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Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Combat and Defense Company Veteran Connects the Dots On American Warfare

U.S. Wars and Healthcare for Those Who Fight Them 

The U.S. has spent $ Billions on warfare and invasion in the Middle East and many other world locations, sacrificing young soldiers lives in the name of security and military industrial complex profits. 

The 5 largest weapons production and services companies are experiencing the best years in their respective histories. 

Many Americans do not know the number of locations in which we have a military presence today, since in many instances we are not informed when we invade a new country. 

For well over a decade, the US has reacted to the 911 tragedy by creating a behemoth machine that:
  • Knows Only Killing
  • Has Little Understanding of Foreign Cultural Factors in Nation Building
  • Spawns New Versions of Our Old Enemies 
  • Creates a Dangerous Outgrowth of Technology in the Military Industrial Complex and Then Exports It for Profit
  • Defies Financial Control With Dire Consequences for the Nation’s Economic Future 

Economic competitors like China on the world stage have invested enormous amounts in networks involving prudent infrastructure, financial investment and relationship building while avoiding warfare. 
  • China is quickly growing into the world’s most extensive commercial empire. The scale and scope of the "Belt and Road" initiative is staggering.
  • Estimates vary, but over $300 billion have already been spent, and China plans to spend $1 trillion more in the next decade or so.
  • Unlike the United States and Europe, China uses aid, trade, and foreign direct investment strategically to build goodwill, expand its political sway, and secure the natural resources it needs to grow.
A Change Must be Brought About in the Following Manner:

Facing geopolitical and economic realities, stopping war interventions and investing in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.

Ceasing to dwell on threat by building long term infrastructure, education and international development.  The threats will melt away. 

Investing for the long term at the stock holder, company and national levels based on a strategy dealing with both present day and long term challenges in education, communication and society value transitions from threat scenarios to cooperative, peaceful ventures. 

Electing a Congress and an Administration that knows how to strike a balance between long and short term actions and letting them know what we think regularly by communicating with them. 

Knowing that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether to support it, ignore it or attack it.

The Cost in Dollars and Human Suffering to Our Volunteer Military and Its Veterans Involves Profiteering Among Federal Contractors

The massive backlog in veteran's services recently highlighted in the press and in Congress  reveals a dire necessity for simplification, communication and efficiency in processes, systems and government service contracting in DOD and the Veterans Administration as well as better management of federal government contractors. 

The news media, the auditors and the average American are pointing the finger at the President and the Head of the VA.  One cannot ignore the accountability aspects of these individuals.  

However, the real root causes lie in the massive volume of war veterans returning from our pointless incursions in the Middle East over the last decade, coupled with the historical  lack of integration in process and systems work conducted between the Department of Defense and the VA with poorly managed military contractors taking home millions on systems specifications that change like the wind blows.  

A Veteran Connects the Dots in the Military and Veterans Healthcare Systems Maze
The present state of the economy and the needs of our servicemen will not allow the aforementioned to  continue. Government agencies are now hard pressed to insure the most  "Bang for the Buck". It is in the long term interests of the politician, the DOD, the VA and astute contractors to assist in that endeavor. 

The only way to achieve such an objective is through sound technical, cost and schedule contract definition via an iterative process of baseline management and control.

Contract Baseline Management

Government civil servants must be trained to report systemic poor service up the line in lieu of hiding bad news from superiors or developing workarounds.  This must be an expectation built into their job description and they must be rewarded and promoted for meeting that requirement just as they are for the other requirements of their jobs. 

The first whistle to be blown must be to the boss when the service issue occurs, not to the press a year from the occurrence.  

Military Health Care Systems Maze

Strategic and Economic Trends in U.S. Warfare Cannot and Will Not Continue

The debt is too great a burden for generations of tax payers.

It is too risky in terms of technology that falls into enemy hands, either through the "Internet of Things" or by blunders in export management and battlefield events.  

It will be replaced by domestic and foreign relations programs that emphasize global human progress and economic development in lieu of threats.  The result will rely on uplifting, cooperative efforts among nations in lieu of killing. Our competition on the world stage has recognized this fact and is proceeding accordingly. 

The globe has become too small to operate the Military Industrial Machine and the resources that have fueled it will be redirected. 
  There simply is no other way.

 Our returning soldiers and those who have served before deserve better.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

"Helmets to Hardhats" Non-Profit Connects Over 30,000 Veterans To Federally-Approved Apprenticeship Training Programs And Careers

Image:  Helmets to Hardhats
"MILITARY.COM" By Darrell Roberts

"The training is privately funded, provided by the trade organizations themselves at no cost to the veteran. 

This apprenticeship training does not cost taxpayers a dime. Union members, along with their signatory contractor partners, invest more than $1.3 billion annually to fund and operate nearly 2,000 apprenticeship training facilities across North America."


"Returning home can be an overall overwhelming experience. With that said, this Veterans Day, I have a challenge for you.

Talk to a veteran, and tell that veteran that once he or she returns to civilian life, there are groups that want to help -- and, more importantly, there are viable pathways to new, fulfilling careerswaiting on them.

I lead an organization that focuses on connecting veterans to career opportunities in the construction industry: Helmets to Hardhats.

Helmets to Hardhats is a national nonprofit designed to support transitioning active-duty military service members. We work every day, in every part of the country, to ensure all service members understand that hope and opportunity await them upon their return home.

While many companies and groups claim to help employ veterans, are those veterans connected to jobs, or are they connected to careers?

There is a big difference.

This is why Helmets to Hardhats introduces transitioning service members to promising career providers and vice versa. Because that is what they deserve: careers.

Veterans must simply create a profile with us to help training directors determine what transferable skills the applicant acquired during his or her military service.
I know the challenges associated with coming home. I served in both the Navy and the Army National Guard.

This is why I am exceptionally proud of the work we do – of the apprenticeship training programs with which we are affiliated. Each of our efforts feeds into a comprehensive approach, creating viable pathways to success for our nation’s heroes.

Helmets to Hardhats has made nearly 30,000 successful career transitions thus far. That means we have helped roughly 30,000 hard-working men and women find a place in the unionized construction industry.

And our work is far from finished.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the female veteran population and the minority veteran population are both on the rise. Our organization works with all populations, including historically underserved communities and disabled veterans, to be sure all veterans have a fair shot at succeeding.

Here is how it works: Our regional managers hit the pavement each day to get more veterans registered for the federally-approved apprenticeship training of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). Along with our boots on the ground, we also use the digital space to ensure all veterans are aware of, not only the apprenticeship training, but also the good-paying careers associated with this training.

 And no prior experience is needed. Most successful placements are veterans who begin with little to no experience in his or her chosen field.

Veterans even earn wages and benefits as they work through the earn-while-you-learn training. And, since these apprenticeship training programs are regulated and approved at both the federal and state levels, veterans can supplement their incomes by also utilizing their GI Bill benefits.

That means two checks: one from the contractor and one from the GI Bill.

In today’s hyper-partisan climate, it can be difficult to find programs that truly work, and even tougher to enjoy support from both sides of the aisle. Yet NABTU’s apprenticeship training does just that.

What’s not to like?

If you take away one piece of information after reading this, please know that this is not about finding jobs for veterans. This is about so much more. This is about connecting our brave service members to life-changing, lucrative careers.

By working alongside both labor and management, veterans are empowered to succeed – and there is no greater deed than helping a brother or sister who has served our country. So, even if you tell just one veteran, I challenge you to pass this message along:

Veterans should know that when they get home, Helmets to Hardhats is here. Apprenticeship training is available. Careers are waiting for them."


Darrell Roberts is the Executive Director of Helmets to Hardhats

Friday, March 01, 2019

Military Veterans Can Jump-Start Careers In IT With This New, Free Program

Veteran and Apprenti graduate Mike Cooper addresses the crowd at the 2018 Amazon Apprenti graduation. Also in attendance (from left to right) was Apprenti Executive DirectorJennifer Carlson, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Ardine Williams, Amazon’s senior vice president of business operations. (Photo provided by Apprenti

“Many veterans face a frustrating catch-22 upon exiting the military: Most jobs require experience, but it’s almost impossible to get experience without a job.
That’s where a program like Apprenti comes in. It removes the burden of experience and education by immediately placing qualifying veterans in relatively well-paying technology apprenticeships, where they will learn the skills required to succeed in the industry.”
“A lot of those who come to us are not prepared to go back to college for four more years and use their GI Bill that way,” said Jennifer Carlson, executive director of both Apprenti and the Washington Technology Industry Association Workforce Institute, based in the state of Washington.
“They want to go to a job,” she continued. “This is a great transition point with a much more accelerated time investment to a career.”
It’s a simple process: Veterans take a free online assessment that tests them on both basic math abilities and soft skills like leadership qualities and critical thinking. They have two tries to pass it and must wait three months before trying again if they don’t.

Once they pass, the top one-third of candidates will be offered interviews at tech companies including but not limited to industry giants like Microsoft and Amazon. They will stay in this apprenticeship — earning a median salary of $51,000 per year, plus benefits — for a minimum of one year, and if all goes well, they will be offered a permanent job upon graduation.
The program is GI Bill-eligible, so veterans will be able to use the benefit to pay for living expenses. And some of the larger companies Apprenti places candidates in are even willing to help out with university tuition for veterans seeking a more formal education once they are hired on full-time.
According to Carlson, 85 percent of the participants Apprenti places are retained by the company with which they did their apprenticeship. She also said that 46 percent of placements begin the program without a degree of any kind, but they still land jobs with titles like software developer and system administrator.
“These are middle-skills jobs, not entry-level ones like a help desk,” she said. “These are jobs that have natural career progressions, and you’re going to grow with your company.”
These apprenticeships are different from internships, which usually require affiliation with a university, only last about three to five months and tend to be less focused on doing one specific job.
None of that applies to these apprenticeships, which are open to anyone 18-and-over, last at least a year and ensure you receive training in the role in which the company hopes to retain you.
“You are a hire. You are in that job. The company is paying you a training wage, which is where you get to earn and learn,” Carlson said. “Internship is try-before-you-buy, and apprenticeships are train-to-retain.”
A group of Apprenti participants pose in 2017 before they embark on their one-year apprenticeships with Amazon's web-services division. (Photo provided by Apprenti)
A group of Apprenti participants pose in 2017 before they embark on their one-year apprenticeships with Amazon’s web-services division. (Photo provided by Apprenti)
Apprenti has only been around since late 2016, but Carlson said that the number of graduates these companies keep has already grown from a “handful or two” to the hundreds. She expects to place over 450 apprentices in tech jobs around the country in 2019.

Carlson said that 58 percent of Apprenti placements are veterans, many of who are feeling stuck, despite often having professional experience and some education.
“When we look at where competency lies, you have a lot of people who choose to go to second-tier colleges and who are working while in school,” Carlson said. “They have skills, they did the college thing, they just didn’t do STEM. So they have the competency to do the work, but they have no pathway in, short of going back to school and taking on that debt.”
The other part of this equation is the boon to the tech sector, which Carlson described as being severely understaffed across the board. She said that the industry currently has 2 million vacancies, yet only 65,000 students a year are graduating with the necessary computer-science degrees to fill those roles.
Through her experience with the group based in Washington state, Carlson determined that tech companies were reeling both from this labor shortage and a lack of “people who were actually work-ready coming to them, which they didn’t feel many college students were.”
Enter Apprenti.
“Our thesis is that we can find highly competent people, without regard to pedigree,” Carlson said.
So, if you’re a veteran unsure what to do next and are interested in tech jobs — or just want to find work with benefits that could pay a median annual salary of $78,000 after a year of on-the-job training — Apprenti might be exactly what you need to jump-start a new career.”

Veterans Administration Rolls Out New Claims Appeals Process

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"In what Department of Veterans Affairs officials are calling the biggest change to its appeals process in decades, the department will launch a new system for veterans challenging their disability claims decisions.

"The new process gives veterans three options for contesting their claims, with an eye toward drastically reducing the time it takes to receive a final decision.

At the height of the VA appeals backlog in 2013, some veterans had waited years for a decision and more than 610,000 claims sat unadjudicated. To tackle the backlog — defined as cases that weren’t decided within 125 days — the VA hired new employees, instituted mandatory overtime and introduced new processing systems.

Still, the problem persisted with an average wait time for a decision reaching up to three years and the number of backlogged appeals climbing to roughly 300,000 by 2017, when Congress passed the Appeals Modernization Act, or AMA.

Under the AMA, veterans will have three choices if they want to appeal the decision on their disability compensation or other VA claim.

The first option is the “supplemental claim lane,” in which they can introduce new evidence in their case and have a regional specialist review it and make a decision.
Or they can choose the “higher-level review lane,” in which they request that their case be reviewed by a senior adjudicator rather than the regional office. This review will consist largely of looking for errors or mistakes made in interpreting VA policies or laws governing the claim. If a problem is found, the senior claims adjudicator can require that a correction be made.

And finally, they can appeal the decision to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals — basically the same as the current system, although there will be several paths to consider if they request a board review. These paths include:
  • A direct review, in which they don’t submit any additional information and waive their right for a hearing;
  • Submission of extra evidence without a hearing;
  • Or a full hearing, in which they can submit more evidence and testify before a judge.
When veterans receive their initial claims decision, they also will get a letter explaining the reasoning for it, as well as the appeal options “in clear language,” said Cheryl Mason, chairwoman of the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals.

What the AMA was built and designed to do was create a simplified process for veterans. … [Officials] realized that veterans were confused by the process; it was a complex system and it simply took too long,” she said.

The new system will be used throughout the VA for any claim that requires a decision, according to Dave McLenachen, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration appeals management office.
This includes education and insurance decisions, vocational rehabilitation and caregiver benefits applications, he said.
VA leaders hope that the new system will reduce the time it takes for veterans to receive a decision on their appeal to 125 days.

Currently, the VA’s claims backlog is 265,000 cases, while an additional 136,000 cases are under review by the Veterans Board of Appeals, for a total of more than 400,000 cases. VA officials said Thursday that the goal is to clear the backlog by 2020.

A pilot version of the new system, called the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP, was introduced shortly after the AMA was signed. According to McLenachen, more than 70,000 veterans with 84,000 claims appealed through RAMP. The VA has adjudicated 70 percent of those appeals, awarding about $250 million in retroactive benefits, he added.
RAMP will stop accepting new appeals on Friday. Veterans whose claims were filed through RAMP will continue to be processed.

Veterans whose claims are currently in the system and who don’t apply for a decision through RAMP by Friday can opt into the new system if they receive a statement of case from the VA or supply supplemental evidence and receive a supplemental statement from the VA.

Legislators and veterans service organizations helped craft the new system and have largely been supportive of it, although some have voiced concerns over legacy claims and the information technology infrastructure needed to support the new program.

VA officials said they are ready, having hired 605 new employees to handle the appeals.

Mason called the new system a “veteran-friendly change.”
It gives veterans a choice and control over their process instead of getting stuck in the legacy system for three to seven years, on average,” she said.”