New VA bill established to assist post-9/11 veteran caregivers could fall short

On 5 May 2010 President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, Public Law 111-163. The bill, first of its kind, intends to provide direct assistance to veteran families. However, recent press releases indicate that the bill is in distress. Many articles are quick to fault the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) after the organization missed the 31 January 2011 deadline to start carrying out provisions of the bill, and before that, the 1 November 2010 implementation plan milestone. The VA signed the long-awaited implementation plan on Wednesday 9 February, but the contents of that bill may be falling short of its mark. For instance, only about 10 percent of the intended post-9/11 caregiver population (est. 850) are said to be eligible for assistance.

New benefits – restricted to caregivers of the critically wounded and seriously ill of the post-9/11 veterans – outlined by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, include: monthly stipend (based on the average home healthcare costs in the veterans hometown), health care coverage, travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care), respite care, and mental health services/counseling.

Among those supporting the bill are the following political figures:

  • Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Chairwoman, Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Jeff Miller (FL), Chairman, House Committee on Veteran Affairs

While some of the enhancements are currently available, many will require an issuance of regulations, whereas others will remain unavailable. To date, the VA has given no timeline as to when the services will be available to caregivers. However, under the law, the VA must report to Congress within 2 years about the possibilities of providing the enhanced benefits to all post-9/11 caregivers.

The Warrior Gateway can assist those that are affected by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 by providing veteran caregivers a place to find assistance services located in their hometown. The free-of-charge Warrior Gateway directory currently has over 100 caregiver assistance organizations available for veterans of all eras.

Please feel free to post comments about this blog and suggest other topics you would like to see covered by the Warrior Gateway Government Relations Blog.

Education grants available for veterans and their families

Need resources to help you and your family members cover the cost of college tuition?  Gold Coast Blogger has put together a list of grants, available here, that cover all branches of the Armed Services.

Check them out, pass them along to your friends and family in the military community, and please share any similar resources with us here at The Gateway.

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A great resource: Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

Starting a business under any circumstances is often a highly time-consuming and challenging process; doing so as a disabled veteran can present some additional challenges. Here to help out is the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV).

EBV is a program run at a consortium of universities (including The Whitman School of Management at Syracuse, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Florida State University’s College of Business, Mays Business School at Texas A&M, The Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, and The University of Connecticut School of Business). The program is designed to explain in-depth the workings of running a small business to its students, all of whom are disabled veterans. From EBV’s website:

The practical elements of the program will involve three phases:

  1. Phase I: delegates participate in a self-study curriculum, facilitated by an online discussion and assessment module, which will be moderated by entrepreneurship faculty and graduate students from one of the partner EBV Universities. During this phase delegates will work on the development of their own business concepts.
  2. Phase II: during the nine-day residency at one of the four EBV Universities, delegates are exposed to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of business ownership through experiential workshops and lesson from world-class entrepreneurship faculty representing nationally ranked programs around the country.
  3. Phase III: delegates are provided with 12 months of ongoing support and mentorship from faculty experts at the EBV Universities.

Topics to be addressed include:

  • Whats a good business concept and how can I determine if my idea is a good one?
  • Do I really need a business plan and, if so, how can I write a great one?
  • What do I need to know about my customer and market, and how can I get answers?
  • How much money do I need and how do I get it?
  • How do I make sense of the numbers, and which numbers really matter?
  • Whats a business model, and does mine make sense?
  • What is guerrilla marketing? Are there ways to do more with marketing while spending much less?
  • Which activities should I outsource and what do I need to know about hiring employees?
  • Where do I go to get the information I need to organize my new venture?

To learn more click here. You can apply here. To learn more about resources for veteran-owned small businesses, click here.

Education or profit-makin’?

BusinessWeek has an interesting article on for-profit online colleges, for which enrollment is a rising trend among active duty service members. Obviously education is beneficial to soldiers – both for advancement within the military and better prospects for employment after being discharged. And for active service members, the flexibility of online degree programs is unbeatable. But many question whether these programs can deliver on the promised – or at least assumed – benefits of a college degree.

Patrick Peake, an Army Sergeant who earned an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice from American Military. Photo courtesy of Business Week

Many programs have been criticized for the speed with which a degree can be completed (e.g., completing an associates degree, which normally takes 2 years in an in-class program, in 5 weeks) and low standards for passing.

One of the top 10 reasons for military personnel to enroll at American InterContinental is to “Earn your degree FAST,” according to a pitch on its Web site. An MBA there can be finished in 10 months instead of the usual two years. “I was disappointed in the rigor and challenge of the courses,” Daun says, adding that each course lasted five weeks, with at most two hours a week of class time. “I don’t think I had a 4.0 effort, yet I had a 4.0 grade-point average.”

And–even if it is exaggerated or overgeneralized–this perception of online educational programs as being lower quality is causing many employers to hesitate before hiring an online graduate.

Mike Shields, a retired Marine Corps colonel and human resources director for U.S. field operations for Schindler Elevator, the North American arm of Switzerland’s Schindler Group, says he rejects about 50 military candidates each year for the company’s management development program because their graduate degrees come from online for-profits. “We don’t even consider them,” Shields says. “For the caliber of individuals and credentials we’re looking for, we need what we feel is a more broadened and in-depth educational experience.” He does hire service members with online degrees for jobs on nonleadership tracks, he says.

Further, many online institutions have been accused of utilizing predatory tactics to lure in students in the military. These tactics range from giving out free laptops upon enrollment to persistent marketing pitches to setting the cost of enrollment exactly at the maximum rate which the government will subsidize education for active service members, resulting in no out-of-pocket costs for students.

But Songer says several schools have become a concern on military bases because of practices that exploit soldiers and the federal subsidies they are promised. “Some of these schools prey on Marines,” he says. “Day and night, they call you, they e-mail you. These servicemen get caught in that. Nobody in their families ever went to college. They don’t know about college.”

So while expanding educational opportunities to the military community is a good idea in concept, one must proceed with caution in evaluating degree programs that are just a bit too convenient, speedy, and flexible.

You can read the full article here.

Seminars help veterans seek therapy through writing

The East Foundation of the Writers Guild of America has begun a series of workshops aimed at helping interested veterans hone their writing skills. The seminars pair veterans (for whom there are no requirements to participate) with well-known and experienced practitioners in the writing field. A recent seminar held in San Antonio was attended by Jenny Lumet (screenwriter, “Rachel Getting Married”), Michael Weller (playwright, “Loose Ends”), Anne Flett-Giordano (television writer, “Desperate Housewives”), and Tom Fontana, (writer-producer, “The Philanthropist,” “Oz”), as well as two dozen veterans.

The meetings grew from an effort by guild writers to get in touch with what Tom Fontana, president of the foundation, likes to call “America’s stories.” The plan is to train those who wish to write — with no vetting for talent or professional ambition — in settings far from the entertainment corridors of New York and Los Angeles.

Read the full article here.