort. We need to double down on things that work and come up with a fresh approach here. I’m not satisfied with the progress we’re making.” This is a start that is transforming the problem from the inside out. When you put compassion in your cause, transformation begins. You can find more information at https://taskandpurpose.com/va-obstacles-veteran-homelessness/
This past fall, women across the globe shared their intimate struggle with sexual assault by writing #metoo on various social media platforms to highlight the issue and confirm that they are not alone in this struggle. In the following winter, another hashtag swept across social media platforms. Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globes the night before the hashtag came about had compelled this hashtag to social media. In particular when Winfrey said, "They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers. And farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, and engineering and medicine and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics, and they're our soldiers in the military.” #MeTooMilitary has come to be used by service men and women who were sexually assaulted or harassed while in the military. A report from the Pentagon indicated that 15,000 members of the military reported being sexually assaulted in the year 2016, and only 1 out of 3 people assaulted actually made a report, indicating as many as 45,000 assaults occurred. These social media movements prompted real conversation among both genders that have helped unify women. Nichole Bowen-Crawford is a woman who understands why the hashtag made it’s way on to the internet, but believes that it may have not be the wisest of options. She, along others as part of the Service Women's Action Network, or SWAN, travelled to Washington for the #MeTooMilitary Stand Down protest outside the Pentagon. You see, Bowen-Crawford states, that when victims are victimized, especially in the military, it often is something of a secret for fear of it being a block to moving up in their career. As unacceptable as this is, it is not an uncommon factor in veterans’ stories. “You know, these are the people who serve our country and risk their lives every day.” And it’s important to honor and respect them and their wishes. You can find more information at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_(hashtag) as well as http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2018/01/22/Female-veterans-want-their-voices-heard-in-the-MeToo-movement/stories/20180118
Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski always knew he wanted to serve in the Marine Corp. So, shortly after graduation, he made arrangements to do just that. Ziolkowski was deployed to the Middle East. A 2001 graduate of the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, he had developed strong ties to the community while growing up and attending school. Ziolkowski flourished wherever he was and the military was no exception. Ziolkowski was assigned to the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.While in that position, he witnessed a lot of horrendous events, but still, amidst it all, he remained a pillar of strength until the day he passed away, in active duty. Although his details of his death are unknown, on his Arlington Cemetery page it is stated that “they said they did not know the details of his death, but they believe he had led his squad into heavy combat several times in Fallujah before he was lost.” As friends, family and those who mentored Ziolkowski grieved the loss of him, preparations to honor Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski began. His mother, Tracy Miller is a Towson University academic advisor and begun to use the connection of the school, which Ziolkowski was planning on attending upon his arrival. Ziolkowski’s legacy lives on. His mother set up a scholarship in her son’s honor, which to present date have supplied over $30,000 in academic assistance. The Nick Ziolkowski Memorial Endowment has issued more than $30,000 in scholarships since the first $900 annual award was granted in 2008, according to university officials. This year’s award will be $5,000, divided between two students. And this year, it’s a little bit different because the American Legion is going to help honor Ziolkowski’s legacy. Towson American Legion member John Ruffer said the veterans organization often holds fundraisers to help the community. The group voted recently to donate $500 to the endowment fund, but members decided it wasn’t enough and reached out to Towson University’s Student Veterans Group to find out what else could be done. They have decided to also open up the Legion without charge and create a fundraiser during Superbowl Sunday for the endowment fund. “Now we [can] build community awareness to the scholarship and hopefully gain some support for our veterans,” Ruffer said. “They have already earned it.”From his Arlington National Cemetery webpage, the following is said about Ziolkowski: Ziolkowski was a team leader and scout sniper, said his family members, who gathered yesterday at his mother's Towson home. They said they did not know the details of his death, but they believe he had led his squad into heavy combat several times in Fallujah before he was lost.Family and friends remembered Ziolkowski as an intensely patriotic young man, one who began planning for his military service in ninth grade and left for active duty in the Marines the morning after high-school graduation. They said he firmly believed he could help make the world a better place. "He loved his country more than any person I know that age," said Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who taught Ziolkowski and his older brother Peter U.S. history at Boys' Latin. "I don't think I could be any prouder of Nick." For more information you can read: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/nlziolkowski.htm or http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/towson/ph-tt-legion-0124-story.html
Every veteran faces challenges upon arrival and Joshua Eckhoff is not an exception. While serving during one of his tours in Iraq, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. This was due to an improvised explosive device which made contact with the vehicle that Eckhoff was riding in. “The projectile concaved my Kevlar helmet into the right side of my skull. And they had to surgically remove it,’’ he said. The right hemisphere of my brain was injured, so my injuries are very similar to a stroke. I can't use the left side of my body very well.” Eckhoff shares. The result was an injury so severe, his comrades thought he has passed away and proceeded to share that information with his family back home.““I call that my ‘alive day,’ ’’ said Eckhoff, 33. “The anniversary of my injury every year, we celebrate it like a birthday.” And this past “alive day” is especially one to celebrate. As of December, Eckhoff graduated with honors from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In terms of growth and recovery, how far he has come certainly comes as a surprise. Eckhoff joined the Missouri Army National Guard while still in high school. His 18th birthday was spent during his first tour of duty in Iraq. At 23, he suffered his life-altering injury. Eckhoff has been awarded a Bronze star as well as a Purple heart. A decade ago, Eckhoff started his treatment at Minneapolis VA Medical Center, which has the capabilities to help patients with debilitating brain injuries. After Eckhoff awoke from a medically induced coma, he was faced with the only option had: to relearn everything he knew. That can be an emotional process as much as a physical one and Eckhoff began to suffer the effects of depression. Therapy was a grueling process, one that exacerbated his struggles and taught him so much about his body and the way his life would now be. As he shifted expectations and perspectives, he realized what he was able to use: his voice. “It's taken a lot of time for me to feel like I can speak confidently,’’ he said. “But I always told myself these abilities were retained for a reason. I've got to find a way to use them to the best of my ability.” Eckhoff went on to realize that his duty is now to share about his experiences to the best of his ability and knowledge. From interviews, to being a spokesman with the Joshua Chamberlain Society, a local St. Louis nonprofit, to talking to the public whenever possible, Eckhoff has maintained a presence that serves other people since leaving the Army. “It's hard for me to really fathom what my life could have been like had I not been injured because at this point, it's what I live,’’ he said. “I came home after my injury and a number of my friends already had jobs and they were building families and it's almost like my life was ‘pause’ and then ‘reset.’ It's been trying to view my experiences through the lens of my peers’ experiences, and I constantly have to remind myself that I have my own journey. I never really intended to live the lives these people did because from day one I knew I wanted to serve.’’ As he began to set new goals, college was a part of them, but it happened to be different take than originally thought. Eckhoff has consistently remolded the way his life is going to be and while taking it by the stride is frustrating at times, it carries the weight of growth and responsibility. He now encourages everyone to engage with a service member.
Daniel Lister is happy to be alive. The veteran lost a leg in Afghanistan which propelled his life to change from the inside out. Lister grew up as a military kid and always knew that military was going to be part of his life, just not sure what the capacity was going to be. As he was growing up, like most young adults, he didn’t know exactly what it was that he wanted to do. He looked to the military as an answer to the age old question. He joined in 2002. He states that “The reality of it is that I got married super young, … “I had to figure out a way to pay bills. I needed medical insurance, because I started having babies. The only way I could do that is through the military. I knew that was how I could pay my bills.” And then, circumstances made is more feasible for Lister to enlist. “I have a GED. ... When 9/11 happened, it made it easier for me to join, because they started accepting people with GEDs again,” Lister says. “They knew we were going to war, and I joined in February .” Lister ended up doing four tours in the Middle East (three in Iraq and one in Afghanistan), and it made him feel alive in a way that he couldn’t capture back home in Georgia. His accident happened in his last tour of Afghanistan. “After a bad step, it blew me up. I never lost consciousness during the event. I remember every detail of it. My foot was gone immediately after the explosion. My right leg was ripped from my ankle to my hip.” “Once I got to the aid station in Afghanistan, I don’t remember anything else,” he says. “I think they had me in a medically induced coma. They had to perform a ridiculous amount of surgeries just to stabilize me. With my injuries, by all accounts, I should be dead. It’s a miracle that I’m up and walking. I got blown up on June 2 and I hit Stateside on June 3. After losing one of his limbs in Afghanistan, he knew that the military was not going to be an option any longer. Lister began to forge his new path with footwear. During his treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he had time to think about what he wanted for his life. After arriving back in his home state, he struggled with drugs and alcohol. After getting sober, he chose to collect shoes and make that a source of happiness and income. “I started posting sneakers that I was wearing everyday on my Instagram, then it started to take off. A lot of people feel shame about [having a prosthetic]. They think it’s ugly. “What really hits me is when these kids reach out to me who have cancer or have gone through a tragic accident. They say, ‘You make it OK for me to be this way.’ Those messages are the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. That was never my intent, it was just about, ‘Here are the kicks I’m wearing today, what do y’all think?’” Although Lister has always appreciated shoes, It’s amazing to see that such a minute thing like shoes can bring such purpose, hope and love. As well as relationships, which is one of the things that Lister holds closest to him. The relationships are like gold to Lister. “This sneakerhead community has given me my life back, to some extent,” he says. “It’s made me feel whole again. My friendships that I have now are worth more than my entire sneaker collection to me.”
When you graduate high school, you have a choice on what next steps are. Among those are taking a gap year, you can serve in the military (once you’re 18), you can enroll in college. Those who decide to serve in the military, whichever conjunction it may be at: the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard, opportunities abound. When you are part of serving in the military, financial incentives towards retirement is something to consider before you make a final decision. The US military is switching things up when it comes to helping military personnel saving for their retirement years. The update is something that Pentagon officials are calling “the biggest update for military pension and benefits since World War II” which is something to behold. Of course, that does that mean that this change will affect anyone that is currently serving in the military and those who choose to do so in the future. The new retirement program is called the "Blended Retirement System" or "BRS" which is a hybrid system. It considers a pension plan alongside a program that is similar to 401 k which is a standard program. This program was implemented January 1, 2018. However, if you served for a dozen years or more prior to January 2018, the former legacy plan still stands for them. The former system was this: if you stay in the military for two decades, you would potentially be able to receive half of their base pay for retirement. Most would not stay for twenty years, though, which has altered their retirement plans. Jeri Busch, director of military compensation policy for the U.S. Department of Defense, reminded readers that in non military jobs, employees take with them a retirement benefit package which is crucial. This change leaves 1.6 million current active duty, Reserve and National Guard members in a lurch of sorts until they figure out what they want to do in regards of retirement. It is not all challenging news to bear, however. Once a decision is made in terms of retirement programs, the legacy one or the Blended Retirement System, military personnel can then help you decipher which is best for you. For example, if you know beyond a shadow of doubt that you are going to stay at least twenty years, John Bird, senior vice president of military affairs at USAA, shares that switching programs may not serve you well. There are training programs for those who may want input as they plan for their future. Cpl. Zachary Beckman, a 23-year-old government contractor who is also in the Marine Corps Reserves has taken the mandatory financial classes to make the wisest decisions he can for his future. You can find more information about these programs and retirement plans alike and make the best decision for you. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/05/us-service-members-face-big-changes-to-retirement-plan.html