Archive for April, 2013
The GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 advanced to the full House Veterans Affairs Committee on April 25th. If ultimately passed, the law would allow veterans attending state schools as GI Bill recipients to qualify for in-state tuition, regardless of residency. Educational institutions that do not comply would be disapproved for GI Bill funding.
The law was first introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) and Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and currently has 42 cosponsors, 24 of whom are Democrats. So the bill has strong early support on both sides of the aisle.
The legislative affairs director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War lent the organization’s support to the bill at a hearing if the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this month, delivering the following statement:
Because of the nature of military service, service members are required to move around according to the needs of their service. Typically that means they are forced to settle down and reside for years in communities outside of their original state of residence. Service members who are stationed at a particular base or post may live in that state for years, buy a home in that state, shop and pay local taxes to that state, raise a family in that state, and generally become part of the community in that locale. However, that service member is technically still not considered a resident of that state. So if he or she retires or ends his or her term of service in that state and wants to stay local and go back to school as a new veteran in the place where he or she has already functionally settled, that service member would nevertheless be considered a non-resident as a new veteran there and would be forced to pay the often-exorbitant out-of-state tuition rates for his or her education there.
Veterans who wind up living in an area outside of their home states through no fault or choice of their own because of the obligations associated with serving their country in uniform should not be denied the opportunity to use their deserved and earned education benefits to cover the full cost of their education in an area where they have already become functional – but not technical – residents simply because of their military service. This bill would remedy that gap in tuition and residency fairness and ensure that all veterans can take advantage of the promise of the Post-9/11 GI Bill without undue hardship.
The bill also has the support of the American Legion.
“This proposed bill would correct an unfair and widespread financial burden for America’s veterans,” states James E. Koutz, national commander of The American Legion. “Veterans’ education benefits have been capped at $17,500 per academic year, and that is often not even close to covering out-of-state tuition costs. By automatically granting in-state status to student veterans, Congress would remove a difficult burden from our men and women who served their country honorably in uniform.”
The full text of the bill is available here.
Possible downsides include the possibility that some state school systems may find it unfeasible to grant in-state tuition to so many GI Bill recipients. This could be particularly true of certain in-demand, high-status state universities. If they don’t play along, and get their eligibility for GI Bill funding pulled, veterans looking to attend those schools – especially those midway through their degree programs, would be seriously and negatively affected. However, no known education associations or other lobbying groups have weighed in formally against the bill, which enjoys widespread support among powerful veterans organizations.
This world is full of singers – but few are chosen to tear your heart out when they sing.
George Jones was one of the few, and not just because he was a U.S. Marine.
Legendary country singer, songwriter and U.S. Marine Corps veteran George Jones passed away on April 26th, 2013. He was 81. True to his form in the country smash hit, “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair,” he was still touring in his 80s, and was scheduled to play a show in Alabama the following night.
And he never did need your damned Geritol.
Jones, heralded by many musicians as the greatest country singer who ever lived, was survived by his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulvado, whom he married in 1983. With her influence and support, Jones was able to remain (mostly) sober for the last 20 years or so of his life – a circumstance that was at once uncharacteristic and fortuitous, because it likely saved his life.
Jones enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1950s, when the Korean War was still raging. However, he did his entire enlistment in California, and never saw combat. Which was good for us, because we got the benefit of hearing perhaps the greatest country singer the world has ever seen.
“Every note he ever sang you could carve in granite,” said Mark O’Connor, a legendary fiddler who played on several of Jones’s songs as a Nashville studio musician.
“I think some people were just born to do certain things,” said Garth Brooks. “George was born to sing country music.”
Frank Sinatra called him “the second best white singer in America.”
“Of course, he will always be the greatest singer and interpreter of real country music—there’ll never be another,” said Alan Jackson, upon learning of Jones’s death.
This writer, a lifelong musician, agrees. No one ever got more inside a song than George Jones did.
Jones’s first number one hit came in 1959 with White Lightning’. He also had three number one hits, We’re Gonne Hold On (1973), Golden Ring (1976) and Near You (1977) with Tammy Wynette, who was his wife from 1969 to 1975. His final studio album was with Dolly Parton.
He is, perhaps, best known for his legendary 1980 hit, He Stopped Loving Her Today, a heartbreaker of a song that has dropped more tears into more beers in more smoke-filled honkey-tonks than any other song in the history of mankind and I will bet no one will challenge me on that.
As an experiment, I played a live version of George Jones singing it to a 33-year-old who had never heard of George Jones before I mentioned he died. She burst into tears in the 2nd verse. That’s how good he was.
RIP, Possum. Thanks for your service to this great country, and thanks to your contributions to our great musical tradition.
It’s going to be tough to fill your shoes.
You’ve heard it before: You only have one chance to make a great first impression. Those crucial first few minutes of a job interview can make or break your chances to get an offer – or at least a next interview.
Whether you’re a service member, military retiree, or military spouse, if it’s been while since you’ve interviewed for a job, take a look at these simple tips to help you amaze and astound your prospective new boss. In a good way.
- Bring extra copies of your resume.
- Arrive early.
- Make eye contact and sit up straight.
- Use language that demonstrates you know their industry – or at least have done a little research.
- Speak clearly and professionally – no slang, profanity, complaining or abbrevs.
- Ask relevant questions about the job and the company that demonstrate your interest and your abilities.
- Always send a follow-up thank you letter or email.
Above all, relax, do your best, and know that the right job for you is just around the corner. And if you’re thinking about taking your skills and knowledge to the next level, check out our school finder for an easy way to research the best school for you.
Have you had any luck interviewing for a new job as a military spouse or transitioning servicemember? Please tell us about your experience below.
A word from a VA case manager can still cause you to lose your 2nd Amendment rights. While a variety of gun control amendments failed to pass cloture in the Senate on Wednesday, the Senate also failed to pass legislation that would have prohibited Veterans Administration bureaucrats from stripping certain veterans of the right to own firearms without a court order from a judge or magistrate declaring the veteran to be a danger to himself or others.
The legislation in question was a proposed amendment to Senate Bill 649, the so-called “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, which was introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). According to Senator Burr, at least 149,000 veterans have had their 2nd amendment rights stripped from them, simply because they had a fiduciary appointed for them to manage their financial affairs.
“Depriving someone of a Constitutional right is a serious action, and veterans should be afforded the same treatment under the law as all other American citizens,” Burr said in a press release. “This legislation would protect the rights of veterans and their families by ensuring that only a proper judicial authority is able to determine who is referred to NICS. Our veterans took an oath to uphold the Constitution and they deserve to enjoy the rights they fought so hard to protect.”
The VA had recently testified that they wanted to retain the ability to strip veterans of their right to own firearms unilaterally, without a court order or review. The VA defended the practice to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, arguing that there is a process in place for veterans challenging the decision to appeal to get their rights restored. “VA has relief procedures in place, and we are fully committed to continuing to conduct these procedures in a timely and effective manger to fully protect the rights of our beneficiaries,” VA says. “Any person determined by a lawful authority to lack the mental capacity to manage his or her own affairs is subject to the same prohibition.”
However, according to Senator Burr, only 200 veterans have challenged the revocation of their rights, and only six have done so successfully.
The VA’s position doesn’t hold water. First of all, they are begging the question. There is no reason to accept the VA’s assumption that a cub-scout caseworker in the VA bureaucracy, acting without any kind of review from either a magistrate, judge or even a medical professional, is in any sense a “lawful authority.”
Second, constitutional rights are God-given. They are not there for the executive branch to unilaterally revoke without any burden of proof that the veteran is a danger. The VA is trying to put the onus of proof on the veteran, rather than on the government to show why society at large has a compelling interest in revoking the citizen’s constitutional rights. The VA’s attitude flips the centuries old tradition of civil liberties and due process of law on its head.
Eleven Senators co-sponsored the Burr legislation: Senators Boozman (R-AR), Wicker (R-MS), Risch (R-ID), Moran (R-KS), Chambliss (R-GA), Roberts (R-KS), Thune (R-SD), Enzi (R-WY), Vitter (R-LA), Crapo (R-ID), and Inhofe (R-OK) are cosponsors of the legislation. The measure got a majority of Senators to vote in favor – the final vote was 56-44 – Senate rules require 60 votes to break cloture and receive a final up-or-down vote.
In addition to broad Republican support, the amendment also received support from these Democrats and Independents: Joe Donnelley (Indiana), Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Angus King (I-Maine), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Jon Tester (Montana) and Max Baucus (Montana).
According to reporting from The Hill, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) expressed strong opposition to the amendment, calling it “ridiculous” because there were some veterans who had had their 2nd amendment rights revoked for a good reason.
A similar bill, sponsored by Representative Jeff Miller, the current Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is alive in the House of Representatives.
Even as two Chechen Muslim extremist imports were finalizing their murderous plot to plant explosives at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the Department of Defense was maintaining a relentless focus on the Christian threat.
Just three days before the April 15th attack on the Boston Marathon, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was appearing before Congress and answering questions – notably from Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) – about actions the Department of Defense had taken to repress the religious observance and expression of Christians within the military.
“They’ve been on the attack for the last four plus years at the Pentagon,” Forbes told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham in a recent broadcast.
“They have issued statements from the Pentagon where our commanders cannot even disclose approved acceptable programs if they’re under the Chaplain’s office,” Forbes continued. “When we asked Secretary Hagel if he was going to protect their religious freedoms, and if he was going to protect the section of the National Defense Authorization bill that we put in last year to do that, he could not respond, and he didn’t know anything about it!”
Forbes was referring to Section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which reads, in pertinent part: “No member of the Armed Forces may — require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain.”
The president signed the Act into law, but issued a signing statement voicing opposition to that particular provision:
Section 533 is an unnecessary and ill-advised provision, as the military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members. The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct. My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that.
Section 533 is a political flashpoint in the law, because many chaplains and social conservatives are concerned that the military may force chaplains to sanctify or officiate over same sex marriages, provide same-sex marriage counseling, or conduct other religious services in violation of the tenets of their faith. Clearly, the Administration was concerned about the threat to good order from his military chaplains, and the issue got visibility at the very top level of government.
Meanwhile, Section 533 also drew the opposition of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The language is too broad,” said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, who cautioned that it could lead to claims of a right to discriminate.
“We strongly support accommodating beliefs, so long as doing so does not result in discrimination or harm to others,” Murphy said. “The hastily drafted provision, though, has the potential to give rise to dangerous claims of a right to discriminate against not just lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, but also women, religious minorities, and in the provision of health care.”
The attacks in Boston also came within a few weeks after some military observers were ringing the alarm bells about religious extremism within the ranks – again, focused on those pesky Christians, as we reported here. We also reported – as did a number of other media outlets – on a training PowerPoint slide that categorized evangelicals, certain Mormons, Catholic and Jewish groups as hate groups in the same category with Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan.
The Army also cracked down on its Catholic chaplains earlier this year, when Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the head of military services in the U.S. for the Catholic Church, sent a letter to parish priests and chaplains, objecting to certain contraceptive provisions in the Affordable Care Act, or the so-called “Obamacare” law. “We can not, and we will not comply with this unjust law,” the letter read. The Archbishop directed his priests to read the letter to their congregations at mass on January 28th. The Department of the Army issued a gag order. The Army would not agree to allow the chaplains to read the letter until that line was excised, considering it too close to a call to civil disobedience.
The strange Pentagon preoccupation with the Christian threat in the face of the Boston attacks continues even now, more than a week since the Boston attacks, with the strange censorship of the Southern Baptists Convention website. Servicemembers trying to access the SBC website from military installations found their access blocked by Team CONUS, the Virginia-based IT department responsible for network security and policing up offensive material. The Pentagon blocked access for servicemembers. Anyone attempting to access the site from a military installation received the message “The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content.”
It is not clear precisely what “hostile content” the Pentagon is referring to.
Chaplains and Baptists within the military raised objections. The Pentagon is now claiming that the censorship of the Southern Baptist Convention website was “accidental.” However, as of this writing, access has not yet been restored and the military could not explain how this “accident” could have happened. Attempts to contact Team CONUS via phone and email seeking comment were unsuccessful as of this writing.
Meanwhile, rest easy, America. We’re confident that the next mass bombing attack on American civilians is far more likely to come from radical Islamist rather than Christians.
Navy not quite natty enough? Air Force a bit too forceful? Finding excuses for postponing your enlistment because you are totally confused on which branch of service to join?
Be confused no more! Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the way to finally determine which branch of service is for you. Hope it all shakes loose for you…
Happy Friday, everyone. We hope you have a shakin’ weekend!
You want to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a family member? You must now sign on for an additional four-year hitch. The new requirement applies no matter what your time in service is. Retirement eligible? You’ve already done your 20? Tough. Sign on for an additional four years.
That’ a significant shift in policy: Up until the April 15th announcement, you could transfer benefits to family members with an additional service requirement of one to three years, and in some cases, zero years. The new policy is effective August 1st.
That’s right: The Army and the other services except for the Navy tried to save money last month by eliminating the Tuition Assistance program – until they got smacked by Congress. Now they’re looking for other ways to lower their education/benefits bill. A recent Army Times piece indicates that Congress is quite willing to consider further cuts to pay and benefits, as the federal government moves to tighten up its defense outlays.
Meanwhile, spouses and children benefiting from the transferability of Post-9-11 GI Bill benefits make up about a fourth of all GI Bill educational benefits recipients, an increase of 13 percent over the previous year, according to reporting by Navy Times.
This is going to weigh heavily on soldiers who had planned to transfer benefits to children who don’t start school until the fall semester or later. Money these soldiers planned on using for their own childrens’ education has now gone up in smoke, unless they extend their time in service.
However, according to the Army’s Human Resources Command, soldiers who transfer benefits and who are then involuntarily separated because of a reduction in force will not have to repay the VA for these transferred benefits.
In addition to the RIF exception, the Army also announced the following exceptions:
- The death of the soldier.
- Discharge or release from active duty for a medical condition which pre-existed the service of the soldier and was not service connected.
- Discharge or release from active duty for hardship.
- Discharge or release from active duty for a physical or mental condition not a disability and that did not result from the soldier’s own willful misconduct, but did interfere with the performance of duty.
More details are available on the Army’s website.
If you’ve been in the military for any length of time, you know first-hand the reaction that comes when you hear these three little initials: P.C.S. Permanent Change of Station. When you consider that many military families relocate every two years, the “P” seems more like “Potential” than “Permanent.”
The stress that can come with relocating a family can be a major headache, or it can be fuel for excitement. The way you handle moves with your children can make all the difference. Here are a few tips:
Before the move:
- Talk it up. If you know the orders are coming, start laying the groundwork for a stress-free move by making relocation just another part of the routine. You can discuss how exciting it is to explore new parts of the amazing country we live in. Learn fun facts about different places and start a collection (my child keeps rocks from every place we’ve ever lived). You can even tack a map on the wall and wonder out loud where you’ll be stationed next time. (Important note – For this to fly, you have to genuinely be excited and full of wonder – kids can sense a phony a mile away. So if you’re not excited and looking forward to it, they won’t either. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it, and find another way to cope.)
- Plan together. Pull up a couple of chairs and go online together to map out the trip to your new home. Let the kiddos locate fun places to stop along the way – and actually stop there to have fun.
- Let them pack their own stuff. If they’re old enough to read, they’re old enough to pack their own boxes. This is a win in two ways: first, there’s one item crossed off your to-do list. Plus, little Suzy doesn’t have to worry that you’re going to throw out her collection of Monster High dolls “by accident” during the move. Giving kids control over their belongings also lets them feel a little more secure in an otherwise insecure situation, which can go a long way in helping them adjust.
On the road:
- Bring a “go” bag. Pack a suitcase of overnight clothes, toiletries and important stuff for the car – but also pack a “go” bag loaded with games, snacks, drinks, music or other special items just for them to make the drive more fun.
- Brake for fun. A lot of families build in time for a family vacation along the way. Whether that’s a trip to an amusement park, a state park, or just a stop to see the world’s largest thimble, make your time together memorable in a good way.
- Let them nest. Kids can choose where they want their belongings, and if they’re old enough, let them help direct the movers where to place the furniture.
- Get familiar with new surroundings. Explore the new post together. Find important places like school, church, shopping or favorite restaurants together.
Remember that younger kids might get confused about the difference between PCS and deployment. Reassure your youngsters that mommy and daddy aren’t going away without them and keep the lines of communication open.
Moving doesn’t have to mean stressing. You can contact your Relocation Assistance Program (RAP) representative or your unit chaplain to talk about any concerns, or find out how to talk with kids about moving. There are usually family counseling and parenting classes offered at installation family centers if you’d like to get additional help.
And remember to help your kids keep in touch with old friends even while they are developing bff’s at their new home. Before too long, you’ll have another new adventure to start, and you can trust that your children will be ready and resilient – just like their parents.
More than six in ten private mental health care providers won’t take TRICARE patients, according to a newly-released study from the United States Government Accountability Office.
While the access problems for TRICARE members was most acute for mental health care, the survey found that more than one non-enrolled TRICARE beneficiary in three had trouble finding a care provider in TRICARE Prime service areas, which have civilian provider networks. Additionally, TRICARE Prime members rated their satisfaction level with their health care provided via TRICARE even lower than Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries.
The term “non-enrolled beneficiaries” refers to beneficiaries who are not enrolled in TRICARE Prime and who use the TRICARE Standard or Extra options, or TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS).
Among the GAO’s findings:
- 25 percent of non-enrolled beneficiaries experienced problems finding a civilian primary care provider;
- 25 percent of non-enrolled beneficiaries experienced problems finding a civilian specialty care provider.
- 28 percent experienced problems accessing a civilian mental health care provider.
The top reasons that non-enrolled beneficiaries got turned away or had difficulty accessing care include:
- Doctors not taking TRICARE payments
- Doctors not taking new TRICARE patients
- Travel distance was too great
- Doctors not taking any new patients
- The wait for an appointment was too long
21 percent of respondents answered “other.”
According to the GAO, mental health providers were much more likely than other kinds of care providers to report that they had never heard of TRICARE or didn’t understand what it was. Specifically, 30 percent of mental health professionals report never having heard of TRICARE, compared with between 6 percent of primary care providers and 9 percent of specialists.
Nationwide, the study found that even though 82 percent of civilian health care providers are aware of TRICARE, only 58 percent of them are taking on new TRICARE patients. In contrast, 86 percent of care providers take new Medicare patients, and 72 percent take on new Medicaid patients.
14 percent of health care providers who don’t take TRICARE cited problems with reimbursement as the reason. Another 10 percent of respondents cited insurance image problems or issues with TRICARE in the past. 8 percent report that TRICARE does not cover their specialty. Specialists were more likely to report that they weren’t taking TRICARE because of reimbursement issues than primary care providers. Primary care providers were more likely to report that they weren’t taking on any new patients – which could point to a larger problem with a shortage of primary care physicians.
Overall TRICARE acceptance levels have declined from 76 percent in 2005-2007, the last time the GAO conducted this survey, to the end of 2008-2011, which is the period covered in the study.
Injured and wounded veterans aren’t used to worrying about public accommodations for the disabled… until they themselves become disabled. If you or a loved one is working through disability, though, simply being able to go out with friends to a restaurant, use a park, a public restroom or patronize a neighborhood business can be a real issue.
What can you expect of local businesses and other public venues? Do you have rights under the law? What are the exceptions?
First of all, become familiar with the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, more commonly referred to as the ADA, and its provisions regarding public accommodations.
What are public accommodations? According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA’s title III requirements for public accommodations.
More specifically, a place of public accommodation is a facility whose operations affect commerce and falls into at least one of these categories:
- Places of lodging (inns, hotels, or motels);
- Places that serve food or drink (restaurants and bars);
- Places of exhibition or entertainment (theaters, concert venues, stadiums, arenas);
- Places of public gathering (auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls);
- Sales or rental establishments (stores, shopping centers);
- Service establishments (laundromats, banks, beauty shops, travel services, repair services, funeral homes, gas stations, professional offices, pharmacies, insurance offices, hospitals);
- Public transportation terminals, depots or stations;
- Places of public display or collection (museums, libraries, galleries);
- Places of recreation (parks, zoos, amusement parks, gyms, pools);
- Places of education (nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate schools, trade or technical schools);
- Social service center establishments (day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies); or
- Places of exercise or recreation (gyms, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses).
By and large, businesses and other public accommodations cannot discriminate against or screen out those with disabilities, except for the purposes of safety, or where including the disabled would fundamentally change the services or experiences offered. Operators of these venues cannot exclude the disabled for any other reason, whether by overt policy or by imposing restrictions that are, in practice, discriminatory. For example, a business cannot require a customer to present a drivers’ license and exclude all other forms of identification, because this would effectively discriminate against the blind. Obviously, though, if you’re going to want to drive a rental car, you’re going to have to present a drivers’ license.
Businesses and other public venues must make any accommodations that are “reasonable,” which the federal government defines as accommodations that can be made “without much effort or expense.” For example, a business may have to arrange tables and shelves to make it wheelchair accessible, or install a short ramp if it has a few steps. Generally, though, small businesses are not required to go through extensive retrofits or massive remodeling to make themselves wheelchair accessible or otherwise accommodate the disabled.
Furthermore, employers with fifteen employees or more cannot discriminate against applicants with disabilities, if the applicant is able to do the job with reasonable accommodation. We’ll visit the employment law aspects of the ADA in an upcoming article. I’m mentioning this to draw a distinction between the employment law provisions of the ADA and the public accommodation provisions. Under the federal law, the employment provisions apply to employers with over fifteen employees. But there is no such maximum for the applications of the public accommodations provisions. While the federal government recognizes that very small businesses do not have the same resources available to make accommodations that larger businesses and governments do, the general principles of the public accommodation provisions apply to venues of all sizes.
Generally, federal law requires public venue operators to allow service animals – defined as trained animals that perform a specific service for the disabled individual. Therapy animals do not count under this provision – though state laws may vary. Venues generally cannot charge extra nor charge a ‘pet deposit,’ because these animals are not pets under the law.
What to do if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against
If you believe you have been unlawfully discriminated against in violation of the ADA, and you cannot achieve satisfaction by working with the business or other venue operator directly, you can report them to the Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice.