LVMAC News

CLYDE HOCH SPEAKS TO THE COUNCIL

Clyde Hoch, author of Tracks – Memoirs of a Vietnam Veteran, spoke to the Council on his service in the Marine Corps, his remembrances of war and his return home.

First off, he expressed his appreciation to the Council for their concern for veterans as he thinks too often veterans “are tossed aside” once they have played their role in the defense of the nation.

Now in his sixties, he believes he has a story to tell – as many other veterans do also – which can help the young understand that sometimes great sacrifices are made on their behalf, that millions of men and women before them have left their loving families to do whatever is necessary to protect our way of life. Nor does it matter they ultimately served as cooks or infantry, for the deed was in the willingness to sacrifice for others even when those “others” often little understood or cared for the service members during the Vietnam era.

As result, with the help of his daughter he wrote book and now is active in going to schools, such as Liberty High School, to speak.

Originally from Pennsburg, he entered the Marine Corps as a volunteer in 1965.  Mr. Hoch recounted his boot camp experiences and training as an M48 tank driver.  After two tours with the Mediterranean fleet and after two years, he finally arrived in 1968 in Vietnam for a thirteen month tour to do what he had signed up to do. He was in C Company, 1st Tank Battalion, First Marine Division.  As it also happens, he showed up during one of the most intense periods of the war, the NVA Tet Offensive, when the NVA lost about one-third of its capability.  He operated in the Marble Mountains south of Da Nang and survived several firefights and a mine explosion to his tank, rising to the rank of Sergeant and the position of tank team leader. In one operation he rescued injured Korean Marines during an assault.

When he returned home as a “man grown up”, he experienced many of the same readjustment issues our current generation of soldiers and marines do, but in a lot less supportive society.  Nevertheless, he has gone on to live a productive and useful life and raised a family.

For those who would like to learn more, click here.

OPERATION JOVE

Dave Newton and his employment steering committee are now meeting regularly Wednesday nights.  There is discussion of starting in February at a place to be determined.  We have a long way to go to get ready and are just firming up our marketing plans.  This time we will also work at developing connections to potential jobs in addition to developing the job hunting and networking skills so needed nowadays.

Our concern in this area is justified.  On 9 November, Senator Casey reported on the number of out-of-work veterans in Pennsylvania.  Of local counties in the Lehigh Valley region, Lehigh is the highest with 3,328 unemployed veterans, or 13.4 per cent of the county’s veterans. Northampton has 2,520 unemployed veterans or 10.6 per cent.  This is in comparison with Berks which had 7.2 per cent and, surprisingly, Carbon which had 8.5 per cent veterans unemployed. Such numbers put the Lehigh and Northampton counties in the top quartile (if not higher) of counties with unemployment problems for our veterans.

HOMELESSNESS

Pat DiLuzio, our Homelessness Subcommittee Chair, is busy with helping set up the ArtsQuest “Salute to the Troops” event on 20 November. Organizations interested in having a display table should have contacted him by now.

The Veterans Affairs Committee will be developing a new homelessness business plan as previously reported.  We still await Wilkes-Barre’s Plan to End Chronic Homelessness for Veterans.

Why is this important to be concerned about?  On 10 November, in his role as chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, Senator Casey also made a statement about impoverished veterans nationwide.  His staff found 12.4 per cent of post-9/11 veterans live in poverty.  For younger veterans between 18 and 24 are, it is an astonishing 21.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, the VA is making an initial stab at preventing homelessness by encouraging family, friends and citizens in the community to “Make the Call” and help prevent and end homelessness among veterans. Since March 2010, VA has offered a toll-free telephone number, staffed around the clock by trained professionals, to help homeless veterans, their families and at-risk people.  The number is 877-4AID-VET (or 877-424-3838).

HEALTHCARE IN OUR COMMUNITY WITH THE VA (HOCVA)

Eric Johnson, our new Healthcare Subcommittee chief, conducted a healthcare focus group session on 9 November.  It went well, though attendance could have been better.  About half the hospitals were there.  The goal is to get the community to work with and complement the VA and any other government healthcare service provider working with veterans.  Laying aside competition between organizations for business for the betterment of returning veterans was one theme emphasized. It became apparent in the initial session that more professional of awareness of veterans and their service period related maladies.  One suggestion that surfaced of immediate benefit as we go forward is for each hospital system to have a champion or liaison officer.

The Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Rich Hudzinski, will be discussing with Eric Johnson his progress since the meeting.  There is a need to do some survey work, especially with those who did not attend; and follow-up planning is required. He is looking to scheduling a meeting with the local VA as one of the next steps.

As a footnote, there was a lot of discussion on mental health lately.  The situation seems to be worsening. According to a recent Center for a New American Security Suicide report, “America is losing its battle against suicide by veterans and service members.”  One veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes or 18 per day. Military suicides have also been rise since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and it can no longer be maintained that war service has little to do with the problem.  In the fiscal year 2009 alone, 1,868 veterans of these wars have made suicide attempts, according to the Army Times.

However, it should be also be noted that the VA relies on a limited statistical database to make its analysis because currently only 16 states submit the cause of death among veterans and the VA relies on 3-year-old data for its reports. Improved information collection could help determine if veterans are committing suicide soon after leaving the military and if there’s a higher risk among post-9/11 veterans compared with earlier generations, the study noted.  To say the least, we do not have a good handle on the situation.  More than 1-800-273-TALK is needed as a countermeasure.  Sturdier efforts within and between Department of Defense and the VA are required as the report points out [and the need to use community resources in “Reserve Component” communities.]

PROJECT HEALING WATERS FLY FISHING

Phil Hublitz and Trout Unlimited-Hokendauqua are fleshing out their schedule for next year.  The business plan has been updated.  Looks like there will be: 1)  a fly tying course starting 28 March; 2)   two major local events, one on 5 May and another on 6 October; and 3) a camping trip 20-22 June.  LVMAC will once again reserve funds to support these activities, based upon their input.

VETERANS SANCTUARY

Veterans Sanctuary rolls along.  They are working to expand their referral base with the VA, the Veterans Courts, and the Department of Corrections.

On 10 November, it had a meeting with VISN-4’s Director, the organization which is responsible for the network of VA hospitals in Pennsylvania.  The possibility of a working, contractual relationship with them emerged.  The possibility of fee-basis work is real and also a pilot project, as it provides services that are not within the VA system of care.  Meanwhile, it will be meeting with the Department of Corrections to establish referrals of veterans to Veterans Sanctuary instead of sending them under the existing contract to Keenan House.

Meanwhile, in our opinion the total dependence on government for this sort of venture limits the good this concept can do in treating those who do not qualify for VA assistance or wish to use its services [This is not a statement about the quality of VA services, but rather a recognition that one size does not fit all.].  Major sponsorships are still needed.

LVMAC will be attending Veterans Sanctuary’s Veterans Planning Committee in early December.

MILITARY SUPPORT

Half the order for “family PTSD Booklet” has been completed and the balance should soon arrive. The Veterans Affairs Committee chairman has asked Dick Moore, the subcommittee chair for military support activities, to provide his distribution scheme for ensuring this product gets into the hands of local families [this project is about providing families in a “Reserve Land” environment with an understanding of PTSD and available local resources – crisis intervention, counseling and support. It is not about educating the service members.] We want to place a booklet in the hand of every affected family, whether that service member is married or single.

GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS

Chuck Jackson and Rich Hudzinski met with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) on 3 November about the State Department of Veterans Affairs legislation which LVMAC had proposed.  DMVA elected to take no action in recommending separation of its Office of Veterans Affairs to the new Governor – nor did it reveal any actions for improving its generally subpar performance as a veterans affairs activity.  We have a meeting scheduled with Senator Browne on what can be done regarding state department of veterans affairs legislation on 28 November.

It was recently reported Michigan has been ranked as the worst state in the union for veterans benefits.  The irony is that DMVA and some veterans organizations misguidedly used this state as a model for how it fields claims officers.  Our state performs nearly as badly.  We see a larger role, however, for state veterans affairs — one that extends into assisting in the  veterans back into civilian life and recovering those who have fallen along the way.  Ironically, the Commonwealth has chosen to create a Department of Drug and Addiction Programs to bring focus, efficiency, and accountability to the effort in helping recover addicts, but when it comes to its veterans, unlike in the majority of other states, the Commonwealth cannot see its way clear to a better system [at relatively little increased cost and with a huge return on investment for its sons and daughters and communities].

DOD/VA NEWS:

COLA INCREASE:  The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2011 (S. 894) was signed by the President on 9 November. It will result in a 3.6% increase or cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for those receiving service-connected disability compensation and those survivors receiving dependency indemnity compensation. It will take effect on December 1, 201.  This increase matches the increases granted to Social Security recipients.  This marks the first increase in two years. For more about the COLA increase and how it applies to those still in the military, click here.

The Congressional Impasse May Have Negative Effects on Our Servicemembers:  According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) these are the current three “scare-worthy” issues:  1) straightening out the Medicare/TRICARE Payment cuts mess Congress promotes yearly; 2)  the Super Committee failing to arrive at a satisfactory compromise plan for budget cuts will impact on health and welfare of the military community (it’s not all about weapons projects) and could hollow out our military; and 3) the failing to pass a Defense Bill for the first time in decades will cause a major disruption of vital programs and important retention bonuses.  For more information, see MOAA’s Legislative Update of 28 October 2011.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, GO TO THE BLOGSITE AND CALENDAR.

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16 November 2011
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