Archive for May, 2013

VA Backlog is 443 Days in Florida

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

VA backlogThe current average wait time for new Veterans Administration claims in Florida is 433 days.

That’s the latest, according to a report today from WFTV News, serving Central Florida from Orlando to Daytona Beach and Melbourne. The wait time for Florida veterans is therefore nearly twice the national average, which is 273 days.

That’s the result of a mounting backlog at the VA regional office for Florida. There is only one regional office in the entire state. VA officials state the backlog is due to the large concentration of veterans within the state of Florida. However, that’s hardly news – the VA has not mentioned why it wouldn’t staff the Florida office appropriately.

Since President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the number of veterans waiting a year or more for their benefits has exploded from 11,000 to 245,000. That amounts to a more than 2,000 percent increase, according to reporting earlier this year from the Center for Investigative Reporting. The same organization also reports this week that with the 2012 election safely over, the VA has “backed off” its promise to reduce the claims backlog.

According to WFTV’s reporting, a VA official states that the Administration has decided to devote resources to creating a paperless system, rather than create more regional offices in Florida. 

Congress, DoD Lock Horns in Battle Over Your Next Pay Raise

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military pay raiseThe Obama Administration would like to cap your base pay increase at 1 percent next year. That’s the pay increase the Secretary of Defense has proposed for fiscal year 2014 – the smallest military pay increase in half a century.

‘That’s not high enough,’ say members of the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee on Personnel. The committee voted to advance a proposal from Representative Joe Wilson (R – North Carolina) calling for a minimum 1.8 percent pay raise for troops across the board.

Troops received a base pay increase of 1.7 percent for 2013, effective January 1. But the increase was not enough to offset the 2 percentage point increase in Social Security tax withholding – resulting in a net loss to base pay for any servicemember who did not get promoted or get a pay increase based on time in service this year.

Some active duty troops came out ahead with adjustments to BAH, or basic allowance for housing, depending on rank and location. Reserve component troops don’t normally qualify for housing allowances, though, so Guardsmen and Reservists actually had to make do with a net pay cut, on an after-tax basis, for 2013.

Currently, the law links military pay increases to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index. This would call for the same 1.8 percent increase that Wilson and Congressional Republicans are calling for. 

The Administration is trying to cut spending in order to bring budgets in line with sequestration provisions. They estimate that holding the pay increase to 1 percent rather than 1.8 percent will save $540 million. They are also trying to increase TRICARE fees, which would reduce net federal outlays by $1 billion – at the expense of the troops. The Congressional subcommittee also firmly rejected this idea.

Some Democrats point out that they have been pushed into a corner by irresponsible Congressional appropriations and earmarks on unwanted or outdated weapons systems. For example, Congress has mandated more spending on weapons systems the military does not even want, over $400 million in more M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks – even though the last tanks have left Europe and the Army is down to just one armored division and one cavalry division.

These tanks are manufactured in Lima, Ohio – by union employees, and in the districts of two key Republicans, Senator Rob Portman and Jim Jordan – as well as Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Cancelling the project would clear the decks of most of the 1.8 percent pay increase that servicemembers would normally expect by law. But that would mean the loss of thousands of factory jobs concentrated in this one key district. The plant is operated by General Dynamics, which spent $11 million on lobbying last year according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Plausible Denial: A Look at the Doctrine of Command Responsibility

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

the white house claims president obama was unaware of the recently uncovered scandalsThe Obama White House is currently being buffeted by a number of scandals that threaten to ensnare the President or senior members of his staff personally. Over the past two weeks, a whistleblower testified before Congress that a rescue team ready to go to Benghazi to assist our embattled Ambassador and consulate staff was twice ordered to stand down – directly contradicting the President’s own statement that he ordered that everything possible would be done to ensure the safety of our people there. Congressional testimony also

The White House is also struggling to contain a rapidly escalating scandal at the IRS, in which staffers are accused of letting tax-exempt status applications from conservative and Tea Party groups languish for years, while simultaneously fast-tracking applications from liberal groups.

Third, the Justice Department has been caught snooping through the private emails of a FOX News reporter, and tapping the phones of Congressional staffers trying to identify leaks. The Justice Department also took the unprecedented step of naming the reporter as a co-conspirator – criminalizing a reporter for doing his job.

Additionally, the Justice Department also went after the phone records of a number of Associated Press reporters.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, was caught making personal fundraising appeals to insurance companies she regulates.

The President has vehemently denied any personal involvement with any of these actions by his Administration. And indeed, there does seem to be a nearly impenetrable wall of plausible deniability built around this President.

We don’t use the term ‘plausible deniability’ lightly. Indeed, it seems to be a guiding principle underlying operations at the White House. But that raises an important question: To what extent can a chief executive continue to disclaim responsibility for the actions of those in his employ?

This isn’t a new question. Indeed, it goes back to a legal doctrine well known by any first-year ROTC or service academy cadet or midshipman: command responsibility.

In its most simple form, command responsibility states that a unit commander is responsible for everything his unit does or fails to do. By extension, the President bears responsibility for the official actions of every federal employee in the executive branch, and every contractor working under federal authority.

But responsibility for the wrongful actions of others and criminal or negligent wrongdoing are different things. We all know that no matter how diligent the commander of a military unit, Private Snuffy and Sergeant Murphy and Lieutenant Noob all have minds of their own, and occasionally go off the reservation, with results that range from amusing to hilarious to tragic.

So we look deeper into the matter to develop the extent to which commanders or executives should be held to account for the actions of those under their charge:

  • Did the officer turn a blind eye to past misconduct?
  • Were unit members acting on orders or on the express or implied direction of the commander? (“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”)
  • Did the officer fail to correct or discipline those involved in similar incidents in the past?
  • Did the officer have personal foreknowledge of the wrongdoing?
  • Did the officer give the command?
  • Did the officer fail to prohibit or prevent the wrongdoing upon being informed of it?
  • Was the officer negligent in failing to remain informed about the goings on in his command?
  • Would most officers, acting with reasonable diligence and due care, have become knowledgeable about the wrongdoing and therefore been in a position to stop it? (If so, then ignorance is no excuse).
  • Did the officer, upon learning of the wrongdoing, take action to remedy it, and to discipline those responsible?
  • If the negative action was accidental and due to the negligence or incompetence of others, did the commander contribute to the accident by failing to ensure adequate training was conducted?
  • Was the overall ‘command climate’ tolerant of wrongdoing, negligence, or incompetence? 

These aren’t just academic questions. They are very real questions that military and civilian executives routinely grapple with when dealing with anything from property going missing to sexual harassment to sexual assault and other violent crimes. And these are questions we grapple with when considering allegations of abuse of power by the President of the United States and those operating under his direction.

A Closer Look

The doctrine of command responsibility as it has been historically applied to war crimes prosecutions gets a closer look in this thorough essay by Eugenia Levine. While holding commanders criminally responsible for the actions of subordinates pursuant to their own orders goes back centuries, the 1945 prosecution of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita for the atrocities his men committed under his command while occupying Malaya and the Philippines took the doctrine a step further: Prosecutors argued that General Yamashita bore criminal responsibility for the murderous actions of his men. The argument hinged on his command responsibility: As the Commanding General of the Japanese troops involved in numerous massacres of prisoners and civilians in Singapore and Manila, he had the power to stop the killings, rapes and other atrocities – and did not. Specifically, Yamashita was charged with “unlawfully disregarding and failing to discharge his duty as a commander to control the acts of members of his command by permitting them to commit war crimes.”

The U.S. tribunal found General Yamashita guilty under this doctrine, and sentenced him to death, stating, “vengeful actions are widespread offences and there is no effective attempt by a commander to discover and control the criminal acts, such a commander may be held responsible, even criminally liable.” 

This was a significant expansion of the concept of mens rea, or the guilty or criminal mind. The prosecution did not necessarily establish that Yamashita had personal knowledge of the atrocities and failed to prevent them. All they established, as far as the tribunal was concerned, was that the General should reasonably have known that vengeful acts were likely or commonplace, and failed to act to prevent them or control and discipline his troops.

Yamashita’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court in the case In Re Yamashita, where the Justices held, in part, that “The law of war imposes on an army commander a duty to take such appropriate measures as are within his power to control the troops under his command for the prevention of acts which are violations of the law of war and which are likely to attend the occupation of hostile territory by an uncontrolled soldiery, and he may be charged with personal responsibility for his failure to take such measures when violations result. Pp. 327 U. S. 14, 327 U. S. 16.”

The expansion of the doctrine of command responsibility to include crimes of omission was not without controversy. Justice Murphy wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing:

In all this needless and unseemly haste, there was no serious attempt to charge or to prove that he committed a recognized violation of the laws of war. He was not charged with personally participating in the acts of atrocity, or with ordering or condoning their commission. Not even knowledge of these crimes was attributed to him. It was simply alleged that he unlawfully disregarded and failed to discharge his duty as commander to control the operations of the members of his command, permitting them to commit the acts of atrocity. The recorded annals of warfare and the established principles of international law afford not the slightest precedent for such a charge. This indictment, in effect, permitted the military commission to make the crime whatever it willed, dependent upon its biased view as to petitioner’s duties and his disregard thereof, a practice reminiscent of that pursued in certain less respected nations in recent years.

In my opinion, such a procedure is unworthy of the traditions of our people or of the immense sacrifices that they have made to advance the common ideals of mankind. The high feelings of the moment doubtless will be satisfied. But in the sober afterglow will come the realization of the boundless and dangerous implications of the procedure sanctioned today. No one in a position of command in an army, from sergeant to general, can escape those implications. Indeed, the fate of some future President of the United States and his chiefs of staff and military advisers may well have been sealed by this decision.”

Justice Rutledge also wrote a dissenting opinion, in which he asserts:

There is not a suggestion in the findings that petitioner personally participated in, was present at the occurrence of, or ordered any of these incidents, with the exception of the wholly inferential suggestion noted below. Nor is there any express finding that he knew of any one of the incidents in particular or of all taken together. The only inferential findings that he had knowledge, or that the commission so found, are in the statement that “the crimes alleged to have been permitted by the accused in violation of the laws of war may be grouped into three categories set out below, [Footnote 2/13] in the further statement that “the prosecution presented evidence to show that the crimes were so extensive and so widespread, both as to time and area, [Footnote 2/14] that they must either have been willfully permitted by the accused or secretly ordered by him, and in the conclusion of guilt and the sentence. [Footnote 2/15] (Emphasis added.) Indeed, the commission’s ultimate findings [Footnote 2/16] draw no express conclusion of knowledge, but state only two things: (1) the fact of widespread atrocities and crimes; (2) that petitioner “failed to provide effective control . . . as required by the circumstances.”

Nevertheless, despite the dissents, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the charge, and General Yamashita was duly hanged for the actions of others.

This is not to compare the IRS scandal, the tapping of AP phone lines, or even Benghazi to the murderous actions of the Japanese troops under Yamashita’s command. It is only to establish the limits of plausible deniability and the ability of a chief executive to dodge responsibility for the actions of those in his charge.

As the tribunal in the Hostage Case found, a commander cannot claim that he was negligent in his duties and then rely on his dereliction as a defense. 

 

Obama’s denials

Applying the doctrine of command responsibility to the IRS case, the President is in a difficult situation. After all, it was the President himself who first suggested that he use state power to target his opponents via IRS audits.

This was taken as a joke at the time (if the naked abuse of power by the President of the United States can ever be taken as a joke). But the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas A Beckett, was killed because of an offhand exclamation of frustration by King Henry II. Moreover, had Obama made the same joke as a rank-and-file IRS employee, he likely would have been fired for it.

Meanwhile, we now know that the General Counsel to the 2008 Obama campaign, Marc Bauer, headed an effort to push the IRS and other federal agencies to target donors to conservative causes – and even to the Hilary Clinton campaign in the 2008 primary – to suppress opposing fundraising efforts and to intimidate and deter potential donors. As Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal asserts, “None of this proves that Mr. Obama was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits. But it does help explain how we got an environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable.”

Meanwhile, the President’s long-standing passivity with regard to the exercise of executive power does not absolve him. True, no one wants a President who micro-manages the details of cabinet officer business and local administration. But the President and his senior staff certainly created an environment in which a senior White House lawyer asserted that it was better to keep the President isolated from the scandal erupting at the IRS rather than keep the boss apprised of bad news:

As soon as White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler heard about an upcoming inspector general’s report on the Internal Revenue Service, she knew she had a problem.

The notice Ruemmler saw on April 24 gave her a thumbnail sketch of a disturbing finding: that the IRS had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups. She shared the news with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other senior White House aides, who all recognized the danger of the findings.

But they agreed that it would be best not to share it with President Obama until the independent audit was completed and made public, in part to protect him from even the appearance of trying to influence an investigation.

This account of how the White House tried to deal with the IRS inquiry — based on documents, public statements and interviews with multiple senior officials, including one directly involved in the discussions — shows how carefully Obama’s top aides were trying to shield him from any second-term scandal that might swamp his agenda or, worse, jeopardize his presidency.

This is the kind of thing that lawyers esteem. Indeed, many attorneys (and Obama defenders) are defending her decision to withhold critical information from the boss:

In the IRS case, many prominent Washington lawyers say Ruemmler made the sensible legal call. She protected her client — Obama — by distancing him from a politically sensitive problem and ensuring that he could not be accused of meddling in an inquiry.

This may be a good legal strategy. But as a strategy for leadership and the exercise of executive power, it is an abject failure, and a fireable offense. It benefits no one but the President, at the expense of the Republic. It connotes an analogy with an increasingly hostile and isolated Adolf Hitler, ranting and raving in his bunker, issuing increasingly impossible orders because his staff was terrified of delivering bad news.

The President is a leader, not a client. He is a decision-maker, and he cannot make sound decisions if he surrounds himself with a staff that isolates him from real-time information. As a result, the President was blindsided by the news that the IRS was illegally targeting conservative groups for years – acting on what they took to be the President’s intent.

The President should not be learning of his own administration’s scandals in the newspaper. He needs to hear them from his own cabinet members, first. If he is routinely blindsided by newspaper stories, he needs to fire his staff and cabinet members and replace them with people with the guts to be candid with the boss.

Since he hasn’t done so, then he hasn’t taken the basic steps necessary to rein in his own Administration and ensure it remains in compliance with the law. The President owns the IRS abuses every bit as much as General Yamashita owns the abuses of his own men. Perhaps even more so: Yamashita had the U.S. military doing its best to disrupt his lines of communication and restrict his ability to exercise command and control; The President has no such excuse.

Impeachment is a political act, not a legal one, by design. This is true for the President and for cabinet officers alike. The exercise of Presidential authority is also limited by political and legal considerations. It is a lot like the exercise of military authority in this regard, except that labor unions are involved, too.

But any application of the doctrine of command responsibility and of the theory of command climate – which this Administration and previous administrations have routinely used against their own military commanders when prosecuting, assessing or relieving officers of command – indicates that this Administration is a failure from the very top.

 

So what do you think? Do you agree with Jason’s assessment? Tell us in the comments.

Air Force Girlie-Mag Sweep: It Was Dumber Than We Could Ever Have Imagined

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

They say “truth is stranger than fiction,” and sometimes that makes for a really good laugh. Today’s Fun Friday edition is brought to you by the Air Force. We couldn’t make this up…

 

Air Force girlie-mag sweepIn January, we reported on the Air Force’s big girlie-mag hunt, in which the cash-strapped service found thousands of man-hours to send officers on a tour of workspaces throughout the Air Force, looking for evidence that someone, somewhere, may enjoy pictures of beautiful women.

When we suggested that the Air Force would have to start with heritage nose art photographs from WWII, it was tongue in cheek. We were sure the Air Force could not possibly be that dumb.

Lesson learned.

The fact is that the Air Force inspection teams were routinely confiscating or removing books and posters depicting historical aircraft nose art all over the country.

And it gets even worse.

The Air Force also somehow found the man-hours to tabulate the results of the sweep, tallying up the tens of thousands of confiscated items. In all, the Air Force girlie-pic police snagged over 32,000 items judged to be racy, offensive, or even pornographic. However, only a very tiny fraction of the seized or removed items were flagged by the Air Force as overtly pornographic. The vast majority of items seized or removed were taken because they were either “inappropriate/offensive” or “unprofessional.”

Among the tabulated items seized:

  • A copy of Air Force Times with a photograph showing female airmen breastfeeding.
  • A fitness magazine, which the Air Force deemed inappropriate at a fitness center.
  • A small Confederate flag
  • A World War Two heritage plaque
  • Religious books
  • A signed pro sports team cheerleader poster confiscated from someone’s desk or workstation 
  • A WWII heritage poster “w/ inappropriate image”
  • A “crash video with explicit language” 
  • WWII era nose art poster (categorized as “unprofessional”) 
  • An autographed Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader photo
  • Two wine glasses 
  • Inappropriate and offensive copies of Runners’ World and Men’s Fitness magazines.
  • The Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated
  • Yoga magazine
  • A copy of Women’s Health
  • Hooter’s restaurant nametags from Hooter’s waitresses
  • A poster of a fitness model in a swimsuit
  • “Have a cup of shut the hell up” tile poster
  • Life magazine
  • Cosmo magazines, removed from a restroom 
  • 10 squadron history books, categorized as inappropriate/offensive, and confiscated from their location in a vault.
  • Rubber dog droppings
  • Sexually suggestive magazines (The Air Force specified Cosmo, Maxim and FHM.) 
  • An aircraft chock labeled “loser block.” 
  • An Achmed the Dead Terrorist video 
  • Fitness magazines
  • “Unknown meaning of graffiti.” That’s right. They don’t know what it means, so they confiscated it anyway.
  • A urinal sticker depicting “Hanoi” Jane Fonda
  • An inappropriate kitchen utensil 
  • Smokeless tobacco (categorized as “unprofessional”)
  • A plane made from beer cans
  • 13 songs 
  • Aircraft tail art
  • Miscellaneous flight suit patches 
  • A Princess Leia Star Wars action figure (no word on whether it was Leia on Jabba the Hutt’s leash, though)
  • Copies of books like 50 Shades of Grey, What’s Your Poo Telling You (a health book), and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
  • A morale coin
  • A corkscrew
  • A model airplane removed from an individual workspace because of inappropriate nose art. 
  • A big red button labeled “Bullsh*t,” which made a statement when pressed, confiscated from the individual workspace of what appears to be the smartest person in the Air Force.
So which one of these was your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.

Resources for Military Families Affected by the Moore, Oklahoma Tornado

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

aftermath of Moore, OK tornadoThe Military Family Association has published a resource page for servicemembers and family members affected by the tragic tornado disaster that befell the community of Moore, Oklahoma on Monday.

The tornado struck near Tinker Air Force Base. A number of Air Force families may have been severely affected and/or rendered homeless. Base personnel who need immediate assistance with food, clothing or emergency financial assistance can contact the Tinker Family Readiness Center at 405-739-2747, 405-736-3813, or 405-736-3847. 

You can also call these numbers to volunteer. The Family Readiness Center is in the process of organizing work and relief teams to go out and assist Air Force personnel and their families in need. Alternatively, you can register as a volunteer at this link.

If you’re an Air Force member affected by the storm, visit AFPAAS and fill out a needs assessment. This will inform the Air Force that you’re accounted for and alert them to any supports or services you or your family may need.

 

USAA Field Assistance Teams

If you have insurance from USAA, you can contact one of two emergency assistance teams already on site at these locations.

First Baptist Church of Moore

301 NE 27th St. (I-35 and NE 27th)
Moore, OK 73160
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Everyday 
Services: Claims

Wal-Mart Supercenter

501 SW 19th St.
Moore, OK 73160
Hours: 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. Today 
7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday and everyday until further notice.
Services: Claims

Members can report claims by using USAA’s Mobile App on their iPad, Android and/or iPhone smartphones, online at usaa.com/help, or by calling 1-800-531-USAA (8722).

 

Emergency Prescription Refills

If you are a TRICARE beneficiary and you need an emergency refill of your prescription (because, for example, your home was destroyed), take your prescription bottle, if you have it, to any TRICARE retail network pharmacy. To find a network pharmacy near you, click here. Alternatively, you can call Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303.

These procedures apply to the counties for which the Governor of Oklahoma has declared a state of emergency. As of this writing, those counties are Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, Pottawatomie. Emergency refill procedures are in place for TRICARE beneficiaries through June 17.

If you lost your military ID, you’ll need to get it replaced at the nearest DEERS enrollment office. If you lost your TRICARE enrollment card, call TRICARE customer service 800-444-5445. 

More information is available from the State of Oklahoma here.

Great Online Degree Options for Transitioning Service Members or Military Spouses

Posted by Kelli McKinney

online degree programs for militaryYou’ve sacrificed for your country, traveled to places beyond your imagination and dedicated your life to your job. And now you’ve decided that it’s time to make a change. Perhaps education is part of your plan, but you know that you will need to work, care for your growing family and go to school in order to make it happen. It’s a scheduling challenge, to be sure, but it’s not impossible.

Exactly how is this supposed to work, you may be wondering?  Two words: Online. Education.

An online degree program gives you the structure of a degree program, deadlines to work against, and support from professors, advisors, and students – but puts you in the driver’s seat. They’re a smart choice for many working adults because they offer the prestige of an accredited university along with the flexibility that online services provide plus they acquaint you with technology like video conferencing and shared workspaces that you will encounter in many workplaces.

If this sounds like an option for you, consider these popular online degree programs.

 

Business Administration

Looking for an entrance to the business world? Look no further than a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The Appeal: It’s the closest to a “jack-of-all-trades” degree you can find. The business administration degree provides a solid foundation in the basic building blocks of industry: finance, accounting, marketing and communication. These skills are what most employers seek, regardless of how the economy is performing.

The Degree: The College Board, an academic group that administers exams like the SAT, says that a degree in business administration teaches students how to “plan, organize, direct, and control an organization’s activities. “

The Career Potential: Anything from a personal financial advisor to a marketing research analyst can begin with a bachelor in business administration. 

 

Accounting

If numbers are your thing, check out a degree program in accounting to jump-start a successful career.

The Appeal: When all is said and done, companies need someone who knows how to balance the books and pay the bills.  This makes the tools of the accounting trade desirable now and for years to come.

The Degree: Most accounting students learn about financial measurements and methodology, plus specialized areas like business law, government accounting, auditing and nonprofit financial performance.

The Career Potential: The possibilities are extensive with an accounting degree. From tax examiner or auditor to analyst or accountant, this degree can prepare you for a number of careers with staying power.

 

Health Care Administration

Thanks to the nearly indestructible baby boomers, a health care administration degree is a highly desirable asset.

The Appeal: Health care service providers are gearing up to serve their communities, and with the numerous changes taking place in the medical insurance industry, there will likely continue to be a need for savvy administrators for the foreseeable future.

The Degree: Health care administration majors learn all fathomable aspects of overseeing health care facilities.  According to the College Board, coursework can include health care law, ethics, aging, and long-term care.

The Career Potential: This degree is a must-have if you want to be an executive administrator in the medical field, according to the U. S. Department of Labor.

 

Communications

With the click of a mouse, any message can be delivered in virtually any media anywhere within seconds. If this fact fascinates you, you are not alone. This is why communications degrees are in demand.

The Appeal: Organizations need people who know how to craft, distribute, and monitor messaging in order to both protect their brand and help grow it successfully.

Degree Details: In addition to learning how to read, write and speak publicly, communication majors learn to deconstruct a media message and debate issues.

The Career Potential: A bachelor’s degree in communications is one option to help you prep to pursue a public relations management position, according to the U. S. Department of Labor. You can also take a communications degree to get a job in marketing, advertising and marketing communications.

 

Computer Science

To paraphrase Madonna, we live in a technological world.  If you’re tech-savvy and want to continue to adapt with the ever-changing times, a degree in computer science might give you the staying power you seek.

The Appeal: Application and software development are going to continue to be needed as long as we continue to work and play on mobile devices. 

The Degree: Courses in computer science degree programs usually include programming in various “languages” as well as software design and user interaction.

The Career Potential: Application and software developers, system administrators and technicians usually have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or in a related field.

 

Education

Molding the next generation of thinkers and do-ers is a noble – and much needed – pursuit. If this appeals to you, a bachelor’s degree in education could be the way to go.

The Appeal: Baby boomers are beginning to exit the workforce, and their absence is not going to go unnoticed.  The need for strong teachers is perhaps more urgent than it has been in several years.

The Degree: Education majors study curriculum theory, teaching strategies, special education needs, educational psychology, and practical issues like lesson plan design, school health, and safety issues. 

The Career Potential: To teach in a public school, you must have a license from the state plus a bachelor’s degree in education.  

 

To find a school that offers a program matching your interests, use the Military Authority School Finder. 

Tornado Relief for Oklahoma

Posted by Charlotte Webster

Red Cross Oklahoma tornado relief

In light of the devastating tornadoes that have torn communities in Oklahoma apart in the last two days, we would like to remind everyone that you can send a $10 donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund via text message, by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. As in the case with other donations via mobile, the donation will show up on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your balance if you have a prepaid phone. You need to be 18 or older, or have parental permission, to donate this way. (If you change your mind, text the word STOP to 90999.)

Our prayers are with the victims, their families and friends, and their communities as they continue search and rescue efforts.

Read the statement from the Red Cross here.

Using Social Media Wisely, part 3: How Social Media can Help You Find a Job

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

Using social media wiselyOver the past few weeks, I have shared some ideas about how social media can enhance your education and how an online misstep can unravel your reputation. Now, let’s examine ways you can go from using social media as a way to keep up with friends and family, to using it to help you find a rewarding job opportunity.

Last year, more than 80 percent of companies were expected to use social media as a workforce recruitment tool (source: www.mediabistro.com). Recruiters use social media to help them reach candidates, not just because it saves them money, but also because they can target a specific job level and reach candidates who might not otherwise apply. And a bonus for transitioning military who would like to find a job far from where they are stationed, or for the military spouse who wants to secure a job while packing up the house for the next PCS move, social media allows job hunters to connect with recruiters around the world.

Nearly all recruiters – 98 percent – use social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to find candidates. Almost 95% of recruiters have made a successful hire from  LinkedIn. Not only are recruiters actively looking for potential candidates using social media, they are proactively engaging qualified candidates online. So if you’re not using social media as part of your job search, now’s the time to start.

The best place to start preparing for your social media job hunt is with your profile or background pages on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Eye-tracking studies have demonstrated that the average person spends a little less than six seconds looking at a person’s profile. If you want to make a good impression on potential new employers, you’d be wise to make those six seconds count. Post pleasant, professional profile pictures, use keywords relevant to your job search in your bio, and keep usernames simple and free of profanity or otherwise unprofessional language.

Most people use Twitter as an outlet for expressing their opinions on news, politics, or causes that are near and dear to them. Why not use it to get yourself a job? The Twitter search function can help you find recruiters in your industry. Many companies encourage HR recruiters to tweet about job openings in addition to posting them to the usual job boards and advertisements. As an example, Grantham University job postings are strategically placed — and tweeted — to recruit top faculty and staff for the 100% online university. Start by finding a few recruiters in your field — or better yet, identify recruiters that specialize in placing veterans in jobs — and follow them. You’ll likely see opportunities as a result.

Ten years ago, if you were interested in working for a particular company, you had to rely on cold calling for informational interviews if you didn’t know (or couldn’t remember) someone at a particular organization. Now, you can ask people in your social networks to introduce you or even refer you for open positions. Sites like www.InTheDoor.com  or www.BranchOut.com search your Facebook network for hiring companies.

You can also build your influence and your network by writing thoughtful posts about current industry issues and posting them to your LinkedIn page or other networks. Demonstrate your knowledge, skills and expertise so that when someone in your network thinks about your industry, your name is top of mind.

Gone are the days when job hunting meant sifting through the Sunday classifieds with a cup of coffee and a number two pencil. Companies rely on social media to help them find the top candidates – so you have to engage in social media and put your best foot forward if you want to compete.

 

Have you found a job through social media? Tell us your experience in the comments.

 

Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

National Military Appreciation Month: Band of Brides

Posted by Charlotte Webster

National Military Appreciation Month takes place each May, as designated by Congress. It’s a time we stop to reflect on the achievements of our armed services and all of the individuals who make up the ranks.

One group honored is made up of military spouses. Both men and women comprise the ranks of military spouses, and they are the foundation of military families dealing with the stress of everyday life as well as extended deployments of one parent.

One military wife, comedienne and motivational speaker Mollie Gross, has labeled these women as “A Band of Brides” who offer support to each other as only other military spouses can and has created a series of one-hour documentaries chronicling their experiences.

To all military spouses, the unsung heroes who are silently serving our nation, we say “Thank you.”

Happy Friday, everyone.

‘Kaitlyn’s Law’ to Authorize TRICARE Reimbursement of Horse and Other Physical Therapies Introduced in Congress

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

equine therapy for military kidsA law requiring TRICARE to fund or reimbursed certain therapies for individuals with disabilities and the severely wounded or injured was introduced this week in the House of Representatives. The Rehabilitative Therapy Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act, dubbed “Kaitlyn’s Law” by supporters, seeks to amend Title 10 with the following language:

(g) Rehabilitative therapy provided pursuant to subsection (a)(17) may include additional therapeutic exercises or therapeutic activities if such exercises or activities are included in the authorized individual plan of care of the individual receiving such therapy. Such exercises or activities may include, in addition to other therapeutic exercises or therapeutic activities, therapies provided on a horse, balance board, ball, bolster, and bench.

The law has received bipartisan sponsorship from Representative Michael Burgess (R-Texas), its primary sponsor, and from cosponsors Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Marc A. Veasey (D-Texas).

The bill has come to pass largely because of the efforts of the parents of a child named Kaitlyn Samuels, the 17-year-old daughter of a Navy officer. 

Kaitlyn has severe scoliosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and some cognitive disabilities that render her unable to speak. She requires regular physical therapy sessions to help her develop and strengthen her back and abdominal muscles to help support the weight of her spine and upper body. If she does not regularly exercise these muscles, it is possible that she could slowly suffocate herself.

Her physical therapists had trouble finding a therapy that she would tolerate. She has limited insight into her condition and had not been cooperative with standard modes of therapy, such as benches and balance balls. But when therapists tried the same exercises on horseback, Kaitlin responded very well. According to the family, since she does not tolerate the other forms of therapy, her horseback therapy is the only thing preventing her scoliosis from curving her spine to the point where her internal organs are crushed. 

Unfortunately, TRICARE officials didn’t care. At least for long. They covered the horseback therapy for a while, and then changed their minds about it, demanding over $1,300 in reimbursements from the family for payments already made.

While the standard therapies were readily approved under existing TRICARE guidelines, the same therapies done on horseback were deemed non-reimbursable. Horse therapy, or hippotherapy, as it’s called in the medical profession, was considered “unproven” by TRICARE, even though it was already proven in Kaitlyn’s particular case. The family appealed the decision through several reviews, but TRICARE ultimately ruled against them.

As we reported here last year, TRICARE officials overruled the recommendation of the hearing officer and denied the benefit – putting the government in the absurd position of approving therapies that are proven not to work while specifically denying the one therapy that was effective. 

The Samuels family fought back – contacting their Congressional representatives, networking with the tight-knit community of parents of special needs children (who have some PR skills of their own!), starting a Facebook page and leveraging social media to get the word out about their private foundation.

Kaitlyn has been able to continue her therapy, thanks to generous private donations.

Meanwhile, the bill now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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