How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

“The cannabis industry needs more veterans, not just because they’re high quality people but because they can get sh*t done.” – Dan Tobon, founder and board member of American Fiber

James Brobyn and Dan Tobon are two veterans with a passion for hiring and helping veterans through their company, American Fiber Co.

Brobyn, CEO of American Fiber Co. served with the U.S. Marine Corps for 13 years with multiple combat deployments and is a Purple Heart recipient. As enlisted, he worked on hueys before commissioning as a mobile infantry officer. James is the former Executive Director of the Travis Manion Foundation, rated 4-Stars by Charity Navigator. He also has experience as the Co-Founder of CauseEngine, which provides on-demand capacity building for the Modern Nonprofit. He attained a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy and M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania in NGO and Non-profit leadership.

Tobon is a founder and board member of American Fiber. U.S. Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq. As an 11B, from mounted reconnaissance to light recon, to full-blown sniper reconnaissance for the last five years of his career. He is also the CEO of iVIK Holdings Ltd., an international cannabinoid company. His experience in the cannabis industry stems from his experience as the former CEO & COO of Franklin Labs, a licensed PA producer; Operations and Regulatory Consultant for CannaPharmacy. A successful entrepreneur, his business experience includes several tech start-ups. He also served as an attorney with Latham & Watkins in London and holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois, and J.D. from University of Chicago Law School.

CBD stands for cannabidiol. Although found in many other plants, CBD occurs in higher concentrations in the Cannabis Sativa L. (hemp) plant. CBD is just one of the over 113 cannabinoids found in hemp and is known for its therapeutic and healing properties, but without the THC mind-altering effects or “high” for the person using it.

AmbassadorCBD.com

WATM: How did you come up with this business idea?

Dan: James and I actually met back in Philadelphia back in 2013-2014. My wife took a fellowship at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia so we moved from Chicago. At the time I was the CEO of a company called Starchup. We are currently one of the largest mobile app providers in the laundry delivery space. James and I were part of the first cohort of BunkerLabs Philadelphia chapter. It was a group of about six veterans, all entrepreneurs. James was working on his company at the time, CauseEngine, and we just started paling around with similar interests. We have very similar personalities as go-getters and self-starters. We both took on a mentorship role for the other veteran entrepreneurs at BunkerLabs. After a year, year and half, of knowing each other, Pennsylvania was going to go medically legal. We realized we had both been tapped as prospective applicants for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana licensing initiative. We talked about how much we believed in cannabis, not just CBD, but cannabis in general and the benefits to the veteran community.

My brother happened to be a pain management doctor and saw firsthand the [negative] effects that opioids were having on his patients.  He took a very strong interest in cannabis for pain management. Seeing my friends coming back from Iraq, some resorted to prescription medication or alcohol to deal with some of their issues. They faired poorly compared to the veterans who leaned more toward CBD and other cannabinoids.  My personal experience is from a back injury in Iraq. I went through treatment, physical therapy, VA, private, all that stuff. Cannabis was a much better solution for me personally. I got back from Iraq and went to law school two months later. Cannabis was really the only thing that helped me concentrate on a first-rate education and improve my quality of life.

I became the CEO of a company called Franklin Labs after winning one of the licenses in Pennsylvania. I knew James had a strong interest in the industry, so, I asked him to join the company as the CEO of their Delaware operations. James took over and ran with it. Subsequently, we both left that company and started our own series of companies called American Fiber and iVIK. iVIK is an international cannabis company — it’s one of the companies we source our CBD from. It’s part of an operation out of Colombia called NuSierra. James, another partner, and I were the initial founders of American Fiber, which James is now the CEO and runs.

cannabis company

That’s where the Ambassador and Valorcraft brands are being launched. The use of cannabis is a strong proponent for the treatment of PTSD, chronic pain, back pain and other afflictions our generation of veterans deal with. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve been raising money for early-stage ventures and have launched a couple of successful companies. I met James and he had a shockingly similar profile as me. We found we shared a lot of the same beliefs in regard to cannabis and CBD. It’s been a dream working together because we’ve done a lot of really cool stuff in the space and we’re really excited for the future of these companies.

James: I think one of the cool things here, especially for the readers of We Are The Mighty, is Dan and I found each other through Bunker Labs. Without these local organizations connecting veterans that is not going to happen. To me, if you take the advocacy and all the work we do, the most important thing we can do is get veterans together and working with each other. Dan and I share values on how we want to approach business, same work ethic, and it seems to make a lot of sense to go after it. The opportunity to interact and work with other veterans – creates these other opportunities.

A lot of vets who have been deployed, especially grunts that have been in combat, are perfect to be entrepreneurs in cannabis. The best entrepreneur training is to stick some dudes in a little town in Iraq and say, ‘figure it out.’ There is literally no other better entrepreneurial training better than that. When I worked with Dan and the other partners I realized, ‘holy sh*t, these guys are really smart.’ All these smart people working together is going to make me smarter and better. Everyone has a similar background where no one settled. Everyone is looking to improve, innovate. Push the envelope, work with each other, collaborate and drive teams to succeed.

Cannabis is a very hard business. Navigating it requires great partners and laser focus otherwise it won’t work. We hire a lot of vets, spouses, and families because we share a lot of the same viewpoints we do. Initiative-based decision making is the value veterans bring to the community.

WATM: America is moving closer to nationwide, federal legalization of cannabis products. What myth would you like to dispel regarding the stigma of CBD products?

Dan: That’s a good question.

James: There’s a lot.

(laughs)

James: I think it is very well accepted. In my experience, people see it and generally accept it. There is a misconception around its efficacy, what it does, people can feel like it’s snake oil on the medicinal side. Some people think it’s just an awful drug on the other side. The more I learned about the plant and the endocannabinoid system that is in everyone’s body. They just found the endocannabinoid system like 15 years ago – literally scientists have recently discovered that cannabinoids connect with different receptors in our bodies. That’s where the anti-inflammatory piece comes from [regarding] cannabinoids. That’s why it is specifically so hard to dial in what cannabinoids do what because different cannabinoids react differently to the endocannabinoid system in our body that produces the positive, medicinal effects. That and euphoria. In a lot of ways, it is an incredibly complex, incredibly useful plant on so many levels. Honestly, whether you make rope with it or turn it into a T-shirt or help a kid with his epilepsy. I’ve seen all those things in real life.

Dan: I think the biggest stigma is misplaced. When we were kids, people from our generation were told ‘pharmaceuticals are good but other drugs are bad,’ without any real discussion about the benefits that could be had that have been around for thousands of years. I think we are moving past the stigmatization as more and more people from our generation use these drugs to medicate. One of the things we are fighting is that this is not a placebo. There are real effects that this plant has and real benefits if it is used responsibly. What we really need to do now is call for more scientific research into these molecules to make sure we’re getting the greatest benefit out of them with safety and efficacy. If anything is going to destigmatize the use of this plant it’s going to be learning about it, to have real scientific research done on it. It is truly a shame that veterans are losing benefits in the VA because they are choosing to self-medicate with something that is less harmful than the drugs they’re being given – and it works.  

WATM: How do CBD products help veterans?

Dan: When I got back from Iraq I had an adverse reaction to something called Strattera because of my PTSD and inability to concentrate. I wasn’t getting more than four hours of sleep a night. It was wrecking me. I was going to start grad school in one of the most competitive schools in the world and I literally could not shut my eyes without vehicles exploding. When they put me on that drug, Strattera, I couldn’t sleep for four days straight. It got to the point where I almost had a psychotic episode. Luckily, the people around me noticed I was a little more twitchy than normal. It turned out the psychiatrist had been wrong. The person I was interacting with had zero experience with PTSD patients. That drug is specifically cited to have adverse effects with people going through type of episode. That’s when my brother approached me and said, ‘you should try something a little less intense. Maybe take some gummies I brought from Colorado and see if you can get some sleep.’

I slept like a f**king baby.

I slept almost 24 hours after not having slept for four days. Granted, I was coming down from Strattera and being exhausted contributed to sleeping for that long. That was my introduction using this type of medicine as a medicine to self-care. I was taking a huge risk. Possession of an ounce of cannabis was a felony in the state of Illinois at that time. It was crazy that as a decorated veteran that I couldn’t find a way to be treated with the normal tools were available to the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time. Also that I had to do something illegal to find a medication to help me deal with the issues I was dealing with at the time. The U.S. has come a long way since 2006 in terms of legalization, but I still think we have a ways to go to get the people at the VA healthcare system realize there is a lot of potential to do a lot of good. We have to be responsible with what products people are using, researching efficacy, and safety which is the stage we are at now.

If veterans want to come to you for their medical needs, how would they go about that?

James: Well, don’t come to Dan and I personally because we’re not doctors!

(everyone laughs)

I think it is one of the challenges. We own some dispensaries in Michigan, we’re opening new ones in Delaware, we have access in Nevada. There are two different ways to get medicine, let’s focus on CBD, the state based regulatory systems are what they are. Dan’s oil at NuSierra, one of the easiest ways we recommend to most people is how your body reacts to cannabis. A lot of it is personal, we need to do more research into therapeutics so people take them and have an exact result. [The industry] is years from that. [The industry] needs to spend money and do it. Dialing into your medication, such as for sleep, the CBD we import from Colombia is USDA certified organic from NuSierra. We place it in glass bottles, it’s mixed with coconut oil to make it easier to digest. If you got to AmbassadorCBD.com you can dive through that eCommerce site and you’ll get our USDA organic oil straight from the mountains of Colombia, crafted by another veteran, straight to your door. Field grown, single origin, beautiful.

That’s the way you want to try CBD right now, honestly.

Look for the highest quality product you can get as someone new to CBD. Start from the top and dial it in from there. You want quality, clean products. We’re super transparent and above board but that’s not everybody. Customers can get access to testing and quality assurance information. It helps people narrow down what their CBD dosage is. For example, I take 3ml a day, so, three droplets in my smoothie in the morning and I’m good to go. I take it every day, it helps me stay even all day, stay focused. That’s what I found has been most successful for me. A lot of people use it in the evening for sleep. Everyone is a little different but taking the leap like,‘I want to give this a try,’ will change your life. We also work with SierraDelta, a non-profit organization that provides working dogs to vets. They’re actually one of the best non profits out there from what I could tell.  As we deploy our ValorCraft brand is both a medical marijuana cannabis flower product but it is also going to be a veteran focused CBD line of products. One of our first initiatives is ValorCraft/SierraDelta co-branded products, one focused on the vet and one focused on his dog.

Basically the consumers would buy it for themselves and something like $5 or other portion of the proceeds would go to SierraDelta directly. We give back part of our sales, we already do in Michigan, that’s very valuable. As we get our operations up an running, we encourage and retain veterans as high quality people. Living by our values by supporting veterans. We don’t want to be like other companies who say they’re going to give a percentage of their proceeds and never do it.

We’re going to do it by giving them money based off of every sale. We want to help vets by putting our month where our mouth is by supporting great charities like SierraDelta.  Near term one of the most important things we have coming up is launching our AmbassadorCBD line. We’re very excited about having people trying high quality, imported CBD oil from Jamaica and Colombia. Especially the NuSierra line, which is the only USDA 100% certified organic oil coming in from anywhere overseas – we’re the only people that can import it. We have a lot of exciting stuff going on.

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of We Are The Mighty?

James: When it comes to the cannabis [industry] I say take the risk and jump in. It’s an awesome industry. Professionally, how people are trained, the industry needs you.

I want to hire veterans because they’re bad ass. Not because somebody feels bad for them. No! You get some meateaters sitting at the table, you’re going to get a lot of stuff done. You’re going to do it and you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. You can trust that they’re going to deliver because they told you they were going to do it. That’s the advantage of hiring vets [as a vet] because you have this common starting place. They still have to earn their spot but if I have a former grunt platoon sergeant or 0369 that doesn’t know how to get out after it, I’m going to know pretty quick. There are a lot more of the guys who do know how to get out after it and get it done responsibly with high integrity. Tons of opportunity there.

popular

4 times Prince Harry showed why he’s the ultimate veteran

There has never been a special relationship quite like the one between the United States and the United Kingdom. If we want to feel good about the future of that alliance, we should look no further than Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, also known as Harry Wales, slayer of bodies in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.


He’s seen war and death, both on the ground and in the air. And he’s not just going to sit around, acting like a royal, and pretend it didn’t happen. Harry takes on the spirit of many post-9/11 era veterans here in America and over in the United Kingdom: He’s still looking out for his brothers- and sisters-in-arms while celebrating and remembering his time in uniform.

And rocking an amazing separation beard.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

“C’mon, POGs. Chow is this way.”

1. He wasn’t about to let his groundpounders go fight the war without him.

While his father and brother before him also joined the military, neither of them sought out a tour in Afghanistan (or anywhere else) to join the troops they lead in the British military. Harry, the Duke of Sussex is an accomplished officer, JTAC, and Apache pilot and it was while working as a JTAC that he once fought off a Taliban assault alongside British Gurkhas, manning a .50-cal to do so. But he almost didn’t get to go. Fearing his presence would make other troops a target in his vicinity, the Ministry of Defence almost kept him out of Afghanistan altogether. That did not sit well with the Prince.

“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now… The last thing I want to do is have my soldiers away to Iraq or wherever like that and for me to be held back home.”

Hell yeah, Prince Harry. And he didn’t go to some cushy desk job either. He was sent to Camp Bastion, the only camp in Helmand that was overrun by heavily armed Taliban fighters.

This also means that if he’s in a position to speak up for the troops, the men and women of the UK’s armed forces know they have someone who’s been there and done that speaking up for them.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

2. Because f*ck this interview, there’s sh*t going down.

For anyone who thought his deployment was a publicity stunt, think again. With the cameras rolling, he got the word that he was needed… and didn’t even excuse himself before running off, presumably to kick someone’s ass.

That should tell you how dedicated to a fight the British Army is once they’re committed. Prove me wrong.

3. He really, really cares about fighting troops. All of them.

In 2013, Prince Harry visited the Warrior Games, the adaptive sports competition held by the U.S. military to rally and support its wounded warriors. While there, he saw 80,000 people come out to watch the troops compete against each other.

He took the idea home and created the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for service men and women from 13 different countries. Listen to him explain the day that changed his life for ever, the day that inspired him to do something for military veterans, in his own words.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

You think he landed Meghan Markle just because he’s a Prince? I guarantee she won’t let him shave that beard.

4. He sports an awesome veteran’s beard.

Put aside the fact, for a moment, that he resembles a British version of Chuck Norris. Prince Harry sports a beard that he maintains both in and out of uniform, despite British Army dress regulations. Don’t like it? Go ahead and tell the Prince how to dress. We’ll wait.

And if you think it’s just a phase he’s going through, remember that he was sporting that beard at his wedding. Which was also in uniform. And broadcast worldwide.

Veterans

Veterans to help plant 10 million trees

Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Corey Read said conservation and military service share common values. The Marine veteran and farmer is part of a new initiative to reduce pollution in Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams by planting 10 million trees across the state by 2025.  

The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, brings together a variety of nonprofit organizations, individuals, and agencies to address polluted water. The goal is to stabilize stream banks, improve soil quality, reduce flooding, and provide habitat for wildlife. 

“You go overseas and serve in a combat zone and then you come home and see there are other ways to serve your country and community,” Read said.  

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Read and his wife, Esther, are the owners of Shupp Hill Farms, a 100-acre cattle farm located in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Since taking over the family business in 2019, Read continues to explore innovative solutions to keep his family’s third-generation farm successful. 

One of those solutions is conservation. His approach is to bring farming “back to the basics” through regenerative agriculture and sustainable farming methods.  

“As part of our approach, we wanted to do the right thing on our farm, such as fencing off trees and waterways that are part of the Chesapeake,” Read said. 

The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans more than 64,000 square miles. It encompasses parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and contains more than 100,000 streams and waterways and impacts 18 million people. 

The program is a great fit for members of the state’s Veteran Farming Project, says Director Mimi Thomas-Brooker. The organization is a grassroots network made up of veterans, military members, and spouses who farm and operate agribusinesses. 

“Veterans and military members who farm in Pennsylvania strive to be good stewards of their land. They respect soil health, clean air, and clean water — this effort will provide a resource to them to conserve the natural resources on their farms.”

“A lot of our farms want to plant more trees . . . because it’s the right thing to do but there is a cost factor there. That’s why this is a great match,” Thomas-Brooker said.  

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

According to Read, farming is something that veterans like and sustainability appeals to this new generation of veteran-farmers. 

“It’s a very close community; there’s a huge support network there and you kind of feel like you have a purpose. And I think, serving overseas you have a purpose. Farming gives you that community purpose again,” Read said.  

There are many reasons to plant 10 million trees but Thomas-Brooker says the top goal is to provide healthy soil and clean water for everyone. 

“Trees are instrumental in an urban setting for cooling things off . . . They help clean the air but their root systems, especially near streams are super important to keeping drinking water clean and keeping sediment out of the stream,” she said.  

According to the project’s founders, planting 10 million trees will reduce 4.6 million pounds of nitrogen, 22.2 million pounds of sediment, and 43,000 pounds of phosphorus across the state. These changes will help boost recreational activities, increase farm activity, and make the region healthier. 

Back on Read’s farm, these initiatives will come to fruition in the spring once the ground thaws. He’s currently working with a consultant to determine the best tree species for his property. In the meantime, he’s taken land out of use, including wetland areas, ponds, and a stream traditionally used to water animals.  

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Working with the 10 Million Trees Project, a 35-50 foot buffer will be created with what he is calling a “natural park setting along the water.” The trees will be a natural filtration system that will prevent the animals from polluting the waterways with waste. Taking this land out of use comes at a cost to the farm, but Read believes it is worth it in the long run for the farm’s sustainability, the health of the region, and the watershed.  

“When I was going through officer training with the Guard, they asked me, ‘Where did you get your values from?’ I always go back to farming. I’ve always been drawn to the hard work aspect of it.

“There’s no more central tie to the community than farms,” he said. “Farms are such an integral part; they are the life force of a community. I want to continue to give back and I think the way to continue to do that is through the farm,” Read concluded.  

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA releases new findings on the connection between TBI and dementia

VA and the Kristine Yaffe Lab at the University of California, San Francisco, have taken a new approach to understanding the association of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) — with and without loss of consciousness (LOC) — with dementia among veterans. Their recent study, one of the largest in the United States, included 178,779 veterans in the VA health care system who were diagnosed with various levels of TBI severity.

The study found that TBI with and without LOC are both associated with a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even mild TBI without LOC was associated with more than a twofold increase in the risk of a dementia diagnosis.

The study was part of the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC), a federally funded research project devised to address the long-term effects of mild TBI in military service members and veterans. CENC is jointly funded by VA and the Department of Defense.


TBI overview

TBI is a complex physiological condition that can arise when a brain experiences trauma, either directly or indirectly, during any of a variety of moderate to catastrophic events. TBI has been researched and studied in-depth by some of the world’s leading neurologists, neuropsychologists, neuropsychiatrists and other leading mental health experts. Their goal is to develop treatments, tools and resources to help those affected by TBI return to their previous, or close to their previous, quality of life and cognitive ability. TBI among veterans is a key focus area of VA physical and mental health care, and VA conducts research every day to help unravel the intricacies of TBI’s symptoms and effects.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

In the past 10 years, researchers and clinicians have confirmed that TBI may be a risk factor for dementia, but they have yet to determine why. Some professionals think dementia may be related to the injury itself, while others believe that head trauma may cause toxic and abnormal proteins associated with dementia to build up over time.

Advice for veterans experiencing symptoms of TBI

Evaluation by a physician is critical to help identify and address symptoms of TBI. TBI can be difficult to diagnose because it has many causes, such as motor vehicle collisions, sports-related injuries and falls. Among veterans, TBI may be caused by a single event, such as an IED blast, but also may occur over time as a result of repetitive jolts to the head or neck. If you have had a recent head injury, or if you had a head injury in the past and are concerned about recent changes in your memory, consult your physician for a screening.

During a TBI evaluation, you and your doctor will discuss what caused your injury and ways to deal with any physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and headaches. You also will explore how these symptoms affect your daily life. Your doctor may recommend counseling to help you learn ways to manage the effects of TBI. Because a TBI can affect the way the brain functions, medications may be needed or changed to assist in recovery and coping.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

To learn more about TBI symptoms and treatment for veterans, visit VA’s mental health page on TBI or go to MakeTheConnection.net, which features videos of veterans talking about their experience with TBI.

Understanding dementia risk factors

Although there is a slightly elevated risk for dementia among those who have experienced TBI, that does not mean everyone with TBI is at risk. TBI is only one of many risk factors for dementia, including genetic markers, that are being studied. No matter what risk factors you may have, it’s important to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, monitor your heart health and try to remain mentally and physically active.

The future of TBI and dementia research

The VA health care system recognizes that more research is needed to further understand and provide the best health care to veterans with TBI. This study suggests that veterans with TBI — in particular, older veterans — should be monitored and screened at regular intervals for any signs of memory changes. Research collaboration among VA, universities and national organizations such as the National Institutes of Health will continue to expand our knowledge of TBI and related conditions and opportunities to prevent and treat them.

About the VISN 21 MIRECC

VA’s VISN 21 MIRECC is committed to improving the clinical care of veterans with dementia and with post-traumatic stress disorder through the development of innovative clinical, research and educational programs. This center’s approach is to identify risk factors for cognitive decline in older veterans and to develop and implement novel countermeasures to minimize this decline.

For more information on VISN 21, visit www.mirecc.va.gov/mirecc/visn21.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

6 reasons why veterans would gear up and head back to war

As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?


Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.

With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.

Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)

Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.

1. If another major terrorist attack happens

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.

I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)

2. For a huge bonus check

Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.

And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)

3. If your military family went as well

The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.

You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)

4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you

Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.

These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)

5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again

Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.

He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)

6. To get some adventure

Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.

Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.

Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After years of vigilant service, veterans must remain vigilant online

The internet is a powerful tool for veterans. It allows them to keep up with friends, access their hard-earned benefits and shop for the things they need. Unfortunately, former service members are more likely than civilians to be targeted by online scammers while doing these things. Veterans are twice as likely to lose money to fraud because of identity theft, phishing, impostor scams, and investment, loan, or donation deceptions.


Many of these scammers target Veterans to alter or access their government-provided aid, swindling them out of the money or benefits they have earned. This is a widespread issue. Nearly 80% of Veterans say they have been targeted by scams due to their service, according to an AARP survey. These scams are diverse and range from phishing attempts to solicitations for fraudulent Veteran-focused charities.

“Help the Vets” is one example of a fraudulent charity targeting Veterans. It claimed to fund medical care and mental health services for Veterans. An investigation found that “Help the Vets” spent 95% of donations on administrative costs and compensation for its founder. Just 5% of proceeds were actually used to benefit Veterans.

Scammers and identity thieves also target financially stressed Veterans with promising investment opportunities. Recently, a man defrauded about 2,600 people—many of whom are pension-holding Veterans—in a Ponzi scheme. The investor told these pension holders to make monthly payments and disguised them as cash flows.

Identity thieves have developed both low-tech and high-tech ways to steal Veterans’ data, like shoulder surfing and skimming. Shoulder surfing requires that someone physically look over your shoulder to steal your password, PIN, or credit card number. Skimming utilizes a device that fits onto regular credit card machines, allowing scammers to steal your credit card information.

How to protect your information

Veterans can take simple actions to better protect their information:

  • Use unique passwords for your online accounts. Re-using passwords increases the risk of cyber theft.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines more than one authenticator type based on information users know and information users receive. It also adds another level of security when Veterans log in to access and manage VA services and benefits.

VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. VA delivers cybersecurity awareness training for all VA employees. It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes. Lastly, VA gives free credit monitoring to Veterans and beneficiaries whose data was compromised by a VA breach. Veterans or beneficiaries of identity theft not caused by a VA breach can contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Veterans can also find additional information on protecting their identity and what VA is doing to help by visiting the More Than a Number website.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

When things get squirrely, military vets have several advantages over career civilians. Vets, of course, have the benefit of combat and tactical training, but they’ve also learned to develop a formidable mental game.


Former Green Beret Mike Glover used this notion as inspiration and a jumping off point when he founded Fieldcraft Survival, his school for disaster preparedness.

With 18 years of deep operational experience, certifications out the wazoo (just check his founder’s bio), and a doomsday sense of humor that would make Mad Max proud, Glover is uniquely qualified to teach civilians to keep their heads and preserve their lives as the worst case scenario unfolds.

“At Fieldcraft, our whole basic motto is we’re teaching mindset over hard skills.”

Things, of course, got extra squirrely when Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis dropped in for a visit.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Glover hustled Curtis right into training, first in the classroom to reinforce the importance of developing a strong mental game and then in the field, where the two ran through the O.P.S. Course, which stands for Observe, Prepare, Survive.

And just as the word “challenge” was leaving Curtis’ mouth a distant cry of distress told our heroes it was time to oil up for action.

What happened next pretty much sums up the whole series.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
These are the faces of true bravery. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Glover teaches this wannabe Martin Riggs the real meaning of the word “squirrely”, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

Articles

13 hobbies veterans recommend for dealing with stress

After over a decade as an enlisted infantry Marine, my husband jumped ship and crossed over to the dark side as an officer.


When he made the switch, two things happened: he found himself stressed studying more than ever before, and he found himself absolutely bored out of his ever-loving mind in between training classes to become a Marine pilot.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Col. John Kent, the deputy commanding officer of Madigan Army Medical Center prepares the wort chiller for entrance into the boiled wort during a home beer brewing session at his home in DuPont Wash., Feb. 25, 2017.

In a moment of serious desperation, he took to Facebook to plead with his veteran buddies to share their favorite hobbies for dealing with stress and boredom, and they did not disappoint.

In no particular order, here are 13 hobbies these veterans recommend for dealing with stress:

1. Woodworking

Here’s what Newt Anderson wrote: “I recommend woodworking. Start simple, carving. Otherwise you could go down the road of coloring books! You would be surprised how relaxing both can be. A good set of woodworking tools is a must though. Don’t skimp on those or the blisters you get will make you regret it.”

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Stefano De Bortoli, 31st Force Support Squadron wood hobby shop manager, blows sawdust off a piece of wood, March 24, 2015, at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

2. Beer Making

David Sap recommended beer making. Mr. Beer carries a pretty wide variety of starter kits for brewing your own beer, and they claim to be simple, clean, and time efficient. Which is great, because time efficient means more time to brew more beer. Where are my peanuts?

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Photo Credit: Streetwear Deals

3. Quad Racing

“Quad racing. You should check out Tiny Whoop.” Lucy Goosy

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Not *quite* what we had in mind, but you do you. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

4. Running

Brad Etzweiler and Titus Vanguard both recommended running.

Nothing says “I’m stressed about flight school and the fact that I’m old and fat and can’t run as fast as these boots in my class anymore and I study too much and I also need a stress reliever,” like running a triathlon. Right? RIGHT??

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

5. Kayaking

Gilberto Burbante recommended kayaking. One summer I tried kayaking in white water. As it turns out, I cannot breathe under water and also I suck at kayaking.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
A kayak football player speedily turns his kayak during one of the kayak football games in the tournament held at Naval Support Activity Bethesda’s Fitness Center pool March 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Hank Gettys/released)

6. Pole Dancing

Hales Fuller fully supports pole dancing as an extracurricular. I am immensely interested in seeing my husband do this. *runs away to install a pole*

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
It’s harder than it looks. (Photo via Flickr user Matteo Schmidt | CC BY-ND 2.0)

7. RC Racing

“RC car racing. I enjoy it and still cheaper then the real thing. It gets addicting though and then you spend the money.” Jack Burton is right, though — it looks expensive.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
RC cars ready to race. (Photo via wiki user Itrados)

8. Guitar

My father-in-law, James Foley, (a retired Master Guns and Viet Nam vet) recommended my husband learn to play guitar. I have no objections.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Carrie Gatz, an instrumentalist with the 566th Air Force Band, Illinois Air National Guard, plays guitar for a hospice patient at her civilian job Sept. 11, 2013. 

9. BBQing

“Buy you a smoker — time off, smoke ribs and stuff,” wrote Ryan Clay. Bob Waldren agreed, “I second this. Go hunting and get yourself a few Florida bucks.”

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Nothing brings people together quite like firing up the grill. (Photo via wiki user Gbleem)

10. All the water sports in Florida

Phil John wrote, “Jet ski. [You pay the] initial cost for the ski but then you’re just paying gas. We love ours! Also, spear fishing is a blast. Paddle boarding/ kayaking is great.”

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Racing scene at the German Championship 2007 in a jet ski race on the Elbe, Krautsand. (Photo via wiki user Backlit)

11. Do you even lift, Bro?

My brother-n-law Chuck, also a Marine, recommended lifting. Get thine arse to a gym, brah.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Julian Fyffe does arm curls during physical training aboard the USS Makin Island (LHD8), Feb. 8. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

12. Learn a new language

In addition to lifting, Chuck recommended learning a new language. Homeboy already speaks some Spanish, Farsi, and something else — Arabic maybe?

Extra credit for swear words.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
A U.S. Navy chaplain, right, studies English with an Afghan girl during a volunteer session May 27, 2013, at the Cat in the Hat Language Arts Center at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (DoD photo by Erica Fouche, U.S. Army)

13. Get your sophistication on

Aside from running, Titus Vanguard also recommended, “Books. Read books and run… you are an officer now.” Adulting is hard.

Dr. Seuss is on the Commandant’s Reading List, right?

Screw it. Where’s that beer brewing thing at?

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick McKie, U.S. Army Support Activity Fort Dix command sergeant major, visited New Hanover Township Elementary in Wrightstown, New Jersey March 2 for Read Across America.

How do you relieve stress? Leave a comment and let us know!

Articles

Community Solutions is tackling the epidemic of veteran homelessness

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company
photo credit: M1kha


Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.

Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.

Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.

Community Solutions is a nonprofit devoted to ending homelessness, and one of its projects, Built for Zero, is committed to eradicating veteran homelessness.

A report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HUD Exchange estimates that there are slightly more than 39,000 homeless veterans (both in shelters and without shelter). While still a significant number, that number has seen huge decreases in the last few years thanks in part to partnerships with programs like Built for Zero.

Built for Zero is an intense national program that helps communities develop and implement drastic plans to address the issue of veteran and chronic homelessness, and “the conditions that create it.” The motivation is two-fold: homelessness costs local economies more money by sustaining shelters and emergency medical care, and that veterans who’ve defended this country shouldn’t be homeless in it.

“Homelessness is a manmade disaster, and it can be solved,” Community Solutions president Rosanne Haggerty wrote in the nonprofit’s 2015 Annual Report.

Built for Zero partners with communities and teaches them how to come up with ways to pool and manage their resources, tapping into previously non-traditional homelessness-fighting resources, like businesses, churches, and even real estate companies in order to address some of the conditions that impact homeless veterans.

Employment, transportation and healthcare are just some of the issues that the project addresses when fighting homelessness.

“Community Solutions works upstream and downstream of the problem by helping communities end homelessness where it happens and improve the conditions of inequality that make it more likely to happen in the future,” Haggerty wrote in the report.

Rather than make homelessness just a crime-fighting task, Built for Zero makes it a community task.

The techniques Built for Zero utilize have been proven to work. Earlier this week, a community in Wisconsin announced that it had eliminated veteran homelessness. To date, Built for Zero has housed over 40,000 homeless veterans, and helped 5 communities to accomplish their goals of eradicating veteran homelessness.

In 2015 alone, Community Solutions raised over $9 million through donations and grants. That money assisted in housing over 20,000 homeless veterans in 75 communities- and it saved tax payers an estimated $150 million doing it.

Check out how you can get involved with Built for Zero and impact veteran homelessness in your community.

popular

7 helpful habits that veterans forget

Being in the military requires you to quickly adapt to a very strict code of conduct. The military lifestyle prevents laziness and forces you to maintain a consistent, proper appearance. When troops leave the service, however, their good habits tend to fly out the window.

Now, that’s not to say that all veterans will lose every good habit they’ve picked up while serving. But there are a few routines that’ll instantly be broken simply because there aren’t any repercussions for dropping them.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re that Major Payne type of veteran. If so, good job. Meanwhile, my happy ass is staying in bed until the sun rises.


How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

We’re also probably not going to make our beds with hospital corners any more, either.

(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

Waking up early is an annoying, but useful, habit

The very first morning after receiving their DD-214, nearly every veteran laugh as they hit the snooze button on an alarm they forgot to turn off. For the first time in a long time, a troop can sleep in until the sun rises on a weekday — and you can be damn sure that they will.

When they start attending college or get a new job, veterans no longer see the point in waking up at 0430 just to stand in the cold and run at 0530. If class starts at 0900, they won’t be out of bed until at least 0815 (after hitting snooze a few times).

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Finding time after work to go to the gym is, ironically, too much effort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)

Exercising daily

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with waking up early. The morning is the perfect time to go for a run — but most veterans are going to be catching up on the sleep they didn’t get while in service. Plus, the reason many so many troops can stay up all night drinking and not feel the pain come time for morning PT is that their bodies are constantly working. It’s a good habit to have.

The moment life slows down and you’re not running every day, you’ll start to feel those knees get sore. Which just adds on to the growing pile of excuses to not work out.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Don’t you miss all that effort we used to put into shaving every single day? Yeah, me neither.

(Photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

Shaving every day, haircuts every week…one of the most annoying good habits

If troops show up to morning formation with even the slightest bit of fuzz on their face or hair touching their ears, they will feel the wrath of the NCOs.

When you get out, you’ll almost be expected to grow an operator beard and let your hair grow. Others skip shaving their chin and instead shave their head bald to achieve that that Kratos-in-the-new-God-of-War look.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

“Hurry up and wait” becomes “slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

15 minutes prior

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 14 minutes early, you’re still late. If you’re 25 minutes early, you’ll be asked why you weren’t there 5 minutes ago. It’s actually astonishing how much troops get done while still managing to arrive 30 minutes early to everything.

Vets will still keep up a “15 minute prior” rule for major events, but don’t expect them to be everywhere early anymore. This habit is one we don’t really miss.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Civilians also don’t get that when you knifehand them, you’re telling them off. They think you’re just emoting with your hands.

(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

Suppressing opinions is a hard habit to break

Not too many troops share their true opinions on things while serving. It’s usually just a copy-and-paste answer of, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” This is partly because the military is constantly moving and no one really cares about your opinion on certain things.

The moment a veteran gets into a conversation and civilians think they’re an expect on a given subject, they’ll shout their opinion from the mountaintops. This is so prevalent that you’ll hear, “as a veteran, I think…” in even the most mundane conversations, like the merits of the newest Star Wars film.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

Except with our weapons. Veterans will never half-ass cleaning weapons.

(Photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)

Putting in extra effort

Perfection is key in the military. From day one, troops are told to take pride in every action they perform. In many cases, this tendency bleeds into the civilian world because veterans still have that eye for minor details.

However, that intense attention to detail starts to fade over time, especially for minor tasks. They could try their hardest and they could spend time mastering something, but that 110% turns into a “meh, good enough” after a while.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

In the military, everyone looks out for one another. In the civilian world, it’s just too funny to watch others fall on their face.

(Photo by Alan R. Quevy)

Sympathy toward coworkers

A platoon really is as close as a family. If one person is in pain, everyone is in pain until we all make it better. No matter what the problem is, your squadmate is right there as a shoulder to lean on.

Civilians who never served, on the other hand, have a much lower tolerance for bad days. If one of your comrades got their heart broken because Jodie came into the picture, fellow troops will be the first to grab shovels for them. If one of your civilian coworkers breaks down because someone brought non-vegan coffee creamer into the office, vets will simply laugh at their weakness.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to find out if you’re eligible for the big veteran’s tax refund


The Defense Department has announced
that more than 130,000 veterans may be eligible for a tax refund on taxes paid on their disability severance.

Eligible veterans can submit a 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return for their reimbursement of taxes paid on their disability severance payment.


Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director for the Armed Forces Tax Council, said the Defense Department has identified more than 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for the refund.

According to the DoD’s press release:

“The deadline to file for the refund is one year from the date of the Defense Department notice, or three years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or two years after the tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made, according to the IRS.”
How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

The IRS will accept a simplified method of filing for the refund, in which veterans claim a standard refund based on the year they received their disability severance payment. The standard refund amounts are as follows:

Tax years 1991 – 2005: id=”listicle-2587881382″,7590

Tax years 2006 – 2010: ,400

Tax years 2011 – 2016: ,200

The disability severance payment is not subject to federal income tax when a veteran meets the following criteria:

“The veteran has a combat-related injury or illness as determined by his or her military service at separation that resulted directly from armed conflict; took place while the member was engaged in extra-hazardous service; took place under conditions simulating war, including training exercises such as maneuvers; or was caused by an instrumentality of war.”

“The veteran is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or has received notification from VA approving such compensation.”

Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016

The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 is the solution to eligible veterans being wrongly taxed on their severance payment. The bill asked the Department of Defense to examine disability severance payments that occurred after Jan. 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income.

Even if a veteran did not receive a letter from the Defense Department, they may still be eligible for a refund. Veterans who may be eligible can visit the IRS website and search “combat injured veterans” for further information.

Estates or surviving spouses can file a claim on behalf of a veteran who is now deceased.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA and AMVETS partner up to help ‘at-risk’ veterans

In August 2018, VA and American Veterans (AMVETS) announced a partnership to expand ongoing veteran suicide prevention efforts and establish intervention programs for at-risk veterans.

The partnership followed a January 2018 executive order signed by President Trump that directed the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to collaborate by providing mental health and suicide prevention resources to transitioning service members, and veterans during the first 12 months after their separation from service.


“VA and AMVETS are working together to identify and eliminate the barriers veterans face in accessing health care, enroll more at-risk veterans into the VA health care system, and provide training for those who work with veterans so that intervention begins once warning signs are identified,” said VA National Director of Suicide Prevention Dr. Keita Franklin.

How two veterans are overhauling opioid addictions with their cannabis company

The partnership’s keystone program is AMVETS’ HEAL, which stands for health care, evaluation, advocacy, and legislation. HEAL’s team of experienced clinical experts intervene directly on behalf of service members, veterans and their families and caregivers to help them access high-quality health care, including mental health and specialized services, for conditions including traumatic brain injury, polytrauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. AMVETS offers HEAL’s free services to anyone rather than exclusively to its members.

This example of expanded outreach is directly aligned with VA’s public health approach to veteran suicide, defined in the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, released in 2018. This approach looks beyond supporting the individual to involving peers, family members, and the community.

When it comes to preventing suicide, there is no wrong door to care. That’s why the VA-AMVETS partnership also provides processes for VA to refer veterans for HEAL services and vice versa. This collaboration will bring lifesaving resources directly to more veterans and their families and caregivers, even if the veteran in need is not seeking health care in the VA system.

HEAL support services can be accessed via the toll-free number, 1-833 VET-HEAL (1-833-838-4325), or by email at VETHEAL@amvets.org.

To learn about the resources available for Veterans and how you can #BeThere for a Veteran as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

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