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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

How To Increase Civilian Understanding Of Our Military And First Responders

Image: Spencer PlatGetty Images

"MILITARY TIMES” By Kevin M. Schmiegel and Patrick A. Burke

Addressing the civilian-military/civilian-service divide and ensuring support for our military, first responders, and their families, are critical at this time.

One proven solution to build understanding and increase engagement is the creation of hands-on volunteer opportunities during which civilians can meet our military and first responders in person and learn what they do and what they experience.
For 18 years our nation has been at war. In the face of conflict and adversity at home and abroad, brave Americans have volunteered to serve not only in our armed forces but as first responders in thousands of communities across the country. Between them, more than 4.4 million men and women have taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and pledged to protect the freedoms and securities we enjoy as Americans.
Since 9/11, however, observers have acknowledged a widening gap of “understanding” between the 2.1 million Americans who serve in our all-volunteer military force and the rest of the population. While our nation’s longest war continues and hundreds of thousands of service members still and will continue to deploy each year, a majority of military families feel increasingly isolated from their communities and disconnected from their civilian counterparts.

Americans are also less personally connected to military service than ever before. According to the Department of Defense, the number of young adults with parents who have served in the military has dropped from 40 percent in 1995 to 15 percent today, and less than 1 percent of the U.S. population currently serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II.”

Unfortunately, a similar “civilian-service divide” is developing between the general public and the 2.3 million police and firefighters who also serve in harm’s way. In the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics survey issued last fall, the number of Americans age 16 or older who had contact with the police declined from 26 percent to 21 percent in four years, a drop of more than 9 million people. 

This lack of understanding and positive interaction could also be contributing factors to record-low levels of recruitment for both the military and law enforcement.

Examples of how communities are joining together successfully to share experiences can be seen through recent events in Baltimore on June 1, Philadelphia on July 11, and Nashville on Aug. 17, when hundreds of volunteers stood alongside service families to express gratitude in a tangible way. The battalion chief for the Baltimore County Fire Department said it was “the most incredible thing” he had seen in almost 44 years in fire service. That sentiment was further reinforced by the Baltimore Police Department’s chief of patrol, who pointed out officers “needed the community … to help solve issues.”

Fittingly, a similar large-scale service project took place in New York City on Sept. 5 with the production of more than 10,000 signature Operation Gratitude Care Packages and Care Pouches. During the week of Sept. 11, volunteers will deliver those packages to deployed service members around the world and to first responders who responded to the Pentagon attack 18 years ago. These interpersonal activities will help close the gap between those who serve and those who are served and provide avenues to express mutual respect and appreciation.

With the deaths of 15 service members in Afghanistan and 118 police and firefighter fatalities here at home so far in 2019, communities in our country yearn for opportunities to recognize and thank all who serve in uniform. Hands-on volunteerism is the most effective way for American citizens to engage with our military and first responders, forge strong bonds and build sustainable relationships that ultimately will strengthen their communities, as well as strengthen the resolve of the brave men and women who serve and protect them.”


Kevin M. Schmiegel is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who now serves as the chief executive officer of Operation Gratitude, a national 501c3 nonprofit.

The Honorable Patrick A. Burke is the former United States marshal and assistant chief of police for the District of Columbia, and now serves as the executive director of the Washington D.C. Police Foundation

 e Images

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Commentary on Getting Old


A Q&A web site posted the following question pertaining to getting old. Below is my response:


What is old age to you?

We have heard 40 is the new 30, but yet I think "old" seems to always stay the same distance for me. At 25 I thought 50 was old, at 35 I thought 60 was old, now I have hit 50, 75 is old.I know true age is more a matter of mind, but I would love to know how old you are and at what age you think you will be old.


I took a fall on the ice a few winters ago in front of the Middle School and 2 dozen 5th graders. The fall didn't hurt nearly as much as the laughter and the subsequent whispers later that year, "There goes that old guy again, do you think he might fall?"   He looked just like a helicopter!

I took a nap out in the wildlife refuge in a beautiful stand of aromatic pines. When I awoke I found two huge turkey buzzards staring at me intently from their perch nearby. I had known I was getting older but had not realized I had reached the carrion stage.

I reported a pollution spill in the Vermilion River and the Minneapolis paper picked up the story. A reader commented on the web site that the Minnesota pollution control program had now been relegated to an "Old Guy" in a vets home. 

I feel fine about getting old. It's how I am perceived by others that bothers me.

Monday, September 16, 2019


The below table of contents reflects free small business federal government contracting materials available at Small To Feds.

You may download the book, Small Business Federal Government Contracting and its supplement from the "Box" in the right margin below at this site.  Blue topic titles are the basic book and red topics are contained in the supplement. 

Use the links beneath the table to access more recent articles at Smalltofeds since the publication of the book and the supplement.

(Please click on image to enlarge)

RECENT MATERIAL LINKS (Not included in Above)










All articles are kept current on the web site.  The latest version within the book can be reached by simply clicking on the article live links.

You may also benefit from the free "Reference Materials" in the "Box" in the right margin.  Contract agreements, incorporation instructions for all the US states, guidance on marketing and business planning are all included. 

Other free books by Ken Larson, available as downloads from the "Box" include:

"A Veteran's Photo/Poetry Journal of Recovery
From Post Traumatic Stress Disorder " 

"Odyssey of Armaments" My Journey Through the Defense Industrial Complex"

Sunday, September 01, 2019

GAO Says More Veterans Heading For Veterans Homes That May Not Be Ready

Image: “

“The report, released Aug. 2, found the number of veterans in VA funded nursing home care is expected to total about 44,000 by 2022.
Challenges in contracting with community nursing homes (CNHs), which provide the bulk of that care, could keep the agency from being able to meet demands."
“Although the number of veterans in nursing homes is expected to rise 16% between 2017 and 2022 as veterans who served in Vietnam continue to age, the VA may not be prepared to handle the increase, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
And while some of those issues may be helped by a recent VA healthcare law, known as the Mission Act, concerns remain, auditors wrote.
“While VA expects to continue placing more of the veterans needing nursing home care into CNHs, officials noted some challenges contracting with these homes,” the GAO report states. “Specifically, VA central office officials said that about 600 CNHs had decided to end their contracts with VA over the last few years for a variety of reasons. For example, officials from four of the [VA Medical Centers] we interviewed told us about CNH concerns that contract approvals can take two years, homes have difficulties meeting VA staff requirements, and VA’s payment rates were very low.”
In addition, the homes may not be able to handle the special needs some elderly veterans face, including behavioral issues or dementia, the study found.
“[VA officials] said homes may not have any of the necessary specialized equipment or trained staff, or may not have as many of these beds as needed, to meet certain veterans’ special care needs,” the report said. “VA officials told us that they are working to expand the availability of special needs care in each of the three setting.”
The VA covers the full or partial cost of nursing home care for veterans, depending on availability and the veteran’s disability rating or injuries. Veterans rated at 70 percent or higher for service-connected disabilities or those who are receiving nursing home care as the result of a service-connected disability are fully covered.
The system provides care in three types of homes. CNHs are publicly or privately owned and operated and contracted with the VA. State veterans homes are typically owned and operated under the preview of the state in which they are located. And community living centers, which often provide acute care, are owned and operated by the VA and associated with the local VA hospital.
Auditors found the VA should do a better job monitoring the quality and performance of nursing homes, an improvement that will be increasingly important as the number of veterans using the facilities increases.
VA officials contract out inspections of nursing homes, but do not regularly monitor contractors’ performance to determine whether or not inspections are being done correctly, the report said. And the way the system works with state veteran homes does not flag all quality problems, which keeps the system from tracking them.
Moreover, VA officials haven’t given VA hospital staff instructions on how to conduct on-site reviews of nursing homes without the contractor, which means they can’t hold those facilities accountable for correcting problems, the report said.
“By making enhancements to its oversight of inspections across all three settings, VA would have greater assurance that the inspections are effective in ensuring the quality of care within each setting,” the report said.
The report also recommended that VA clarify its communication on the types of nursing home care are available, giving more information on state veterans homes and how their quality compares to the other options.
VA officials generally concurred with all four recommendations. They said they plan to act on the report’s recommendation to increase oversight of inspectors while changing how issues with state veteran homes are flagged. They argued, however, that their employees don’t have the authority or oversight to inspect community nursing homes directly. They also said they would investigate whether or not it’s feasible to provide data on state veteran home quality.”

Saturday, August 17, 2019


Photo by Zazzle dot com


Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Saga Of A 4 Year Citizenship Search for Vietnam Veteran Tony Rose

Tony Rose recites the Pledge of Allegiance with some of his friends during his naturalization ceremony as a U.S. citizen in Hastings at the Veterans Home where he resides.  (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)

Editors Note:  After an over four-year battle with the Departments of Immigration, Homeland Security and Social Security, the U.S. government conceded Tony Rose, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era and worked in this country for 40 years, in fact never left the country, is an American citizen and can draw his Social Security pension.


"Tony Rose said he now feels a sense of gratification.  And who can blame him? His over 4-year crusade for Social Security benefits is over — and he won.

Rose, a longtime chef and baker said things started to go his way because of Stella Mednik, a New York immigration attorney who  worked on his behalf at no charge for 17 months"


"At a ceremony at the Hastings Minnesota Veterans Home, where he lives, Rose, was presented with a naturalization certificate and, more important, he said, given the assurance that his benefits would begin.

"I know it took a long time, but congratulations,” Sharon Dooley, director of the St. Paul office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, said to Rose, shortly after she handed him the certificate.

“I’m glad it’s over and done with,” Rose replied.

The certificate, which lists his age and when he entered the United States, is the proof that will get the ball rolling with the St. Paul Social Security office, said staff assistant Jon Norberg, who attended the ceremony.

Rose, a Navy veteran, had been trying to get his benefits through the St. Paul office since 2005 — and getting nowhere.

Rose, who moved to Detroit from Canada in 1941 at age 6, said he initially was told the U.S. government had revoked his citizenship 42 years earlier because of a mysterious, unsigned memo that appeared in his immigration file. The typewritten memo states he voluntarily gave up his U.S. residency in 1963.

Social Security officials contend the memo played no role in the decision to deny Rose benefits.

Rose’s attorney, Stella Mednik, said she sent the St. Paul Social Security office several documents that proved his citizenship, including the visa papers from his entry into the U.S. from Canada and his Navy discharge record.

But it wasn’t enough.

She said Rose’s only mistake was not applying for a naturalization certificate when he was 16 years old, which he was required to do. But, she said that shouldn’t have affected his benefits because his father was a U.S. citizen.

Rose, who was born in England, couldn’t provide a copy of his birth certificate, which further compounded the problem, she said.

Even though Rose was considered a U.S. citizen because of his father, Dooley said, his citizenship status was not official because he was never sworn in.
“Those who are 14 and older have to take an oath,” she said. “That’s part of our procedure.”

The naturalization certificate is not mandatory for certain government benefits, she said. It only speeds up the process.

“We have seen there are a lot of agencies that won’t grant benefits without seeing it,” she said. “That’s the Catch-22.”

Indeed, Rose’s benefits claim was denied in 2005 because there was no evidence of his age and no evidence of U.S. citizenship status, Social Security officials told the Pioneer Press in December.

As to why it took five years to get answers, Dooley could only offer up this explanation: Rose was most likely the victim of poor record keeping.

Immigration files before 1956 are not kept in an electronic database, she said, and must be physically retrieved from storage.

“That can take a long time,” she said.

Mednik said Rose’s accrued benefits total at least $50,000.

Rose, a longtime chef and baker who now works at the Hastings YMCA, said things started to go his way because of Mednik, a New York immigration attorney who has worked on his behalf at no charge for the past 17 months.

“I don’t have the words to say what she has done,” Rose said, adding he wished she could have made the ceremony. “She is what a lawyer is supposed to be. I think she’s more excited than me.”

Veterans Home resident Kevin Johnson said he’s been impressed with how Rose has kept his sense of humor throughout the ordeal.

“It’s been a long time coming for him,” Johnson said. “He learned to be tolerable about the whole thing. Although if you need any bureaucracy jokes, he’ll tell you some.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

Retirement – Personal Invention and Re-Invention

Please Click On Image To Enlarge

If one aspires to simply maintain one’s material life style, retain responsibility for those close to us and relax as objectives, that is one form of retirement – call it maintenance.

Many cannot undertake a maintenance retirement due to challenges such as the economic events of recent years, family responsibilities involving their children, or aging parents. They must continue to generate an income but must adjust to advancing age and find new ways to generate revenue.

I hear from many individuals at “Small to Feds” who seek to go into business for themselves on-line or in the home as a way to supplement their retirement.

Given reasonably good health and a responsibility-free environment, most find retirement rather boring after a time and seek continued professional growth. In fact it has been espoused that such a lethargic existence can be hazardous to our health.

Balance is the key – Balancing age with wisdom, lifestyle with responsibility and available means; a new professional endeavor, volunteer work, recreation, the arts, – that which gives meaning to continued existence.

If the need to generate revenue is a prominent factor, care must be taken in assessing risk to health and fortune by investing too much in effort or treasure. That is where the balance comes in.

We have heard 40 is the new 30, but yet I think “old” seems to always stay the same distance for me. At 25 I thought 50 was old, at 35 I thought 60 was old, now that I am approaching 75 years of age, 95 is old.

I know true age is more a matter of mind. I took a fall on the ice in front of the Middle School and 2 dozen 5th graders. The fall didn’t hurt nearly as much as the laughter and the subsequent whispers this year, “There goes that old guy again, do you think he might fall?”

I took a nap out in the wildlife refuge in a beautiful stand of aromatic pines. When I awoke I found two huge turkey buzzards staring at me intently from their perch nearby. I had known I was getting older but had not realized I had reached the carrion stage.

I reported a pollution spill in the Vermilion River and the Minneapolis paper picked up the story. A reader commented on the web site that the Minnesota pollution control program had now been relegated to an “Old Guy” in the vets home.

I feel fine about getting old. It’s how I am perceived by others that bothers me.

We will all retire in some form. We have no choice. What we invent or re-invent along the way to make the most of it is our personal challenge.

Ken Larson

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Two Decades of War Have Eroded the Morale of America’s Troops

Image:  USO - Hampton Roads and Central Virginia


"The military can’t set its own goals, can’t determine its own budget or which ideals it fights and dies for, and can’t decide how its losses will be honored, dishonored, or appropriated after the fact. 

So while America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously."


"If the courage of young men and women in battle truly does depend on the nature and quality of our civic society, we should be very worried. We should expect to see a sickness spreading from our public life and into the hearts of the men and women who continue to risk their lives on behalf of a distracted nation. 

And when we look closely, that is exactly what we see: a sickness that all the ritualistic displays of support for our troops at sporting events and Veterans Day celebrations, and in the halls of Congress, can’t cure.

Our military is a major part of who we are as a country; it is the force that has undergirded the post–World War II international order. Being an American means being deeply implicated in that, for good or for ill. But as Wellman’s response to his war suggests, the solution to our current dead end doesn’t lie within the military itself. 

The military can’t set its own goals, can’t determine its own budget or which ideals it fights and dies for, and can’t decide how its losses will be honored, dishonored, or appropriated after the fact. So while America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously.

What would such a thing look like?

It would probably look like rescinding the open-ended Authorization for the Use of Military Force and making the president regularly go before Congress to explain where and why he was putting troops in harm’s way, what resources the mission required, and what the terms of success were. 

It would look like every member of Congress carrying out his or her constitutionally mandated duty to provide oversight of our military adventures by debating and then voting on that plan. 

It would look like average Americans taking part in that debate, and scorning anyone who tried to tell them they couldn’t. It would look like average Americans rolling their eyes in disgust when our leaders tell us we’re not at war while American troops are risking their lives overseas, or claim that Americans must support the wars their country engages in if they want to support the troops, or when a press secretary argues that anyone who questions the success of a military raid in which a service member died “owes an apology” to that fallen soldier. 

It would look like our politicians letting the fallen rest in peace, rather than propping up their corpses for political cover. And when service members die overseas in unexpected places, such as the four killed in Niger last year, it would look like us eschewing the easy symbolic debates about whether our president is disrespecting our troops by inartfully offering condolences or whether liberals are disrespecting our troops by seizing upon those inartful condolences for political gain. It would look like us instead having a longer and harder conversation about the mission we are asking soldiers to perform, and whether we are doing them the honor of making sure it’s achievable.

In short, it would look like Americans as a whole doling out a lot fewer cheap, sentimental displays of love for our troops, and doubling down on something closer to Gunny Maxwell’s “tough love”—a love that means zeroing in on our country’s faults and failures.

if we don’t, then at some point the bottom will drop out. Morale is a hard thing to measure, but plenty of indicators suggest that it’s been falling. Ninety-one percent of troops called their quality of life good or excellent in a survey done by the Military Times back in 2009, when the downturn in violence in Iraq and a new strategy in Afghanistan still held out a promise of victory; by 2014 that had fallen to only 56 percent, with intentions to reenlist dropping from 72 to 63 percent. 

Recruiting is also down. For the past three decades, the military has generally accepted about 60 percent of applicants. In recent years that figure has been closer to 70 percent and is climbing. And the active-duty force is getting worn out. When I was in, I was impressed to meet guys with five deployments under their belts. Now I meet guys who have done eight, or nine, or 10. 

The situation is particularly bad within the Special Operations community. Last year Special Operations Command deployed troops to 149 countries; some operators cycled in and out of deployments at what General Raymond Thomas called the “unsustainable” pace of six months overseas, six months at home. I recently met an Army ranger who’d done seven deployments. He was on a stateside duty, and told me that when he and his wife realized that he’d be home for two years straight, it freaked them out a bit. They loved each other, and had three kids, but had never spent two solid years together without one of them going on a deployment. This is too much to ask, especially for ongoing wars with no end in sight. 

Theresa Whelan, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, recently told the House Armed Services Committee that the Special Operations community has “had to eat our young … [and] mortgaged our future” to keep going.

Day by day, that mortgaged future creeps closer. When it arrives, who is going to sign up for a vague and hopeless mission? How do you motivate men and women to fight and die for a cause many of them don’t believe in, and whose purpose they can’t articulate? What happens to the bonds between men and women in combat, and to the bonds between soldiers and the citizenry for whom they fight, when we fail as a nation to treat our wars as a collective responsibility, rather than the special mission of a self-selected few?

Without a political leadership that articulates and argues for a mission and objective worth dying for, it’s no surprise that soldiers sometimes stop caring about the mission altogether. A sergeant who deployed to the Korengal Valley, in Afghanistan, told me that by the end of his deployment, he had purposely adopted a defensive posture, sacrificing mission for safety at every opportunity he could. 

This is reminiscent of what one officer said of the later stages of the Vietnam War: “The gung-ho attitude that made our soldiers so effective in 1966, ’67, was replaced by the will to survive.” It’s not that those troops lacked courage, but that the ends shifted. “We fought for each other,” I’ve heard plenty of veterans claim about their time in service, and no wonder. 

If your country won’t even resource the wars with what its own generals say is necessary for long-term success, what else is there to fight for? But if you think the mission your country keeps sending you on is pointless or impossible and that you’re only deploying to protect your brothers and sisters in arms from danger, then it’s not the Taliban or al-Qaeda or isis that’s trying to kill you, it’s America."

Friday, July 05, 2019

Are Americans Truly Independent?


Technology has permitted marvelous advances and opportunities in communication and convenience. 

It has also impacted independent thought and created concerns with respect to privacy and transparency in government. Our focus has shifted recently to sophisticated forms of government technological control that may be both legal and illegal, and are being challenged in our court systems.

Mass marketing and communications have created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth.  They have also confused us about our government functions, our elected representatives and where they are taking us.

We have grown used to the convenience of viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased, news and insincere, short sighted, money driven politicians, who are financed by loosely controlled contributors and influenced by lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts of money made available by the wealthy to impact our opinions.

We have become less competitive in the global economy, as a concentration of wealth has shifted to a very few and our corporations evolve operations outside the country, taking the resulting tax relief, profits, investments and resources with them.


Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day-to-day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well-being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.

Americans have very little trust in the current era.  We see a negative, idealistically bound, bloated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted incursions into foreign countries and a focus on big corporations and big business. 


The key to our true independence is in becoming involved as individuals, taking flight on wings that grow strong by exercising our intellect, our shared opinions and our participation in government.  We must research a personal perspective based on our personal values and take time in the fast pace our culture demands to communicate with those we elect to government before and after the election.

Trust is hard to establish in the modern era.  We see very little true statesmanship in the good people we send to Washington, who promptly become ground up in the huge machine there in order to survive.  That machine must change and the people we send to change it must share that objective with us. 


Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.
To an extraordinary extent, the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectations contribute to it. 
To become truly independent, we must become much more sophisticated ourselves in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves, then communicate our expectations to those who represent us.

If we do not, we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.