The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.
1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.
Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.
2. Someone to actually answer your call.
The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.
3. One call does it all.
Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”
4. Total online resource.
Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback. All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!
5. Now you can actually find your service center.
Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.
Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.
Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.
6. There’s an app for that.
Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.
7. No more waiting.
When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.
8. Claims are processed faster.
In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.
9. Taking out the middleman.
Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.
These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Islamic Republic of Iran officially unveiled the Bavar 373 system earlier this month. The system is supposedly a domestic long-range surface-to-air missile intended to provide area defense against aircraft and missiles.
According to a report by the Times of Israel, images released by Iranian state news agencies showed Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and minister of defense, Hossein Dehghan in front of the system, which bears a strong superficial resemblance to the Soviet-era SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300).
The SA-10 was the Soviet Union’s main area-defense surface to air missile since it was entered service in 1978, and has continued in Russian service since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Depending on the version, it has a maximum range of up to 121 miles. The system has been constantly upgraded, and more modern versions, like the SA-20 and SA-21 are entering service with Russia.
“We did not intend to make an Iranian version of the S-300 — we wanted to build an Iranian system, and we built it,” Minister of Defense Dehghan said. The Iranians had been trying to address delays in the acquisition of SA-10s from Russia, which only reauthorized delivery in 2015 after the Obama Administration made a highly controversial deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran claimed back in May to have operable SA-10 systems.
Iran has been developing some weapon systems on their own. Most notable in this regard are the Jamaran-class frigates. These ships, based on the 1970s vintage Sa’am-class frigates, are armed with a 76mm gun, four C-802 anti-ship missiles, and SM-1 surface-to-air missiles. While nowhere near a Burke-class destroyer in terms of capability (or even the Al-Riyadh and Al- Madinah classes in Saudi service), the vessels are with sanctions lifted, the Iranians could acquire other weapon systems for future vessels.
Iran has also built two fighters, the Azarakhsh and the Saeqeh. The first is a reverse-engineered version of the Northrop F-5E Tiger, a late 1960s day fighter. The second is an advanced version of the first plane and bears a slight resemblance to the F/A-18 Hornet, albeit it is much less capable, with only half the bombload of the Hornet and lacking a multi-mission radar like the APG-65. Iran has also copied the C-802 anti-ship missile and the SM-1, made improved variants of the MIM-23 HAWK, and even reverse-engineered the AIM-54 Phoenix used on the F-14 Tomcat. Perhaps most impressive is Iran’s ability to design not just upgrades to the M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks, but also develop its own main battle tank, the Zulfiqar.
In short, the Bavar 373 is just the latest in Iranian weapons innovation. Last month, high-ranking officials of that regime threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. The development of the Bavar 373 means those threats may not be idle.
You’ve served your country, now these restaurants want to serve you. Check out the deals they’re offering, what you have to bring to prove your veteran status, and come on out (if you like what they’re offering).
Please note that not all franchise restaurants participate in the Veterans Day program. Be sure to contact your nearest restaurant for participation.
1. 54th Street Grill: The Kansas City-based chain offers veterans and active duty military a free meal up to $12. Dine-in only.
2.Applebee‘s: Applebee’s has a special Veterans Day menu built for veterans and active duty military members. Vets can choose one item from that menu.
3. Arooga’s: All veterans and troops will receive one complimentary item from a fixed menu at Arooga’s. Although there is no purchase necessary, Arooga’s Veterans Day offer is for dine-in only and drinks are not included.
4. Bar Louie: Veterans and active-duty military will get a free appetizer or entrée on Veterans Day.
5. BJ’s Restaurant: Active duty military and veterans receive a complimentary entree under $12.95 and $5 beers.
6. Bob Evans: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free meal of choice menu options. From Nov. 12 – Dec. 31, vets will get a 10 percent discount.
8. Bonefish Grill: All active and retired service members with a valid military ID will receive a complimentary Bang Bang Shrimp at all Bonefish Grill locations.
9. Bruegger’s Bagels: Veterans and active duty military members get a free small drip coffee on Nov. 11 at participating locations.
10. Buffalo Wild Wings: Vets will get a complimentary order of wings and a side of fries to veterans and active-duty military. Must present acceptable proof of military service, which includes: permanent or temporary U.S. military ID cards, veteran’s card, a photograph of yourself in military uniform, or dine-in at a participating location in uniform.
30. Greene Turtle: Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal from a select menu.
31. Hooters: All active-duty and retired military to stop in for a free meal from the Hooters Veterans Day Menu by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location nationwide.
32. Hy-Vee: The Midwestern Grocery chain is offering veterans and active duty military members a free breakfast buffet.
33. IHOP: Veterans and active duty military get free Red, White, and Blue pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at participating locations.
34. IKEA: Veterans get a free entrée from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11.
35. Krispy Kreme: Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut and small coffee to all veterans at participating locations.
36. Krystal: Active and retired military receive a free Krystal Sausage Biscuit from opening to 11:00 a.m.
37.Little Caesars: Veterans and active military members receive a free $5 Lunch Combo from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
38. Logan’s Roadhouse: In addition to the 10 percent military discount offered every day, military and former military guests will also receive a free dessert.
39. Longhorn Steakhouse: Offers a free appetizer or dessert (no purchase required, no restrictions) to anyone showing proof of military service, plus 10 percent off for guests that dine with Veterans on Nov. 11.
40. Max Erma’s: Participating Max Erma’s locations are offering veterans and active military personnel a free Best Cheeseburger in America.
41. Menchie’s: All active and retired military personnel will receive a free 6 ounce frozen yogurt.
42.Mission BBQ: Free sandwiches and cake for active duty military members and veterans at participating locations.
43. O’Charley’s: Veterans and active duty service members get a free meal at any location on Nov. 11. Additionally, O’Charley’s offers a 10 percent military discount all year long.
44. Old Country Buffet: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink all day.
45. Olive Garden: All veterans and current service members get a free meal from a limited menu.
46. On the Border: Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo” menu.
47. Outback Steakhouse: All active and former service members receive a free Bloomin’ Onion and a beverage on Nov. 11. Outback is also offering active and former service members 15 percent off their meals Nov. 12 through Dec. 31.
48. Panera Bread: A complimentary You-Pick-Two with military identification or if wearing their uniform to the participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton area. For a complete list of participating bakery-cafes, click here.
58. Starbucks: Veterans, active duty service members and spouses get a free tall coffee at participating locations.
59. Texas Roadhouse: Texas Roadhouse locations nationwide will offer veterans a free lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
60. TGIFridays: Lunch is on the house for all active and retired U.S. military service members on Veterans Day. Those with military ID will be treated to a free lunch menu item up to $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
61. Twin Peaks: Active duty and veterans get a free menu item from the Annual Veterans Day Appreciation Menu.
62. Village Inn: Free INN-credible V.I.B. breakfast for veterans and active duty military. Valid on 4 INN-credible items: Cheese Omelette, Strawberry Crepe, Hickory-Smoked Bacon or French Toast.
63. Wienerschnitzel: Veterans and active duty military receive a free Chili Dog with a small fry and a 20-ounce drink.
64. World of Beer: A free select draught beer or $5 off your entire bill. Bring proof of military service.
After a routine training run in Alpena County, Michigan in late July, US Air National Guard Capt. Brett DeVries survived the perfect storm of malfunctions to safely land his A-10 Thunderbolt II on its belly without the benefit of landing gear.
During a training exercise where A-10 pilots practice dropping inert bombs and ripping the planes’ massive gun, DeVries’ gun malfunctioned. Moments later, his canopy blew off his plane as he flew along at 375 miles an hour, according to a US Air National Guard write up of the event.
The incredible winds smacked DeVries head against his seat, nearly incapacitating him. “It was like someone sucker punched me,” he said. “I was just dazed for a moment.”
DeVries wingman, Major Shannon Vickers, then flew under his plane to assess the damage, finding bad news. The panels under his plane had been damaged, and it was unclear if he would be able to lower his landing gear.
Meanwhile, DeVries struggled against the wind and having everything loose in his cockpit. He could no longer benefit from checklists, which had become a liability that could now potentially fly out and get stuck in his engine.
DeVries, having the flight from hell, had two of his radios go down and had to communicate with Vickers and flight control on his third backup system. They worked together to find him a nearby spot to land and Vickers observed that DeVries would not in fact be able to use his landing gear.
“I just thought, ‘There is no way this is happening right now.’ It all was sort of surreal, but at the same time, we were 100 percent focused on the task ahead of us,” Vickers said.
Miraculously, thanks to the meticulous training A-10 pilots undergo and the incredibly rugged design of the plane, DeVries walked away unscathed, and maintainers will be able to fix the plane.
One soldier was killed and seven others were injured during training Thursday on Fort Bragg.
Staff Sgt. Alexander P. Dalida, 32, of Dunstable, Massachusetts, died during the demolition training that was part of the Special Forces Qualification Course, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The cause of death is under investigation.
Dalida was a student in the Special Forces Engineer Course and was assigned to 1st Special Warfare Training Group at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
A spokesman for USASOC said the others injured in the training were students and cadre at the Special Warfare Center and School, which trains the Army’s Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers.
He said the soldiers were transported by air and ground to Womack Army Medical Center for care.
Womack is one of the Army’s largest hospitals and has the busiest emergency department in the force. Its staff regularly trains to handle so-called mass casualty events that could otherwise sow problems when numerous injured soldiers are brought into the hospital at one time.
Lt. Col. Rob Bockholt, the USASOC spokesman, said officials were not ready to comment on what might have caused the injuries or the severity of the other injuries.
In a statement, leaders within the Special Warfare Center and School said their thoughts and prayers were with Dalida’s family and friends.
“Our primary focus right now is to care for his loved ones,” said Col. Michael Kornburger, commander of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group. “We will honor Staff Sgt. Dalida and help his family in their time of need.”
“The special operations community is a close-knit family,” added Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, the commanding general of the Special Warfare Center and School. “At the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, we consider every student who enters our institution a part of our SWCS family. Staff Sgt. Dalida’s death is a reminder that a soldier’s job is inherently dangerous.”
The Special Forces Qualification Course, which can last up to two years, is the process by which soldiers train to become Special Forces soldiers, colloquially known as Green Berets. Officials have previously said fewer than one in eight soldiers who try make it through the grueling course, which mostly takes place on Fort Bragg, nearby Camp Mackall and surrounding training areas.
Dalida had served in the Army for 11 years, officials said. He enlisted in September 2006 and trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Prior to attending Special Forces Assessment and Selection, officials said he served in aviation units.
Dalida’s awards and decorations include the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with one oak-leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal with oak-leaf cluster, three Army Good Conduct medals, the Combat Action Badge, Aviation Badge, Parachutist’s Badge and Air Assault Badge.
In response to the incident, several elected leaders expressed sympathies for those injured.
“Please join Susan and I in praying for the families and soldiers injured today,” tweeted North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis.
Sen. Richard Burr said he also was praying for the soldiers and would follow news of the injuries closely.
Gov. Roy Cooper made similar remarks, also on Twitter.
And Rep. Richard Hudson, whose district includes Fort Bragg, said he also would monitor the situation.
“Renee and I are sorry to hear about today’s training accident at Fort Bragg,” Hudson said in a statement. “We will continue to pray for the soldiers who were injured and their families.”
The injuries are the latest in a string of unrelated incidents during military training.
On Tuesday, a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, died during medical evacuation hoist training, according to officials.
And on Wednesday, 15 Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, were injured when their amphibious vehicle caught fire during a training exercise. Eight of the Marines were taken to a burn center in nearby San Diego, officials said. Three were listed in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon and five were in serious condition.
All three incidents are under investigation.
On Thursday, Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the recent deaths and injuries were a “constant reminder of the daily dangers faced by service members as they prepare to defend our nation abroad.”
“In the past few months, we have seen far too many reports of death and injury to service members due to accidents during training,” McCain said. “Four times as many service members died during routine training in the last three years than in combat. These incidents demonstrate the current over-taxed state of our military both at home and overseas, and the failure of Congress and the president to give our troops the training, resources and equipment they need.”
The Fort Bragg incident is believed to be one of the largest training accidents outside of airborne operations in recent years for the nation’s most populous military installation.
In 2014, one soldier was killed and seven others were injured during an artillery training exercise. Other mass casualty incidents on post since that time have been related to motor vehicle wrecks or parachute jumps.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Everyone else is mission focused, but Carl is over there talking about fishing. Or wearing a funny prop. Or maybe even doing an accent while wearing a fake mustache. It would be hilarious back in the barracks. But since the squad is four steps away from a closed door and the fatal funnel, everyone really wishes he would focus up.
3. The Carl who won’t stop talking
Maybe it’s nerves, or maybe he was raised by overattentive parents, but this guy seems to think every moment is made better with his singing, sound effects, or commentary. Sure, some of his one-liners are pretty great, but it would seriously be better if he shut the f-ck up. For once.
The whole unit can go through four briefings and dozens of rehearsals, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that when push comes to shove, Spc. Carl is going to hit the trigger while trying to engage the safety.
5. The Carl who randomly plays with dangerous equipment
Of course, that’s why he shouldn’t be touching anything dangerous. Unfortunately, this is the military and keeping Pfc. Carl safe near an armory is like trying to keep “that” uncle sober during a distillery tour. You’re going to fail, someone is getting burned, and the locals aren’t going to want to see you again.
6. The Carl who is an expert in everything but his job
This Carl is at least moderately useful. They could be an expert in physical fitness or maybe they’re a “good” barracks lawyer (actually knows more than 25 percent of the regulations they try to quote!). But still, they know jack and/or crap about their actual job. Need someone to actually purify some water? Don’t ask Carl, he’ll reach for the hand sanitizer and eye drops.
7. The Carl who always has somewhere to be (usually the smoke pit)
Call for an extra mag or grenade during combat and you’ll understand why this Carl is the worst. You reach back for some extra firepower only to hear from one of the Joes that Carl is actually in the Humvee checking his Facebook messages or in the smoke pit puffing on a clove cigarette (yeah, he’s that guy). Hope you can still achieve fire superiority.
Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, recently singled out seven top employers of veterans and their families, and it’s no surprise that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made the list, along with Booz Allen, Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and others.
A total of 123,608 veterans — more than 30 percent of the workforce — work at VA, according to the latest federal government data. Glassdoor said veterans choose VA careers for its generous employee benefits, such as tuition assistance and loan repayment. A physician quoted in the article commended VA for its “great mission, incredible benefits (and) good work/life balance.”
Through the Transitioning Military Program, VA also has well-paying careers specifically for veterans with healthcare skills. Veterans of healthcare fields successfully work as health technicians, Intermediate Care Technicians (ICTs), mental health providers, nurses, physicians, and support staff in other healthcare occupations.
(Department of Veterans Affairs)
ICTs, for instance, are former basic medical technicians, combat medic specialists, basic hospital corpsmen or basic health services technicians applying their skills to care for fellow veterans. (Meet ICTs Ryan White, Anthony Juarez, and other VA employees.)
Choose VA today
Other benefits of a VA healthcare career include 36 to 49 days paid time off per year, depending on the leave tier, and the ability to apply military service time to a civil service pension, participate in a 401(k) with up to 5 percent in employer contributions and gain access to a range of exceptional health insurance plans for individuals and families.
Are you transitioning from the military? See if a career with VA is the right choice for you.
EXPLORE how to transition from the military to a VA career.
The rigors of combat leave a lasting impact on many veterans who have proudly served. As painful as it is to admit, as a society, we’ve mostly left these troops to fend for themselves and find their own path in coping and healing.
No two roads to recovery are alike, but there’s one method that’s proven, time and time again, to be an effective way for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to see through the haze — and that’s adopting a support animal.
Whether it’s an officially certified and properly trained service animal or just a pet that offers its unconditional love, it’s been proven that animals can get veterans through their struggles.
As many veterans who are accompanied by a support animal can tell you, a little nudge of love can make the biggest difference in the world. Such is the story of Andrew Einstein and his dog, Gunner.
And the two have been inseparable ever since.
When he was deployed in August, 2011, a grenade went off near Andrew. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the hearing on his right side. The road to recovery was long, lonely, and painful. Without adequate support, Andrew went through dark times. He reached his lowest point less than ten months after the injury, and intended to end his own life.
Thankfully, he made it through the night. The very next day, he met Gunner. He wasn’t the biggest or the most energetic dog, but this little puppy didn’t want to leave Andrew’s side. Gunner chose to stick by Andrew, despite of all the hardships he’s endured.
The bond between the two grew with each passing day. Today, Andrew and Gunner participate together in various runs and obstacle courses across the country. Competition after competition, the pride Andrew has for Gunner, as he successfully navigates the various challenges, can only be described as the pride a parent has for a child.
“Service dogs allow people to live a life they otherwise wouldn’t be able to live because of whatever issue or disability they’re suffering from,” says Andrew. “It’s near impossible to do anything on your own and having a support system — whether it be one dog, a team of people, it doesn’t matter the number — if you don’t get help, you’re gonna get worse. But if you ask for help, you’ll get better. You’re still the same person, nothing changes, except your life getting better.”
Andrew found that support system in Gunner.
To learn more about Andrew and Gunner’s incredible journey — and to explore the amazing ways a service animal can impact lives — visit Nulo’s website.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has raised the possibility of conflict between his army and U.S. forces in Syria if they do not withdraw from the country soon — prompting a warning from the Pentagon.
In an interview with Russia’s RT television on May 31, 2018, Assad asserted that he is willing to negotiate with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are allied with and embedded with U.S. forces and currently hold about one-quarter of Syria’s territory.
But he said he will reclaim their territory by force, if necessary.
“The only problem left in Syria is the SDF,” Assad told RT, adding he sees “two options” for solving the “problem.”
“The first one: We started now opening doors for negotiations. Because the majority of them are Syrians, supposedly they like their country. They don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners,” Assad said in English.
“We have one option: to live with each other as Syrians. If not, we’re going to resort…to liberating those areas by force.”
Assad added that “the Americans should leave.” He said Washington should learn a “lesson” from its experience in Iraq.
“People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore,” he said.
Assad’s threat to use force against U.S. allies in Syria and about 2,000 American troops providing them with air support and training prompted a warning from the Pentagon.
“Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking U.S. forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, said at a press conference in Washington on May 31, 2018.
The U.S. State Department also said that while Washington is not seeking conflict with Syria, it would use “necessary and proportionate force” to defend U.S. and partner forces, which have teamed up to fight Islamic State militants in the region.
In the RT interview, Assad responded sharply to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent description of him as an “animal,” saying, “What you say is what you are.”
Backed by Russian air power and Iranian and Hizbullah militias on the ground, Assad’s forces have gained significant ground in recent months in the seven-year civil war that has killed an estimated half a million people and driven another 5 million abroad as refugees.
After regaining control of Syria’s two largest cities — Aleppo and Damascus — Assad this spring set his sights on areas in the country that remain outside his control and in rebel hands.
The Kurdish militia group SDF that is backed by the United States holds the largest area of Syrian territory outside government control, but it has tried to avoid direct clashes with the government during the multisided war.
Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the SDF, said in response to Assad’s comments that a military solution would “lead to more losses and destruction and difficulties for the Syrian people.”
The SDF wants a “democratic system based on diversity, equality, freedom, and justice” for all the country’s ethnic and religious groups, he said in a voice message to Reuters.
Assad in the RT interview also sought to minimize the extent of Iran’s presence in Syria. Israel, which is alarmed by what it claims is a growing Iranian military presence in Syria, has recently destroyed dozens of military sites that it claimed were occupied and used by Iranian forces and Hizbullah militias.
But Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria has been limited to officers assisting the army. Apparently referring to a May 10, 2018 air strike by Israel, Assad said: “We had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian casualty.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent Britain-based war-monitoring group, has said at least 68 Iranians and pro-Iranian forces have been killed in Israeli air strikes since April 2018.
IT jobs are some of the fastest growing, most secure jobs around today. Although they require a lot of education and experience, military veterans who held similar roles in the military tend to transfer extremely well. We did some research on the IT jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics say are growing the fastest, and these are the most in demand, and will be in the future.
1. Software Developer
What software developers do
Software developers are the technical and creative minds who design and develop software for computer programs and applications.
Duties of software developers:
Analyze users’ needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
Recommend software upgrades for customers’ existing programs and systems
Design each piece of an application or system and plan how the pieces will work together
Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that show programmers the software code needed for an application
Document every aspect of an application or system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades
Collaborate with other computer specialists to create optimum software
Software developers are responsible for overseeing the entire development process for computer systems and applications. One of their main responsibilities is to identify how the users of the software will interact with it. Software developers must also keep in mind the type of security that their software will need in order to protect users.
Developers design and write the instructions for a program, and then give the instructions to the programmers to actually write the code. Some developers, however, might even write the code for the software.
(Photo by Farzad Nazifi)
Work environment of software developer jobs
Software developers typically work in teams that also consist of programmers. They must be able to work together and exchange ideas freely in order for the product to work. Typically, software developers work in an office and work 40 or more hours per week.
How to become a software developer
Software developers usually have a bachelors degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field. If you are going to school for software development you can expect to take courses that focus more on building the software. Many students gain experience by completing an internship with a software company while they are in college.
Even though writing code is typically not the responsibility of the developer, they still must have a strong background in computer programming. Through the course of their career developers will need to stay familiar with the newest computer tools and languages.
Software developers must also have knowledge of the industry they work in. For example, a developer working on digital recruitment software should probably have some knowledge about how the recruiting industry works.
Looking closer, the employment of applications developers is expected to grow by 31%, while system developers is expected to grow by 11%. The need for new applications on smart phones and tablets contributes to the high demand for applications developers.
The insurance industry is expected to need new software to help their policy holders enroll. As the number of people who use this software grows over time, so will the demand for developers.
Growing concerns with cybersecurity will contribute to the demand for software developers to design security systems and programs.
Job applicants who are proficient in multiple computer programs and languages will have the best opportunity to secure employment.
2. Information Security Analyst
What information security analysts do
Information security analysts are responsible for creating and overseeing security measures to protect an organization’s computer systems and digital assets from cyberattacks.
Duties of information security analysts:
Monitor their organization’s networks for security breaches and investigate a violation when one occurs
Install and use software, such as firewalls and data encryption programs, to protect sensitive information
Prepare reports that document security breaches and the extent of the damage caused by the breaches
Conduct penetration testing, which is when analysts simulate attacks to look for vulnerabilities in their systems before they can be exploited
Research the latest information technology (IT) security trends
Develop security standards and best practices for their organization
Recommend security enhancements to management or senior IT staff
Help computer users when they need to install or learn about new security products and procedures
Information security analysts are heavily leaned upon to create their organization’s disaster recovery procedures, which allow an IT department to continue operating in the face of an emergency. Because cyberattacks are so common and dangerous now, these measures are extremely important to the stability of an organization.
Analysts must be familiar with how cyber attackers are operating, and be prepared for new ways they may infiltrate a computer system.
(Photo by Markus Spiske)
Work environment of information security analysts
The work environment of IT security analysts is typically set in the headquarters of a company so that they can monitor the computer systems, unless the company has a separate office strictly for their computer networks. As you can imagine, the majority of their work involves being on computers and monitoring for unusual activity.
Most IT security analysts work at least 40 hours per week, and some work more than that. They often work in teams and may even have specific people assigned to monitoring different aspects of a network.
How to become an information security analyst
To become an IT security analyst you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-focused field, and many employers prefer a masters degree and some work related experience. A Master of Business Administration in information systems is the preferred degree for upper level positions. This is where military experience comes into play. If you had experience in this field in the military, you will have a great edge over your competition.
Information security analysts are very well paid and will enjoy great job security and profession growth in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of information security analysts was ,510 as of May 2017. Employment of information security analysts is expected to increase 28% by 2026, which is considerable faster than the average occupation is expected to grow over that same time period.
Because cyberattacks are so common now, information security analysts will see a high demand for their job in the future. They will be expected to come up with innovative solutions to combat cyberattacks. As banks and other financial institutions continue to increase their online presence, they will need to ensure the safety of their own data and that of their users. This is true for many organizations, which makes information security analysts valuable.
Prospects who have prior experience, such as military veterans, are expected to have the best chance at gaining employment. Additionally, having special certifications and advanced degrees will be preferred moving forward.
Companies hiring for information security jobs
AECOM: AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries.
ORACLE: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.
Oracle: At Oracle, our vision is to foster an inclusive environment that leverages the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of all of our employees, suppliers, customers and partners to drive a sustainable global competitive advantage.