VA Grants up to One Year of Retroactive Disability Compensation for Original Fully Developed Claims

To encourage Veterans to file Fully Developed Claims (FDCs), Veterans who file their very first (original) disability compensation claim as an FDC from Aug. 6, 2013 through Aug. 5, 2015 may be authorized up to a year of retroactive benefits if eligibility for compensation is established.  The retroactive benefits are a result of a comprehensive legislative package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.  Filing an FDC is typically the fastest way for Veterans to receive a decision on their claims.

•    Because Veterans filing FDCs receive legally mandated notice through the application process and certify that they have submitted all the evidence they have, VA is able to skip a number of steps in the claims process and go straight to ordering any necessary medical examinations and federal records. This allows VA to issue a decision in half the time of a traditional claim, without sacrificing quality.

•    Veterans must file FDCs online through eBenefits or on a paper VA Form 21-526 EZ (March 2013).

•    FDCs will help eliminate VA’s disability claims backlog by increasing production while decreasing processing time.  Because they can be completed quickly by eliminating much of the development phase of claims processing, VA assigns FDCs a higher priority than many other claims.

•    VA is completing its oldest claims first, and through use of mandatory overtime and implementation of other people, process, and technology improvements, VA is on track to meet our overall goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015 by deciding all claims within 125 days with 98-percent accuracy.

Connecticut Department of  Veteran’s Affairs Charitable Organization Form

Purpose:Pursuant to PA 12-195, an act concerning Fundraising by Veterans’

Organizations. Establishment of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs “charitable organizations”list.

The act makes it a class “C” misdemeanor for any person, firm or corporation

claiming to be a representative of a veterans’ charitable organization, with intent to defraud, to solicit contributions for the organization that benefits or profits any person, firm, or corporation other than the organization.


The Act defines a “veterans” charitable organization” as a person, firm, or corporation,  scientific, patriotic, social welfare, or advocacy purpose for or on behalf of veterans.

A “qualified veterans’ charitable organization” is one that has been a non-stock corporation forthree or more years or a Federal Tax exempt organization for three or more consecutive years.

A “Veteran” means anyone honorably discharged or released under honorable conditions for active service in the U.S. Armed Forces.


A list of “qualified” veterans’ charitable organizations will be published on the

Department of Veterans’ Affairs homepage beginning July 1, 2013. The listing will be valid for three years. As a “qualified charitable organization”, you are not required to

have your organization placed on the “Veterans charitable organization” list. It is strictly voluntary.

In order to be listed on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs “charitable organizations” list, the following information must be provided with appropriate documentation attached and sent to:

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Commissioner’s  Office

287 West Street

Rocky Hill, CT 06067

 Gov. Malloy: Advantage Program Provides Benefits To Veterans While Building Scholarship Fund

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that the State Department of Veterans’ Affairs has partnered with Veterans Advantage, Inc. on an initiative to extend private sector benefits to veterans and their families who reside in Connecticut through the VetRewards Card program.

The program provides special offers, such as discounts on services through a network of retailers and service providers.  Funding from the program’s membership goes to the creation of a statewide scholarship program that will be awarded by the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

“The Veterans Advantage card is a way for private sector companies to extend their appreciation for our country’s troops by providing discounts on services while at the same time creating opportunities for military families to pursue higher education,” Governor Malloy said.  “This is another way we can thank our nation’s veterans and their families.”

“I strongly believe that our troops and their families deserve our support not only when they are in uniform, but when they return home,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said.  “Deployment has meant many months away from their families and their jobs and this card is a great way to lend a hand to those who sacrificed so much for us.”

Veterans Advantage is a national program that partners with private corporations that want to do their part to honor and thank all who serve in the United States military.  Partner companies, such as retail stores, restaurants and service providers, show their appreciation for the program’s members by providing discounts on their goods or services every day.

Interested Connecticut veterans, Active Duty Military, National Guard, Reserve and their family members are encouraged to enroll in the Veterans Advantage through the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs website (www.ct.gov/ctva), where they will be eligible to receive a special 25% discount on the program’s fees.

“There are tens of thousands of military veterans in the State of Connecticut and we are committed to recognizing them and their family members for their service with real benefits,” said Dr. Linda S. Schwartz, the Connecticut Commissioner of Veterans’ Affairs.  “The VetRewards Card program offers a real benefits package from the nation’s top companies for returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, there is also important financial assistance for the transition back to civilian life.  We encourage those who have served and their families to enroll,” she said.

“With our headquarters in the State of Connecticut, Veterans Advantage is honored to serve Connecticut veterans and their family members,” said Veterans Advantage founder and CEO H. Scott Higgins, a Vietnam Veteran and Connecticut resident.  “The VetRewards Card discount and scholarship program represent our way to show our appreciation for the work of the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs in the care of our veterans.  We thank Dr. Schwartz for all her help and support in forming this special initiative”

About Veterans Advantage Veterans Advantage, founded in 1999 by a group of high-ranking military veterans, is the leading card membership program offering exclusive benefits for the more than 90 million qualifying Americans from a nationwide network of retailers and service providers across the U.S.  The program’s mission is to deliver greater recognition, respect and rewards as a thank you for service to the country through the VetRewards Card, a universal military service ID card, and in its partnerships with patriotic companies.  Learn more at: www.VeteransAdvantage.com.

A Surviving Spouse Becomes a Leader in Army Resilience

By Brian Feeney
We recognize the service and sacrifice of not only our Soldiers, but their Family members, and how they demonstrate their resilience every day. The subject of this is both a spouse and a Soldier.
“I knew something was very wrong when my Commander had someone come find me as I was leaving work at our base in northern Afghanistan,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Loredo. “I had been in-country for only six weeks, my husband was nearing the end of his tour in southern Afghanistan,” she added, “In his office, the Colonel said, ‘please sit down, your husband…’ “I was on my feet and crying before he finished his sentence,” she said as tears started to well in her eyes upon retelling the story almost three years later.
Her husband, who everyone called Sergeant Eddie, sort of a joke since he was two ranks below his wife, was on patrol and had dismounted when a roadside IED detonated right next to him. He was evacuated to the nearest Army hospital having lost his left leg. 1st Sgt. Loredo, was immediately flown there to be with him. When she entered his hospital room he lay there peacefully. She immediately kissed him and realized that he didn’t make it.
After the funeral, she took three months of leave to get her affairs in order and figure out what to do next. She had a 12-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son to help adjust to life without their father. She also spent time with a lot of other surviving spouses listening to their stories. “I thought this has to be happening to me for a reason, I just have to figure out what it is,” she said looking back on that time.
Back at work, she helped out at the installation Casualty Assistance Center and was then reassigned to the 18th Airborne Corps where she was given wide latitude to improve their Casualty Assistance Program. It was then that the installation Commander asked her to meet with him and offered her the job of standing up Fort Bragg’s then comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. Thinking that this might be just the reason behind all she had gone through, she leapt at the chance.
It began with an intensive 10-day Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) course at the University of Pennsylvania given by psychologists who are experts in positive thinking and facilitated by MRT-trained NCOs. While most people going through this training have an ‘aha!’ moment and find it inspiring, as a new widow, Master Sgt. Loredo found that the training kept reminding her of the shock and anguish of losing her husband. She returned to Fort Bragg confused, but willing to give it a try.
Back at Fort Bragg, she started applying MRT skills to her own life. She found that practices such as Hunt the Good Stuff, identifying three things that day that were positive and explaining why, pulled her away from grief and toward optimism. Assertive Communication, a technique for actively listening to other people and participating in their positive emotions, was helping her build better rela-tionships with her family and her colleagues. And, Real Time Resilience, a technique for self coaching on the fly while coping with a stressful situation, gave her the confi-dence to take on what was turning into a big job at Fort Bragg – standing up the program, providing MRT training to Soldiers, Family members and installation senior leadership.

Asked if she felt something click at that point, she answered, “It’s not a click; it’s more like a nudge. As I teach the skills to others, I draw on my life for examples, and I feel myself become stronger. Through teaching and living resilience, I also feel myself providing a good example to my children,” she continued.
Another area of her life that she developed as part of her per-sonal resilience strategy was CrossFit, a fitness system that uses constantly varied, high intensity movements to build strength and improve conditioning. Participating in sports and fitness together was a big part of her marriage, and she knew Eddie would be proud of her for taking on such a chal-lenging sport. It helped her not only become physically stronger, but also emotionally and socially. CrossFit has been a positive outlet for her to release stress and improve her strength. She also assisted in creating a Hero workout for Eddie in honor of his sacrifice. CrossFit honors fallen Soldiers by naming grueling exercise sequences after them, so she partnered with the owner of her gym and contacted CrossFit national headquarters. Together they created the “Loredo”. He died on June 24, 2010, so the Loredo consists of six rounds of 24 squats, 24 pushups, 24 walking lunges plus six 400 meter runs.
Last August she was reassigned to now-Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) headquarters in Arlington, Va. where she provides high-level MRT training to Soldiers, spouses and Department of the Army Civilians. She is also one of only two Soldiers on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Survivor Advisory Board where she has the ear of Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Odierno and the Sgt. Major of the Army at quarterly meetings.
At these meetings she has been able to affect real change. She has been instrumental in getting the Army to stabilize active duty surviving spouses for 24 months after their loss to enable them to get their affairs in order. She has also taken an active role in speaking at and participating in Casualty Assistance Training and assisting Survivor Outreach Services staff in getting trained as Master Resilience Trainers.
However, now Master Sgt. Loredo regards the true measure of her work to be how she can help others. Before her hus-band died, he was close friends with another sergeant and through them Master Sgt. Loredo came to know the other sergeant’s wife, Lara Smith. The two women were casual friends, but when Lara’s husband died in combat two years after Eddie, Master Sgt. Loredo knew she would need her help and reached out immediately. Smith valued her help so much that she asked her to be present while she broke the news to her 5-year-old son.
Smith recalled, “Jennifer had already been there, she knew exactly what to say to help me pull myself together, how strong she was!” She added, “She was a pillar in my life when I needed it most, I am very lucky to have her as a friend.” The director of CSF2, Col. Kenneth Riddle, hit many of the same notes in describing Master Sgt. Loredo’s contribution to the program. “Master Sgt. Loredo is not only the most resilient person that I know, but also the most professional, dedicated and passionate leader that I know; CSF2 is very fortunate to have Jennifer on the team and I feel privileged to know her and call her a friend,” he said.
Summing it up she said, “Looking back on my journey since Eddie’s death, my purpose has become very clear. I am here to serve my country, help others and remind them of the sacrifices made by our service members. This isn’t about me or my family. It’s about something so much bigger. Training resilience and sharing my personal stories and experiences is changing Army culture. To play a small part in something so big is an honor. Helping others see that they can grow and become better, stronger people in the face of adversity is what this is all about. I believe in people and am determined to help them believe in themselves!”

33 States Waive Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Test
Maryland has joined 33 other states in agreeing to waive the skills test for Veterans and Servicemembers who have mili-tary training that would entitle them to a commercial driver's license. A provision of the commercial learner's per-mit rule gives state driver licensing agencies the authority to substitute two years of commercial motor vehicle safe-driving experience in the military equivalents of commercial motor vehicles for the skills-test portion of the commercial driver license. The rule applies to active duty, Reserve, Guard and Coast Guard members, and Veterans within 90 days of separation. More states are considering such a waiver.
For more information, contact your state’s

New Overseas Mail Requirements
The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently sent out a mandate that all letter mail being shipped to overseas military installations be addressed with a nine-digit zip code, starting January 2013. The policy change came with an upgrade to USPS’s mail sorting system and the opening of an additional centralized gateway for receiving and ship-ping all government mail. The new mail sorting system will enable mail to be delivered and sorted quicker by giving the sorting machines another way to divide up the mail. The new address format will include the box number as a four digit number at the end of the zip code.
For more information, visit the USPS website, https://www.usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-guidelines.htm

DoD Safe Helpline
DoD Safe Helpline, operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) on behalf of the Department of Defense, is a secure, anonymous and confidential crisis support service that connects members of the military community to sexual assault professionals for one-on-one support. RAINN will not share your name or any other personally identifying information with the Department of Defense (DoD) or your chain of command.
Access the DoD Safe Helpline 24/7 from anywhere in the world by calling 877-995-5247 or visiting the Safe Helpline website at www.safehelpline.org.
To find help near you, text your zip code, installation or base name to: 55-247 (in the U.S.) or 202-470-5546 (outside the U.S.)

Renew ID Cards for Incapacitated Children Every Four Years
When the child of a military sponsor is incapacitated, he or she may retain certain entitlements and benefits indefinitely, but only if the sponsor renews the child’s ID card every four years.
To qualify as incapacitated, the child must be unmarried and incapable of self-support due to mental or physical incapacity that existed prior to age 21 (or age 23 if enrolled as a full time student). The sponsor must also directly provide more than 50% of the child’s support, which is verified through a dependency determination application submitted to DFAS.
If these conditions continue to be met, the child may qualify for the reissuance of an ID card every four years. Initial application procedures are addressed in Army Regulation 600-8-14, Identification Cards, or sponsors can contact the closest ID Card facility.
Incapacitated children who marry and subsequently become unmarried through divorce, annulment, or the death of a spouse may apply for reinstatement as long as they meet all other requirements.
Sponsors should initiate dependency determination and ID card renewal at least 90 days prior to the expiration of the current ID card.
The sponsor’s parent service must process both the initial and renewal applications for incapacitated children; cross-servicing is not authorized.
For more information call the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) at (800)538-9552, or visit http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl

New Online Deployment Planning Resource
The Defense Department launched a new resource to help troops and their Families plan for the “before, during and after” deploying.
“Plan My Deployment” (PMD) is a new, interactive online tool that supports Servicemembers and their Families as they prepare for the different stages of deployment.
The new resource guides users through the “ins and outs” of deployment, from power of attorney and legal assistance considerations to financial and emo-tional issues. Other tips and tools address education and training benefits.
Plan My Deployment is available at DOD's Military OneSource website, www.militaryonesource.mil and is in the public domain, so it is available to extended Family Members who do not have access to military facilities.
Highlights include:
PMD breaks the deployment process down into clear manageable steps, and helps Service Members and Family Members organize the phases of deployment by providing access to planning tools and helpful tips.
The application provides information, customized to Service components, on a wide-range of topics including preparing legal documents prior to deploy-ing, operations security (OPSEC) during deployment, and returning to the workplace after deployment for National Guard and Reserve Members.
PMD provides the option of a log-in so users can come back to their information and always find what they need.
Contact information for resources and programs is included throughout the application to make it easier for Service Members and Families to complete their deployment-related tasks and address any deployment- related issues.
The PMD application launched on January 10, 2013.
For more information visit http://apps.militaryonesource.mil/pmd

National Military Family Association is Offering Two New Military Kids Kits
Military Family.org has two new kits “Military Kids” toolkit and “Military Teens” toolkit which can be ordered at no cost. These two kits are geared toward elementary school-age military children 6 to 11 years old. This is the second in a series from the National Military Family Association to give people in military kids’ lives - teachers, school counselors, coaches, community leaders, religious leaders, neighbors, Family friends, or relatives - a way to help them manage stress and affirm the positive aspects of military life.

DeCa Scholarships for Military Children
Applications for the 2013 Scholarships for Military Children Program are now available at commissaries worldwide, and also online at www.commissaries.com and www.militaryscholar.org.
The scholarship program awards at least $1,500 at each commissary. To be eligible to apply for a schol-arship, the student must be a dependent, unmarried child, younger than 21 (or 23, if enrolled as a full-time student at a college or university) of a Service Mem-ber on active duty, reservist, guardsman, retiree or survivor of a Military Member who died while on active duty, or survivor of a retiree.
Students with questions about the scholarship program application can call Scholarship Managers at 856-616-9311.

The Global Assessment Tool (GAT) - A confidential, 125 item questionnaire that measures an individual’s psychological health and resilience using the five dimensions of strength. Users receive confidential feedback.
COMPREHENSIVE RESILIENCE MODULES (CRM) A series of web-based training modules intended to build resilience across the Army community and teach skills that support physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and Family fitness.
MASTER RESILIENCE TRAINERS (MRT) Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians who are graduates of the 10 day MRT course. They oversee resilience training programs, and instill these skills in every Soldier at every unit level.
INSTITUTIONAL RESILIENCE TRAINING (IRT) Resilience training provided at every major level of the Army education system, from basic training to the war college.
PERFORMANCE AND RESILIENCE ENHANCEMENT (PREP) Performance Enhancement training provides Soldiers with the specific mental and emotional skills that underlie optimal human performance when it matters most: in combat, healing after an injury, or managing work and home life.
An evaluation completed by Army and Civilian scientists showed that Soldiers who received MRT-led resilience training reported higher levels of resilience and psychological health over time than Soldiers who did not receive the training. Most importantly, good leadership matters- Soldiers improved more when their commanders endorsed the program, scheduled training, and selected confident NCOs to serve as CSF2 trainers.
Research completed by Army and civilian scientists showed that Soldiers who received MRT-led resilience training reported higher levels of resilience and psychological health over time than Soldiers who did not receive the training.
For more information visit http://csf2.army.mil

What is Space-A?
Space-A is short for “space available” travel on government owned or contracted aircraft. Under the Space-A program, eligible passengers can fill unused seats on DoD owned or contracted aircraft once all of the duty passengers have been accommodated. With patience and flexibility, you can travel the world very inexpensively.
Success with Space-A travel depends on flexibility and good timing. Since Space-A passengers travel only after all duty passengers and air cargo have been accommodated, there is no guarantee that a flight will have enough seats for every potential cus-tomer. Space-A passengers should be prepared with sufficient financial resources to cover the costs of lodging and alternative transportation should seats not be available.
Remember; “space available” travel is just that space that is available only after all mission require-ments are fulfilled. * ** * There is no guarantee ** * *
The following are eligible for Space A travel:
Members of the Uniformed Services and their Family Members
Foreign exchange Service Members on permanent duty with the DoD
 Retired members of the Uniformed Services and their Family Members
Members of the Reserve Components
Civilian employees of the DoD stationed overseas and their Families
American Red Cross personnel serving overseas with the U.S. Military
DoD Dependent School (DoDDS) teachers and their Family Members
For more information please visit www.takeahop.com

VA Gives Veterans Money to Pay for Elder Care Services at Home

Under certain conditions, about 33% of all seniors in this country could qualify for up to $2,019 a month in additional income from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This money can be used to pay just about anyone to provide elder care services at home. As an example, these funds can be used to pay children, other relatives, friends, home care companies, or domestic workers. Adequate documentation and evidence must be provided in order to receive money from VA for these services, particularly the services provided by Family Members or other non-professional providers. The National Care Planning Council furnishes detailed instructions and training to those practitioners who wish to help Veteran households receive this valuable source of revenue to pay for home care.
This little-known source of money for paying long-term care costs is known as Veterans Pension and is avail-able to Veterans who served on active duty during a period of war, or to the single surviving spouses of these Veterans. Pension is also known popularly as the “aid and attendance benefit.” Of approximately 35 million Americans age 65 and older in this country, about 11.5 million are Veterans who served during a period of war or their surviving spouses. This represents about 33% of the senior population.
The Pension benefit has an income and an asset test. Veteran households with income or assets above the test levels will not qualify for the benefit. Fortunately, there are special provisions that allowunder certain circumstances individuals who would normally fail the tests to still qualify. VA typically does not tell potential applicants about the special provisions. A practitioner who understands how to obtain the aid and attendance benefit can help potential applicants receive the benefit even when they have been told by VA that they do not qualify.
Pension income is often used to pay costs of long-term care such as home care, assisted living or nursing home care. That's because the nature of these expenditures allows potential applicants for the aid and attendance benefit to meet the special provisions of the income test.
Over the past months the National Care Planning Council has received requests from Veterans’ Families all over the country who are trying to find help with their loved ones’ long-term care needs. Many of these Veterans households would likely qualify for the aid and attendance benefit mentioned above. As a result of these inquiries, the council wants to train Veterans benefits consultants to help Veterans obtain their benefits and to handle these requests. 
Top Jobs from Top Employers
MilitaryFriendly.com now delivers jobs at more than 150 Military Friendly Employers!
Victory Media, a Veteran-owned business founded in 2001, has led the industry as a ratings entity for over a decade, surveying tens of thousands of institu-tions and adjudicating lists that capture best practices in recruitment and retention of military personnel as civilian employees, students and franchisees. In 2003, Victory Media brought the notion of hiring military talent to a new level by conducting a data-driven survey of the Fortune 1000’s military recruitment practices and publishing the first Military Friendly Employers® list.
The survey-driven list of Top Military Friendly Employers has been published every year since. The 2013 Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list includes companies with over $500 million in revenue that exhibit leading practices for military recruitment and retention. These employers represent the top tier of companies with leading employment solutions for military service members and spouses.
Just follow the steps below to create your own custom list of employers and find your dream job. You can rest assured you’re starting your career search with a pre-screened, vetted list of top employers who are vying for military talent.
1. Visit www.militaryfriendly.com
2. Use the filters to make a custom list of employers.
3. Check out the jobs at each employer.
4. Apply online.
5. Save your list and share it with friends.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and nation’s largest private employer, is making a pledge to hire more than 100,000 recently discharged veterans in the next five years. The hiring pledge, which will begin on Memorial Day, covers veterans within 12 months of leaving active duty. Most of the jobs will be in Wal-Mart’s stores or its Sam’s club locations. Some will be in the company’s distribution centers.
Read the full article on http://www.military.com/military-report/wal-mart-to-hire-veterans?ESRC=mr.nl