This benefit can be used to finish up a college degree, certification,vocational training, On-the-Job Training and more.
To be eligible for the VRAP GI Bill Veterans must:
"Norton Shores, Muskegon and the Muskegon County Homeless Continuum of Care Network are receiving federal grant money as part of a program issuing funds for new homeless assistance projects." On Tuesday, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development "announced...the award of $45,735 to the community for supportive housing for veterans. The local award was part of nearly $5 million being given to communities in Michigan for 21 new homeless programs."
A "new program in Macomb County would offer sympathy before penalties and provide alternatives for veterans who find themselves caught up in the justice system." Next month, there are "plans to assemble" the Macomb County Veterans' Treatment Court. In "place of jail or prison time," the court will "offer a program of legal assistance, mentoring services and mental health and substance abuse treatment," although serious "crimes like child abuse, rape and murder will not be covered by the program." Macomb (MI) Daily Before taking part in the program, vets "will be screened" by VA "for potential benefits, and each will be assigned a volunteer mentor. Nanette Colling, veterans outreach specialist for the John D Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit, called Macomb County 'progressive' in its effort, noting that the Detroit VA has added an outreach specialist to accommodate the growing number of veteran courts in Michigan." At least three publications run the AP story.
"Wayne State University announced a $1 million gift Thursday to create a new scholarship named for a US Army veteran who lost both legs in the Iraq war." Wayne State University's "College of Engineering and Urban Science released details of the program, named the Col. Gregory Gadson Scholarship for Wounded Warriors." The first recipient of the scholarship is "Army veteran Steven Patterson, who received a Purple Heart and now has post-traumatic stress disorder."
The House Veteran' Affairs Committee's economic opportunity panel is "considering two bills that would expand job protections for veterans - and advocacy groups say both changes are long overdue." One bill, HR 3524, "would prevent employers from discriminating against disabled veterans who miss work because they are receiving medical treatment for service-connected disabilities," while another bill, HR 3670, "would extend employment and re-employment rights to workers for the Transportation Security Administration." The Veterans of Foreign Wars "supports the legislation, but has concerns that the burden on employers could lead to hiring discrimination against veterans if the Veterans Affairs Department doesn't make adjustments in the hours and availability of medical appointments...said" VFW's Ryan Gallucci.
Despite just getting underway, the effort to "Save the VA" in Hot Springs is already making progress, thanks to the combined volunteer efforts of many local residents. Following an organizational meeting held on Dec. 21 at the Hot Springs American Legion, veterans, community members, VA employees and other interested parties - all concerned about the VA's proposal to significantly reduce services at the Hot Springs VA - have united together and formed several committees to address the community's concerns.
The committees, that have since begun holding regular meetings, include: Veterans, Native Americans, Business Community, Data Validation, Domiciliary, Fall River Hospital, Fundraising, Historic Preservation, Legislative Action, Inpatient and Non-VA Care, Public Relations/Communications, School District, State Home, and Surgery.
"One thing is certain," said Pat Russell, President of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1539, who is also one of the VA committee chairs, "there is lot we can do to get our voices heard. We are going to ask for an extension on the comment period, because we do not feel the two and a half month period given us by VA officials is fair.
"They've had two years to develop their proposal, and if they are serious about seeking input from stakeholders, we need more time. This is particularly so since VA Secretary Shinseki told Senator Tim Johnson in April 2010 that there was no intention to close Hot Springs or Ft. Meade. And the timing of their proposal presentations two weeks before Christmas short-changed us also."
The local VA group has also received word that national representatives of the American Legion are making a site visit this week, including the National American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission task force and the National Field Representative. Community members are urged to attend a reception for the representatives at the Post 71 American Legion hall in Hot Springs today (Jan. 10), at 6 p.m. One of the developments, accomplished by the Pubic Relations Committee, was the recent launch of a new website for the group - www.theveteranstown.com.
Other Public Relations Committee efforts have included work on designing posters, developing marketing efforts, and discussing letter writing and phone call campaigns. Several people have also contacted other VA facilities that have faced down-sizing or closure. According to PR committee member Barb Fetters, some of these facilities were able to stay open, largely through a loud and aggressive campaign from veterans and community members. Those facilities contacted that did not generate such a campaign were down-sized or closed, and veterans care suffered.
To stay informed about other committee efforts, go to www.theveteranstown.com. The committees welcome anyone who would like to work on any of the small group topics. Emails may also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. "We welcome any questions, comments, suggestions, and offers to help," said Fetters. "There will be many opportunities coming up where everyone's help will be needed.
Most important, contact your congressional representatives, VA Secretary Shinseki, and local VA officials with your concerns." Addresses for these contacts will be posted on the web site, and are also available by sending an email to the above address. "Remember, if we do nothing, we get nothing."
Veterans now have on-demand access and can download official data about their military training and experience, which can be used to help them find jobs and continue their careers. Veterans can use the VA's online My HealtheVet portal (www.myhealth.va.gov) to see official information about their military service, including deployment data, in-uniform experience, and Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) codes. Their service data can then be uploaded to job search and networking sites to help identify employment opportunities.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reports that the federal government hired the highest percentage of veterans in more than 20 years during the past fiscal year. According to preliminary figures released by the OPM, veterans represented 28.5 percent of total federal hires in fiscal 2011. Meanwhile, Labor Department statistics from early December show the unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars stands "stands at 11.1 percent
New report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that acquisition oversight reforms begun two years ago at the Veterans Health Administration have not been effective. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) agreed with the Inspector General, which "recommended that VA and VHA acquisition management improve oversight of Veterans Information Management Service contracts and develop effective tools to manage those contracts" for purchasing at 150 healthcare facilities. The report is available on the Office of Inspector General website.
Civilian employees adversely affected by actions such as transfer of function or base realignment and closure may be eligible for assistance through the Department of Defense Priority Placement Program (PPP). Depending on the situation, the program provides mandatory placement, matching eligible well-qualified employees to vacant positions throughout the DOD. For a PPP placement to occur, the registrant matched against a job vacancy must be well qualified for the position and certified by the current supervisor. For more information about the priority placement program and other personnel issues, visit the Air Force Personnel Services website or the Office of Personnel Management website at www.opm.gov.
Any member of the Armed Forces involuntarily separated under other than adverse conditions from active duty through Dec. 31, 2012 may continue to use commissary and exchange privileges for a two-year period beginning on the date of the member's involuntary separation. The Navy will forward separating Sailors' information to the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System (DEERS) for issuance of a Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card. For more information about ERB and other transition benefits, visit the NPC ERB Web Page, contact the NPC customer service center at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC (1-866-827-5672).
A former Camp Lejeune Marine "has a medley of maladies, many of which he believes can be traced to his exposure to contaminated drinking water during the 13 years he spent on base." A letter mailed in October from the Department of Veterans Affairs has granted him 100-percent disability for colon cancer and 20 percent for bladder cancer.
Lawson's time at Lejeune as a connection his cancers could have beencaused by the base the drinking water supply, which was contaminated with the organic solvents and/or by being exposed to leaking gas "at a warehouse building inthe Hadnot Point Industrial Area." For more information on the drinking water at CampLejeune, visit the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water webpage.
Navy Purple Heart Policy Update
KURE BEACH, N.C. — There are hundreds of shipwrecks along North Carolina’s treacherous coast, and some, like those of the ironclad USS Monitor or the Blackbeard flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge, are nothing short of famous. But that of the hapless Civil War blockade runner Modern Greece, which sits just beyond the surf near Fort Fisher, is in many ways the most important of all. The wreck, which was excavated 50 years ago, led to the creation of the state underwater archaeology unit that studies the other wrecks.
It led to a state law toprotect historic wreck sites from pilfering. It yielded such a large trove of artifacts thatmany have been used in experiments that advanced the tricky science of how topreserve historical treasures found underwater.
As the first of about 30 blockade runners sunk along the coast near Wilmington while trying to bring arms and vital commodities to the Confederate states, it has an iconic status in North Carolina and maritime history. And this week — just in time for events marking the 150th anniversary of its sinking —thousands of artifacts from the Modern Greece were recovered from underwater.
For the second time. A team of East Carolina University graduate students and University of North Carolina, Wilmington interns sponsored by the Friends of Fort Fisher waded into the muck of half-century-old storage tanks at the Department of Cultural Resources’ Underwater Archaeology Branch facility on the grounds of the historic fort. Their job: pull out the artifacts, clean and catalog them and put them in indoor tanks where they could finally begin to receive modern preservation treatment. “It was just the right time to do this,” said Mark Wilde-Ramsing, deputy state archaeologist and head of Underwater Archaeology Branch. “There are a lot of reasons, but the bottom line is it would be a bit irresponsible to just leave it there. We don’t even know what we have there.”
In June, the state plans a seminar on the Modern Greece and blockade runners. It also will throw open the labs at Fort Fisher so the public can see the artifacts and what it takes to preserve them.
Broadly, all the activity is aimed at bringing more attention to the local blockade runners, Wilde-Ramsing said. They represent the largest collection of wrecks in the world dating from an unusually interesting period in naval architecture, and they have a central place in Civil War history.
Many are likely to be deteriorating quickly, but the state doesn’t have a full picture of their location and condition. The creation of the state’s underwater archaeology and conservation lab — which state officials think may have been the nation’s first — began, in a sense, on June 27, 1862. The Modern Greece, a 210-foot English ship loaded with hundreds of tons of rifles, gunpowder and other goods, was creeping along the coast, making for the Cape Fear River and Wilmington, when it was spotted in the murky light just before dawn by two Union blockade ships. They gave chase, and the heavily-loaded ship ran aground, apparently while trying to get close enough to Fort Fisher for protection by the Confederate artillery there. The passengers and crew escaped by lifeboat as both sides shelled the ship to keep the other from getting the valuable cargo.
According to historical accounts, some of the cargo was salvaged and brought ashore, though apparently part of a liquor shipment got no further than the Confederate soldiers on the beach. Eventually, the sea claimed the rest. Then, almost precisely 100 years later, in the spring of 1962, Navy divers stumbled on the wreck just off the beach while visiting the area essentially as tourists. A violent storm had just cleared the thick bed of sand from the remains of the ship. The divers were startled to find much of the remaining cargo exposed, intact and all but begging to be pulled up.
artifacts like cannons from the sea. But there’s seldom enough money to cover the cost of storage tanks and buildings and the years of labor in cleaning away corrosion and accumulation of marine life. The years of care it can take to carefully leach the salt out of a cannon doesn’t make for the kind of exciting television coverage the cannon gets when it breaks the surface.
could have happened to the artifacts, as it leached the oxygen out of the water and slowed the deterioration.
Bright, who retired 13 years ago, dropped by this week to watch the students pull out the artifacts. As he watched, he reminisced about having to learn how to preserve artifacts essentially from scratch, since there were few established techniques and every material has to be handled differently. “No one was doing that sort of thing,” he said. “We were trying anything our minds could come up with.” Also standing quietly nearby watching the students this week was Stan Register. Fifty years ago, he was 13 and working at a hotdog stand on the beach when the Navy divers showed up.
They were staying at a hotel across from the hotdog stand and one day invited him to come out on the barge and watch what they were doing. Register can remember seeing the outline of the wreck and the men working on it. He remembers the four buckets of bullets they let him take a few from, and the small cannon and the banded cases of rifles. “I had no idea of the historical significance of what they were doing that day, said Register, who is now the chief of police on the Fort Fisher historic site and essentially guards the stuff he saw brought up that day. “I was just a kid then, so it was just more of an adventure than anything else.”
“Man, you guys have left this alone so long that we’re now engaged in habitat destruction,” joked Buttaro. The work was a kind of treasure hunt, with the students never quit knowing what they would pull up next.
There were British-made Enfield rifles that were a mainstay of the war on both sides, many of them fused together in bundles the shape of the boxes that had held them. There was tableware. There were wicked-looking antler- and ebony-handled Bowie knives, some still in the remnants of scabbards. There were bayonets, cinderblocksized stacks of tin sheets, ax heads and chisels. The students processed the artifacts assembly-line style, hosing them off at a grilled table setup on sawhorses, then taking them to another table covered in white plastic where they were tagged and photographed and logged in a laptop.
Finally, the items were placed in tanks of clean water in a nearby building. By Tuesday night, nearly everything was out of the last tank, and Henry, who had been down in the morass, decided it was time to call it a day. “Well,” he told the students, “I think you’ve got enough to keep you busy for awhile.”
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