9.21.2014

Department of Housing and Urban Development



David Reinhard (right), a former Marine, now works for the broadcast office of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
By Lisa Rein, Washington Post

Obama’s push to hire military veterans for jobs throughout the government is fueling resentment in federal offices, as longtime civil servants and former troops increasingly question one another’s competence and qualifications.

With veterans moving to the head of the hiring queue in the biggest numbers in a generation, there’s growing bitterness on both sides, according to dozens of interviews with federal employees.

Those who did not serve in the military bristle at times at the preferential hiring of veterans and accuse them of a blind deference to authority. The veterans chafe at what they say is a condescending view of their skills and experience, and accuse many non-veterans of lacking a work ethic and sense of mission.

At the Government Printing Office (GPO), six of eight electricians who have joined the electrical shop in recent years are former military members. But Robert Chaney, the shop’s senior mechanic and a non-veteran, said some arrived without electrician’s licenses. One was hired over the phone from Michigan, he said, then quit soon after starting.

‘‘It’s hard to tell until they get here,’’ he said. ‘‘Then you realize this guy doesn’t know common electric components that a one- or two-year electrician should know.’’

But Laura Barmby was pleasantly surprised when she ran a training session this summer for the Commerce Department that included veterans. In a role-playing exercise, the eight veterans banded together in reaction to a natural disaster, devising a novel response to offer emergency services to the public.

‘‘When a group gets a certain preference, there’s an inclination to say somehow they’re less than’’ others, Barmby said. ‘‘But they have the real-world experience of having challenges put in their way they need to overcome. If they’re able to do the job, what’s wrong with helping someone who risked their life for their country?’’

‘I’ve heard people say, “I’ve applied for a job, but some veteran’s just going to get it.” ’

Obama began accelerating the hiring of veterans five years ago in response to the bleak employment prospects many service members faced after coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. It is the government’s most visible effort to reward military service since the draft ended in the 1970s.

Veterans benefit from preferential hiring for civil service jobs under a law dating to World War II, but the administration has boosted the extra credit veterans get, giving them an even greater edge in getting those jobs.

The government has also set hiring goals for veterans at each agency, and managers are graded on how many they bring on board, officials said.

Last year, veterans made up 46 percent of full-time hires, the Office of Personnel Management said. They now represent a third of the federal workforce, holding positions well beyond the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.

But some colleagues in the civil service say that while veterans work hard, they rarely display independent thinking.

‘‘You’re getting a very conservative worker that’s very narrow-minded,’’ said Bob O’Brien, a Technology Specialist for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). About 90 of the 100 computer experts in his office in suburban Maryland are veterans, he said.

‘‘In meetings, you can’t question anything,’’ he said. The veterans’ attitude to their supervisors, he said, is: ‘‘You’re my boss. You could be a complete lunatic, but I won’t question you.’’

During the longest stretch of war in American history, many veterans have served multiple combat tours. They say they have earned a right to preferential treatment and they resent the perception that they are grunts unqualified for civil service.

‘‘I’ve heard people say, ‘I’ve applied for a job, but some veteran’s just going to get it,’ ‘‘ said Mark Butler, 56, a Navy veteran who investigates fair housing violations for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Boston.

‘‘I think veterans bring so much to the table,’’ he added. ‘‘The military is not all screaming, yelling [at] people to charge up the hill and kill, kill, kill.’’

By law, veterans who meet certain criteria related to where, when, and how long they served and whether they were injured go to the head of the line when they are considered for civil service jobs.

Troops with combat injuries or those disabled during their service get higher preference.

UPDATE: The Solution to the Problem is Simple ... Make All Civil Servants Serve Two (2) Years in the Military !


Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
posted by Vets Helping Vets


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9.19.2014

Veterans Unemployability

Seniors Boost Number of Veterans on Unemployabibility

Jack Behunin received welcome news last year from the Department of Veterans Affairs: Due to war-related medical conditions, he was being declared unfit to work, boosting his tax-free monthly disability compensation from $1,850 to $3,000.

Not that he had any interest in a job. A World War II veteran in Burbank, he is 90 years old.

His case is not an aberration. Senior citizens have helped make the benefit — known as Individual Unemployability (or Veterans Unemployability) — one of the fastest-growing expenditures in the VA disability system. The number of "unemployable" veterans has nearly tripled since 2000, to 321,451, with the majority at ages when most people have already stopped working.

Government data show that 56% of the beneficiaries are at least 65 years old. Eleven percent are 80 and older. Within 10 years roughly 40% of those who are collecting VA Benefits will be out of the system because of death.

Veterans, by age group, being paid for unemployability 2007-2014 Being classified as unemployable adds between roughly $1,100 to $1,900 to a veteran's monthly disability pay, which often comes on top of Social Security.

At an annual cost of at least $4 billion, the benefit is part of a rapidly expanding disability system expected to cost $60 billion this year. Federal reports have singled out unemployability as an example of how a system operating under rules established decades ago has failed to keep pace with modern times.


"VA's compensation program does not reflect the current state of science, technology, medicine and the labor market," the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in a 2006 report on poor management of the benefit.

In response to the rising costs, GAO researchers are now examining the benefit to determine how many veterans classified as unemployable had left the labor force voluntarily.

Behunin farmed cotton and alfalfa for nearly a decade after the war, then spent 17 years at car dealerships, one year selling more Pontiacs than any other salesman in the country. He worked for his son selling mulch into his 80s until they had a falling-out.

He said he made $50,000 his final year.

An avid traveler, he did most of the driving this summer on a 10,000-mile road trip to Alaska with his wife.

But his job as a gunner during the war sandwiched him between two loud machine guns in a B-24 bomber and badly damaged his hearing. He has worn hearing aids since the 1960s.

The war also resulted in what he described as a mild case of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Behunin probably could have been collecting disability pay for decades, but he didn't apply until a friend suggested it about seven years ago. He wound up with a 90% disability rating for Hearing Loss, Tinnitus and PTSD. Being declared unemployable raised his pay to the 100% level.

He said it provided a much-needed supplement to the $2,900 in Social Security that he and his wife collect each month.

Veterans, by age group, approved for unemployability in 2010-2014 "What kind of job could I get?" he said. "I couldn't stand up all day on a retail floor."

Another Era

When the VA created the unemployability benefit in 1934, Social Security didn't exist. Manual labor was the only option for most workers, and the Depression was in full swing.

The benefit was a safety net for veterans who couldn't work because of health problems that began in the military and whose disability ratings, based on a formula combining their conditions, fell shy of 100%.

In 1945, as disabled World War I veterans continued to fall out of the workforce, the VA adopted a regulation ensuring eligibility to veterans of any age. That decision underlies much of the current growth.

More than half the 137,343 veterans approved since 2010 were 65 or older, including 13,684 who were at least 75, according to VA statistics.

The largest share served in the Vietnam era. Many joined the disability system over the last decade as the VA expanded eligibility for PTSD and diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer and other common conditions on the presumption they were caused by exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange, used to clear jungle vegetation in the war.

Once in the system, veterans are eligible for the unemployability benefit if their ailments are deemed too severe for them to work and their disability ratings reach a certain threshold, usually 60% or 70% depending on their mix of conditions.


Brent Sherman, a Vietnam veteran, was approved for the benefit this summer at age 64 as a result of tinnitus as well as PTSD, by far the most common condition among those who qualify.

He blames the disorder for the chaos of his life, a boom-and-bust cycle that included five marriages, nearly two decades in prison for robbing banks and an airplane salvage business he said earned him millions of dollars before he gambled it away.

If a guy gets $3,000 a month, maybe that evens the score a little according to Joe Meredith, a Veterans Advocate, referring to Vietnam-era Injustices.

He said he made a total of $291,000 in 2009 and 2010 driving a dump truck and selling construction equipment. But his income tapered off until he found himself unable to work, he said.

The trucking company where Sherman worked told the VA that PTSD apparently contributed to several accidents that made him uninsurable.

"It wasn't that I just decided I don't want to work," said Sherman, who lives by himself on the Oregon coast.

William McMath, a psychologist who conducts disability examinations at the VA Medical Center in Northport, N.Y., said that decisions about unemployability are often subjective and that it is easy to be swayed by elderly veterans who are struggling financially.

Joe Meredith, who served in Vietnam and now works in northern Michigan helping veterans secure disability benefits, said many of his clients have had long careers and use the unemployability provision to supplement their retirements.

"Someone has spent 30 years working for General Motors, 30 years in the military or 30 years driving a bus," Meredith said. "Now they are retired. And guess what? They're a Vietnam veteran and they're going to jump on the bandwagon."

He said he advocates for them as a way to right the wrongs of the past — a draft system biased against the underclass and poor treatment after the war.

"If a guy gets $3,000 a month, maybe that evens the score a little," he said.

Age Debate

The unemployability benefit has been controversial for at least a decade.

The GAO's 2006 report said the law did not give clear standards for classifying veterans as unemployable. The VA inspector general has found widespread geographic variation in how it is awarded.

Restricting the benefit to veterans younger than the full retirement age for Social Security — 65 or 67, depending on the recipient's birth year — would save $17 billion over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office estimated last month.

To provide context, the report noted that 37% of U.S. men 65 to 69 remain in the labor force. That figure falls to 11% for men over 74.

Advocacy groups have attacked age caps as unfair to veterans who want to keep working.

Joe Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said any age cap would be arbitrary and noted that many U.S. senators are 65 or older.

"This is about how we can save money on the backs of disabled veterans," Violante said.

A 2007 study for the VA found that veterans classified as unemployable had a higher mortality rate than other veterans with similar standard disability ratings — evidence that on the whole the designation was not arbitrary.

Elected officials have been unwilling to touch the benefit. The last to try was then-Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who held a hearing on it in 2005 but found little support.

Craig's concerns included that the benefit was hurting younger disabled veterans by creating an incentive not to work. A total of 16,663 recipients — or 5% of the total — are under 40.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) who is always looking for free publicity on the backs of veterans argued that the benefit was being used as intended and reviewing it would add to the stigma many veterans feel when seeking help.

While a standard disability rating, even 100%, carries no restrictions on working, the unemployability benefit requires recipients to earn less than the federal poverty cap of roughly $12,000 a year.

Isaiah Kyseth left the Army in 2007 after damaging discs in his back during a training exercise and suffering more injuries in an off-duty car accident. He never deployed to war.

The VA eventually rated him 80% disabled and declared him unemployable, he said.

His rating covers not only his back, he said, but also a hernia repaired while he was serving and PTSD from the car accident and the deaths in Iraq of several soldiers from his unit.

Kyseth had hoped to make the military a career. "I lost my entire sense of purpose," he said.

For a time he attended music school in Hollywood under the GI Bill, hoping to become a producer. But he said he'd rather keep his 100% payments than work.

"I am permanently disabled for the rest of my life at 31."


Veterans Unemployability
written by Alan Zarembo of the LA Times
Edited by David Apperson, Vets Helping Vets


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9.17.2014

Weed California


Pray for Weed ...
and the Families that Have Been Devastated




Weed Before the Fire




Weed After the Fire




Weed California
posted by Vets Helping Vets


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9.15.2014

VA PTSD Research


25 Years of VA PTSD Research, Education and Technology
 NCPTSD Provides Comprehensive Mental Health Care for Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD) celebrates its 25th anniversary.

“We are extremely proud of the Center’s work over the last 25 years,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Dr. Carolyn Clancy.

“VA will continue to study, create awareness, educate and develop policies which better the lives of Veterans with PTSD for years to come.”

VA created the Center in 1989 to address the needs of Veterans and other trauma survivors with PTSD.

Congress called for a center of excellence that would set the agenda for research and education on PTSD without direct responsibility for patient care.

VA initially established the Center as a consortium of five divisions but now it consists of seven VA academic centers of excellence across the U.S.

“Our most important accomplishment is that we helped educate policymakers as well as the general public that PTSD was not something that happened only to Vietnam Veterans, but could happen to Veterans of other wars and to any man, woman or child faced with a catastrophic event,” said Dr. Matthew Friedman, currently the Center’s Senior Advisor and former Executive Director from 1989 through 2013.

“When we started, PTSD was a controversial diagnosis.

NCPTSD's research and educational initiatives helped establish the scientific basis for PTSD.” Major accomplishments of the Center over its 25-year history also include:
  • Applying the latest technology to disseminate information and education about PTSD. In 1995 the Center launched its website, www.ptsd.va.gov. Since then it has become the number one website on PTSD. The Center is trying to become the technological leader in PTSD online continuing education for VA clinicians and in the creation of mobile apps for Veterans with PTSD. The Center’s About Face program, www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/AboutFace, an online video gallery of Veterans talking about living with PTSD and how treatment turned their lives around, has improved access to care through Veterans encouraging fellow Veterans to get into treatment. 
  • Assessment and diagnosis. The Center developed the leading assessment measures for PTSD in VA, DoD, and organizations around the world. These measures include the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), the gold standard for assessing PTSD. They have advanced research on PTSD and the clinical care of Veterans living with PTSD by ensuring accurate diagnoses and assessment. 
  • Neurobiological research. The Center’s investigators have been at the forefront of research demonstrating alterations in structural and brain function associated with PTSD, which has significantly enhanced the science and understanding of PTSD and led to improvements in the treatment of Veterans and others with PTSD. 
  • Treatment research and training. The Center has conducted some of the leading research on the treatment of PTSD, particularly the main evidence-based psychotherapies. The Center also developed training programs that have trained thousands of VA clinicians in these psychotherapies, allowing these clinicians to provide effective evidence-based treatments to Veterans with PTSD.
  • Supporting evidence-based PTSD care. In 2008 the Center helped create the VA Mentoring Program, which encourages implementation of evidence-based treatments for PTSD within PTSD-specialized programs. In 2011, the Center helped establish the VA PTSD Consultation Program, which advises VA clinicians on PTSD. Both programs contribute significantly to better care for Veterans with PTSD. For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem, Veterans, professionals and members of the public can visit the National Center for PTSD website, www.ptsd.va.gov . The site offers resources such as: 
  1. PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.
  2. PTSD Continuing Education opportunities for providers, including PTSD 101 Courses, on the best practices in PTSD treatment (CEs/CMEs offered).
  3. About Face: Online videos of Veterans talking about how PTSD treatment can turn your life around.


VA PTSD Research
see VA Information on Post-traumatic Stress -
www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2619

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