Men and women who perform valiantly in the face of the enemy are not the only military personnel who should be awarded for their courage. This thought is what drove Maria Dickin to establish the Dickin medal through her veterinary charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). The Medal was instituted in 1943 to honor the work of animals during World War II and has since honored 67 military service animals.

The first animals to receive the Dickin Medal were carrier pigeons that carried vital messages that contributed to the rescue of airmen from downed aircraft during 1942 and 1943. The award was given to numerous animals throughout the rest of the war ranging from dog that was killed in combat while saving his human handlers by collecting a live grenade to a pigeon that delivered crucial messages during the battles at Normandy. Unfortunately the award was largely forgotten following World War II, with no recipients between 1950-2000.

The medal made a spectacular resurgence following the attacks of September 11th attacks when it was given to 3 dogs: Appollo, Salty, and Roselle. Apollo received the Dickin medal on behalf of all search-and-rescue dogs that assisted in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks for their collective valor in the face of tragedy. Salty and Roselle were two Labrador guide dogs who received the medal for leading their blind owners down more than 70 flights of stars to escape the burning buildings during the attacks. Since then the Dickin Medal has been seen as a symbol of valor among service animals and has been awarded numerous times to animals who have helped save the lives of their human counterparts during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest recipient of the award is Lucca, a retired Marine Corps German Shepard Dog. Lucca received the award for outstanding service in Iraq and Afghanistan. During her six years of service Lucca completed 400 missions without a single casualty to any member of her team. Sadly Lucca lost a leg during her final patrol on March 23, 2012, when she detected an IED that detonated at close range. Lucca uncovered more that 40 IEDs during her two deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan. She was honored with the Dickin Medal during a ceremony in London on April 5, 2016. As part of her retirement she will be transferred from her current handler Juan M. Rodriguez (pictured above) to live with her original trainer Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham.

Steven Cohen, head of Point72 Asset Management, has pledged $275 million to build clinics offering free mental health care to veterans and their families.

Thanks to the generous pledge, 20 to 25 clinics will be built across the country in the next three to five years.

According to a press release from the Cohen Veteran Network, the nonprofit group overseeing the project, the initial clinics will be located in New York, Dallas, San Antonio, and Los Angeles.The first clinic is set to open in July 2016, with many following after.

The announcement comes along with renewed criticism of the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding long wait times, inadequate care for veterans, and denying care for veterans with other than honorable discharges.

The clinics would provide care to all veterans, regardless of discharge status, with priority given to post-9/11 vets. They search to shorten wait times and also provide free transportation to appointments.

Patients at the clinics also have the option to participate in studies with Cohen Veterans Bioscience, which seeks to develop improved detection and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries. This will help to provide some much needed answers on how we treat future veterans who return home with these conditions.

Cohen stressed the importance of paying back the debt that we owe to our veterans who return from service with wounds of war. This hits home for Cohen, whose son, Robert, was deployed to Afghanistan as a marine in 2010.

He has donated large quantities of his $11 billion dollar fortune to supporting veterans issues over the last decade. The focus on philanthropy has provided a much needed distraction from the negative press Cohen has received in recent years for both insider trading with the company Capital Advisors and for failing to adequately oversee an employee. In January he was barred from managing money from outside investors by the SEC connected to his management mistake and in 2013 Capital Advisors paid a $1.8 billion penalty for the insider trading infractions.

Tomorrows Super Tuesday primaries are an important step towards the nomination. Make sure you know where your candidate stands on veterans issues before you cast your ballot.

Republicans

Donald Trump

 

• Declined to participate in one republican debate and instead held a fundraiser to raise money for veterans.
• The fundraiser was held on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, which has recently received criticism for excessive executive compensation and high fundraising costs.
• Does not support privatization of the VA
• Plans to allow veterans full access to any facility that accepts Medicare to promote competition between VA and non-VA facilities.
• Wants more money to be allocated to PTSD, traumatic brain injury and suicide prevention.
• Plans on finding and removing corrupt VA officials
• Solicits donations through donaldtrumpforvets.com, which claims that 100% of donations will go directly to veterans needs when in fact the donation go directly to the Donald trump foundation which only donated $57,000 to veterans organizations between 2009 and 2013.

On other issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/Donald_Trump.htm

Ted Cruz

 

• Voted against the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act citing that although it did contain positive measure, it did not address current problems within the VA and made some existing problems worse.
• Supports privatized treatment option that would allow veterans to see doctors outside of the VA, but does not support privatization of the VA itself.
• Holds the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for “falsely denying care” and wants anyone criminally liable to be prosecuted.
• Voted against S. 1982 which sought to expand health benefits for veterans to veterans from every generation and improve education benefits for veterans. The bill was lent full support by the American Legion who believed it addressed high priority issues for veterans.

On other issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/Senate/Ted_Cruz.htm

Marco Rubio

 

• Introduced legislation (VA Management Accountability Act of 2014) with House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller that allows secretaries of the VA to fire senior executives at the VA that are not doing their jobs.
• Advocates that the VA should provide subsidized private insurance to veterans to foster competition and flexibility.
• Outside providers would have to be approved first.
• Wants to provide veterans with more flexible option for higher education, including an emphasis on vocational training.
• Wants what a solider has done in the military to count toward education and professional certification at home.
• Voted against providing $27 million for the Veterans Health Administration as part of a Superstorm Sandy recovery package.
• Voted against a bill that would have provided $142 billion in 2012 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction, military housing, and related operations. It also included $52.5 billion in advance fiscal 2013 appropriations for VA medical programs.
• Also voted against S. 1982, which sought to expand health benefits for veterans to veterans from every generation and improve education benefits for veterans. The bill was lent full support by the American Legion who believed it addressed high priority issues for veterans.

On other issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/Senate/Marco_Rubio.htm

Ben Carson

 

• Supports complete privatization of the VA.
• Under his plan the Department of Veterans Affairs would be absorbed into the Department of Defense and all veterans would receive health savings accounts to pay for private-sector medical care.
• His plan would also sponsor a select few defense-run veterans clinics that specialized in traumatic brain injury and limb replacement.

On other issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/Ben_Carson.htm

Democrats

Hillary Clinton

 

• Plans to reform existing programs to offer coordination between military health care, private physicians and others while leaving the VA as the primary source of veterans care.
• Opposes privatization of the VA
• Voted against S. Amdt. 3704 which sought to provide an additional $20 million in funding to veterans affairs medical facilities. (2006)
• Voted for an amendment which sought to provide $2 million in additional funding for army imaging equipment for use in the diagnosis of brain injuries. (2006)
• Voted in favor of a failed amendment which sought to provide a stream of future funding for veterans health care by repealing the Bush tax cuts. (2006)
• Voted in favor of an amendment to provide and additional $1 billion in funding to the Veterans Affairs Administration in 2004.

On other issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/Hillary_Clinton.htm

Bernie Sanders

 

• Head of Senate veterans affairs committee 2013-15
• Worked with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to pass an amendment ensuring that the military’s TRICARE system would be available to treat autism.
• Used an amendment to win $10 million for operation and maintenance of the Army National Guard which was overextended by the war in Iraq.
• Worked to pass an amendment in July 2009 which mandated comprehensive reporting on financial assistance for child care available to parents in the Armed Forces.
• Authored the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, a law aimed at reforming the VA which passed through a polarized congress likely due to compromises he made with John McCain. The Act authorized $15 billion to be used to reduce wait times at VA facilities and provide private care for veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA clinic.
• Some veterans groups have been critical of the legislation calling in a “Band-Aid on a gaping wound”
• Opposes privatization of the VA
• Sought to kill Marco Rubio’s legislation to give secretaries the right to fire senior executives at the VA.

On other issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/senate/bernie_sanders.htm

On Thursday Feb. 18th, Connecticut Governer Dannel Malloy announced that it has become the second state to have officially ended veteran homelessness. This follows the lead of Virginia who became the first state to end homelessness for veterans in November. Gov. Malloy credited the success to a cooperative effort between state housing agencies, shelter workers, community groups, and a partnership with the department of veterans affairs. “The most important thing you can do for a family is to give it a safe home, give it a decent home, a home you can sustain yourself and your family in,” he said.

Over the past 12 months the state has found or built homes for over 280 veterans across the state. With all veterans in the state now housed the state has set goals for dealing with incoming veterans in the future. They have vowed that any veteran who is homeless will be placed in temporary housing within 30 days and have a permanent home within 60 days. This is largely due to the $1 billion the state has committed to housing construction. The 16,000 homes they have committed to build over include many affordable low-cost homes.

The state also plans to expand the fight against homelessness to youth and families. Using the housing first approach to eradicating homelessness among veterans, they hope to end homelessness for these groups by 2017.

AMVETS has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous pro­grams that serve our country and its citizens. The helping hand that AMVETS extends to veterans and their families takes many forms.

One of the most visible is our network of trained national service officers (NSOs) accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Funded by the AMVETS National Service Foundation, these dedicated men and women can be found in close to 40 states, providing sound advice and prompt action on compensation claims at no charge to the veteran.

In one recent year alone, AMVETS national service officers processed more than 24,000 claims that resulted in veterans receiving some $400 million in compensation. This commitment to service traces its roots back to 1948, when our NSOs first began helping veterans of World War II to obtain the benefits promised them by the fed­eral government.

For more information: http://www.amvets.org/

 

 

The Fisher House Foundation works in partnership with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide free housing on site at military and VA hospitals. These “comfort homes” allow families to stay close to their loved ones in their time of need. This is especially important because veterans often have to travel great distances for specialized medical care and are force to leave their families behind due to exorbitant travel and lodging costs. Fisher House gives these families the gift of togetherness and peace of mind.

The Fisher House Foundation is also one of the most trustworthy and efficient nonprofits. In the most recent ratings Fisher House Foundation received an A+ rating from Charity Watch (for putting a staggering 92% of all donations directly towards program projects) and a 96.87/100 rating from Charity Navigator (due to it’s perfect score in accountability and transparency). This puts Fisher House among the top charities for ensuring that your charity receives the greatest benefit from your donation.

If the character of this charity is not enough to garner your support, the popularity of the cause among many noteworthy supporters may help. Fisher House has recently received large donations from individual and corporate sponsors who hope to improve care for veterans across the United States. These include a $500,000 contribution from Wal-Mart, a $500,000 contribution from Samsung, and a $22,000 individual donation from President Obama. With the support of these large partners, you can be assured that your donation will go towards getting something done.

As 2015 drew to a close, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act to appropriate funds for military spending in 2016. Although it is a standard and often uneventful peace of legislation, the act came with a special Christmas gift for military service animals. Within the hundreds of pages that made up the bill, there was a provision that will allow military service dogs to return home to the United States for retirement. Previously, military service animals were ineligible for transport back to the U.S. and were often placed in local shelters.

This marks a huge victory for both animal rights groups and veterans care groups who have long been fighting to give military animals a proper and happy retirement. Their service to military operations and personnel is often overlooked despite their incredible life saving contributions. In fact, according to the American Humane Association, each military service dog saves the lives of between 150-200 service men by detecting IEDs and hidden weapons caches.

The law also goes beyond simply bringing these heroic dogs home, it gives the military handlers the first choice in adoptions of these dogs. This makes a huge difference to veterans who have returned home and are struggling to adjust to civilian life. Having a K9 companion who has experienced many of the same traumatic experiences can help veterans combat conditions like PTSD. This offers many retired military dogs the ability retire in comfort while continuing to serve the struggling veterans they love.

“The NDAA and its passage will ensure that our four-legged veterans will finally have their chance to come home and live a comfortable quiet life, hopefully with a handler they deployed with or a fellow veteran.” – Lance Corporal Jeff DeYoung, USMC (Ret.) who was reunited with his military dog Cena (From the American Humane Newsroom)

Credit goes to Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri, and Congressman Frank LoBiondo, Republican from New Jersey, who introduced the provision.

Benefits of Donating your Used Car:

• Helping those in need
Donating a used car provides a valuable source of donations to charities. Through services like V-DAC you can choose a charity that you believe in to guarantee your money is going directly to a worthy cause. This gives a great sense of personal satisfaction that also comes with a financial benefit.

• Donations are Tax Deductible
Your vehicle donation not only directly helps a charity of your choosing, but it also comes with a tax benefit. A car that is donated to charity can be used as a tax write off for the total sale price or fair market value of the car. This gives you an extra incentive to use your used vehicle to do good.

• It Eliminates Hassle
Donating your used car to charity can take car of many of the hassles that come with getting rid of an old car. Older cars, especially those that are no longer running can be a huge hassle to get rid of. You have to find a place that will take the vehicle and you may even have to get it towed. It can also be hard to even know what the vehicle may be worth. When Donating a vehicle you do not have to worry about any of these issues. The simple process starts with filling out some basic information about your car online and then sending in your title to the donation company. The donation service will then quickly take care of the towing and the processing of the vehicle. They send you a final receipt for your donation and you are then free to take your tax write off.

This past weekend of college football brought with it one of the most deep-seated rivalries, the Army vs. Navy game. The game is one of the longest running rivalries in sports dating back to 1890. It all began when Cadet Dennis Mahan Michie, who was also the coach of the Army football team, accepted a challenge from the Naval Academy. The game has been played nearly every year since then with only a few years missed due to war or a dispute between the two academies.

This years 125th anniversary of the rivalry saw the continuation of the Navy’s win streak of 14 games against Army. The win streak is the longest in the history of a rivalry that has consistently gone back and forth between two great teams. Three games into their current winning streak Navy took over the series lead against Army. The Series record now stands at 60-49-7 with Navy winning 60 games, Army winning 49 games, and 7 ties.

The game holds a particularly important spot in college football marking the end of the regular season. It was originally played on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, which was the end of most college regular season games, but it has been moved to the weekend following the conference championship games. It marks the final game of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy which is awarded to the winner of the triangular series between the Military Academy, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy. The winner of the Army v. Navy game also receives the Thompson Cup.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed some time with their families. This is truly a great time to reflect on what you are grateful for in life. However, you should realize that the things that you have just given thanks for this Thanksgiving are not something that everyone enjoys.

As you start your holiday shopping, remember that there are many families struggling to get by who cannot buy gifts for their own children. For those who have a little bit extra this holiday season, consider purchasing an extra gift when shopping for your own family. These gifts can be donated through Marine Toys for Tots to be donated to less fortunate families. Helping a family give their child some new clothes or a toy on Christmas can make a world of difference in lives of the children and the parents. The support provided by Marine Toys for Tots gives less fortunate families peace of mind during the holidays.

Marine Toys for Tots is an excellent and reputable charity organization through which active duty and retired marines help collect and distribute gifts for underprivileged children during the holidays. The program provides returning marines with a wonderful way to help them continue serving their communities at home.