VA to accept Fry Scholarship applications beginning November 3

VA will begin accepting applications by mail beginning Nov. 3 for the Fry Scholarship under newly expanded eligibility criteria that includes surviving spouses. The addition is the latest in a series of VA actions taking in accordance with the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”).

Part of the Choice Act expanded the Fry Scholarship to include the surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Prior to this expansion, only children of those who died in the line of duty were eligible for this benefit.

“We can never fully repay the debt we owe to these families who have lost a loved one,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “It is a privilege to provide educational benefits that will make a positive difference in their lives.”

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Royse Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Rosye Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

The Fry Scholarship was created to honor Sergeant John David Fry, 28, of Lorena, Texas.

Sergeant Fry had one week left in his tour in Iraq in 2006, when he volunteered to continue working for seven more hours disarming explosive devices, despite having already sustained an injury to his hand. He made the ultimate sacrifice on March 8, 2006, in Anbar province, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated. He left behind a widow and three young children.

The Fry Scholarship will entitle eligible spouses to up to 36 months of the full, 100-percent level of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes a tuition-and-fee payment, a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies. Some spouses currently eligible for or already receiving benefits under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program may now be eligible for the Fry Scholarship. All surviving spouses eligible for DEA and the Fry Scholarship must make an irrevocable election for terms beginning on or after January 1, 2015.

VA will identify surviving spouses eligible for both programs and send them a letter with comparative information on the benefits available and instructions on how make an election. Information about these two programs is available on VA’s website and the GI Bill website www.benefits.va.gov/gibill. The VA call center (888-GIBILL-1) also will be able to help individuals understand the differences between the two programs.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors also known as TAPS offers Military Survivor Education Support Services Program in an effort to provide one-on-one counseling to bereaved military families who may be eligible for education benefits.

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SSVF Changes the Future of a Homeless Vet

By DaVaughn Phillips

In a region still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, employment and housing can be difficult to come by for many Veterans. New Orleans has a high incidence of Veteran homelessness compared to other cities of its size. According to the 2013 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 11 percent of the city’s homeless individuals are Veterans.

Outreach workers from Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans, the local affiliate of a national human service charity, first located “Mr. H.” living in the library at Loyola University. The 28-year-old Veteran was close to giving up hope on achieving a brighter future for himself and his six children.

Mr. H. (left) with his case manager, DaVaughn Phillips

Mr. H. (left) with his case manager, DaVaughn Phillips

As a case manager, my mission is to advocate for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) clients, building relationships with individuals and organizations in the city that can connect them with the resources and opportunities they need to get back on their feet. Being able to draw from those networks is vital to finding employment and housing for people like Mr. H. It’s this type of collaboration that is helping to end Veteran homelessness in New Orleans. According to the Interagency Council on Homelessness, Veteran homelessness in New Orleans has decreased by more than 40 percent in the past year alone.

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Meaningful careers for military and Veteran spouses

When it came time to select a keynote speaker to kick off our Career Summit day of professional development, it was a no brainer. Rosye Cloud, the Senior Advisor for Veteran Employment (Veterans Benefits Administration) just gets it. We wish everyone in our community could have been there to hear her insights and lessons learned, but if you missed seeing her in person, you can still read more from her in the most recent issue of NMSN digital magazine. Here are some highlights from her keynote:Supporting the education and career goals of military spouses is essential to maintaining economic competitiveness of military and veteran families in our  All-Volunteer Force (AVF). Events such as the Military Spouse Career Summit help connect American employers to a skilled and ready talent pipeline. Read More »
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Veteran Combat Call Center: If you call, we can help

The VA Combat Call Center, located outside of Denver, Colo., is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week referral service for Veterans, family members and anyone looking to help a Veteran. We also field calls from active-duty members and their family members seeking counseling services with Vet Centers across the country.

If they call, we can help.

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Honor Flight gives Army Air Corps nurse a chance to pay tribute

Honor Flight Austin

The bus carrying Veterans of past conflicts pulled up alongside the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial on Sunday afternoon.  It was the first time a group from the Honor Flight Network had visited the memorial, which had been officially dedicated just a week before.

Army Air Corps nurse Lois Jones

Army Air Corps nurse Lois Jones Crook

The group from Austin, Texas, included 20 Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Among them was former Army Air Corps nurse Lois Crook. Now 92 years old, Lois was excited to see the new memorial, and have her picture taken in front of a quote from Dwight Eisenhower.

“I took care of them, that’s why I want to see this” Lois told me, not only during the war, but after, as a nurse at her local VA.

But Lois’ story of service is also one of sacrifice. While serving in the Army Air Corps, Lois met and later married Clyde Jones, a pilot.  A 1st Lieutenant at the time, Clyde was killed when his F-84E Thunderjet collided with another plane during a training flight in 1953.

1st LT Clyde Jones

1st LT Clyde Jones

Leslie Jones, Clyde and Lois’ daughter, was four when her father died:  “He was only 29 years old when he flew that day, February 6, 1953. We were living in England and he was stationed at Manston AFB. He had orders for Korea in three days. I have a letter he mailed that day to his family in which he said, ‘I don’t mind going, it’s just that I hate to leave Lois and Leslie for so long.’”

So on Sunday, the Honor Flight Austin moved on from the new memorial to make another stop:  Arlington National Cemetery.  The group witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Lois visits her husband's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery

Lois visits her husband’s grave site at Arlington National Cemetery

But it was another stop that had special meaning to the lone female Veteran on this flight.  Lois and her fellow Veterans paid their respects graveside to Clyde Ray Jones Jr., an experience the Honor Flight staff described as “humbling.”

Lois Crook, Army Air Corps nurse, is a charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, which is located at Arlington National Cemetery. We honor her service and sacrifice.

 

Archival photos, Arlington National Cemetery photo courtesy of Honor Flight Austin. Main photo by Megan Moloney/VA.

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VA seeking digital service experts

OIT Office Photo_1On the heels of the launch of the United States Digital Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for highly experienced digital service experts to join a similar VA-based team. VA is currently looking to hire a digital service expert at the GS-15 level to a temporary, two-year appointment to re-design and re-build VA’s most important digital customer interfaces.

“I am pleased to share another exciting opportunity for individuals to support the Department of Veterans Affairs in its mission to serve and care for Veterans,” said Stephen W. Warren, VA’s Chief Information Officer.  This is VA’s second recruitment for experts with the digital services skills necessary to redesign and rebuild VA’s most vital interfaces that link with its customers and stakeholders by using technology approaches drawn from leading American technology companies.

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My name is Bob and “I CARE”

Bob VG CoverSince his confirmation in August, Secretary Bob McDonald has traveled the country to speak with Veterans and VA employees. He’s hit the ground running, and although his schedule is packed with VA facility visits and employee town halls, the eighth Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs took time for a one-on-one Q&A for VA News and VAnguard Magazine.

Reynaldo Leal, VA Public Affairs Specialist:  Thank you. I guess we will start off with what does being Secretary of Veterans Affairs mean to you?

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert (Bob) McDonald:  Well, as I said during my confirmation hearing, to me, being Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, is the ultimate in the high calling to care for the veterans who have served this country, in a sense, the one percent who have worked and defended the 100 percent. To be in a leadership position to be able to make a difference, to accomplish our mission, to serve them is the ultimate in a high calling. It is, in many ways, the culmination of my life.

After 33 years at Procter and Gamble and nine years in the military, four years of West Point, five years as an officer in the Army, it is the opportunity to take everything I have learned in all the countries of the world I have lived in and apply it here to help the U.S. Government, to help America’s veterans. So, it is a great capstone to whatever career or life I have had to date.

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September 2014 Veteran unemployment; Veterans doing better than their civilian counterparts

The September 2014 unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Veterans as a whole are doing slightly better than non-Veterans.

SeptRolling14The 12-month rolling averages show that Veterans and non-Veterans overall are doing better than they were a year ago. Gulf War II Veteran unemployment has decreased 2.283 percent since September 2013.

Compared to last month, Veteran unemployment rates decreased by .9 percent and non-Veteran unemployment rates decreased by .4 percent. Gulf War II Veteran unemployment rates decreased by 1.9 percent, a sharp decline likely attributed to the start of the school season.

Analyze the data yourself at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/resources/unemployment/ Read More »

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Army Veteran, double amputee committed to inspiring others

Men's Health November 2014
Noah Galloway is 32 years old and a former Army Sergeant. The Birmingham, Alabama, native enlisted in October 2001, joining the 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.

He deployed to Iraq in 2003.

“I loved my job as an infantry soldier,” says Galloway. “In the first year I was there, I saw the difference and progress we were making. I could not wait to return. Just the thought of going back thrilled me.”

Galloway’s world changed on Dec. 19, 2005, when he was injured in an IED attack in Yusafiah, Iraq.  He lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee. His road to recovery began in Germany, and continued at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Noah Galloway at the 2013 Midwest Valor Games

Noah Galloway at the 2013 Midwest Valor Games

While Galloway’s journey wasn’t an easy one, he has worked to overcome his injuries, including the invisible ones. The Army Veteran participated in the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon and a host of extreme sport challenges. In 2013, Galloway shared his story with more than 150 Veterans at the VA-sponsored Midwest Valor Games. He challenged fellow Veterans not to let their disability define them.

Noah Galloway’s determination is one of the reasons he was just selected to grace the cover of the November 2014 Men’s Health magazine.

Watch more of Galloway’s story, courtesy of Men’s Health.

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A Veteran’s brave story from sea cave rescue to summer sports

Tristan Heaton remembers the sea cave.

The U.S. Coast Guard Veteran says the Cape Lookout, Oregon, rescue of two brothers trapped in a sea cave was something that “changed my life, challenged me, and prepared me for every day since then.”

Heaton now serves as the director of the VA’s National Summer Sports Clinic, one of the several programs designed to improve the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities.

Watch how first-time participants do things they never thought they could.

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