Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Track your weight loss

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The first step to losing weight and gaining better health is using self-monitoring techniques to track your calories. Armed with this information, you can reinforce what’s working well. Some evidence suggests that recording food and beverage intake leads to healthy, sustainable weight loss. Weighing yourself daily might help too.

What’s the secret to weight-loss success? Choose a self-monitoring technique that works for you:  Try to do these actions frequently – at least 3 times per week – and turn them into healthy habits.

Keep a food diary.

This form of “paper” record keeping has been around the longest. It’s been associated with improved weight loss results too. And it’s the method of choice for many. While convenient, it sometimes can take longer to look up food items. Some often wait to write down what they’re eating, and this can affect your diary’s accuracy.

Track calories online.

You can choose to receive feedback from a counselor or join online groups or bulletin boards for ideas and motivation. Software programs offer other features such as saving frequently eaten foods or meals for faster entry. Studies show that weight loss using a web-based program is comparable to writing everything down on paper.

Use a weight-loss app.

Mobile apps and programs are becoming simpler and more intuitive to help monitor your healthy eating. Some programs are interactive as well. They also provide nutrition information for more than 45,000 food items, including brand name and restaurant foods. Entering foods and calculating their calories takes only a fraction of the time when compared to a “paper” food diary. Many new apps and programs are being evaluated, and the market is growing annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) SuperTracker is free, and there are many others worth exploring. Find the one that works best for you.

Wear a fitness tracker.

Wearable wristbands can help monitor and record your food intake, activity, sleep, and more. The technology is constantly changing, and several items are currently in the developmental and research stages. These include necklaces with sensors that record information when you swallow, a wearable wristband that counts bites, an earpiece that measures bites, and an electronic “fork” that tracks your eating habits.

Weigh yourself daily.

Those who weigh themselves daily have been shown to be more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. Try to weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking and after you’ve used the bathroom. It’s ideal to use the same scale to more accurately track your weight loss. If you’re increasing muscle mass through strength training, your body weight might not change because muscle mass replaces fat. While you might be getting fitter, the scale won’t reflect this. Instead, try measuring your waist circumference to track your progress. Or notice how your clothes fit.

Your motivation might start to decline in 3 - 5 weeks. Knowing this might enable you to be more diligent about forming healthy nutrition habits. Find self-monitoring methods that work for you, and enlist a friend or family member who can provide encouragement and hold you accountable. Choose an appropriate diet and exercise plan to follow too.

Check with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to make sure the goals you’ve set for yourself are realistic, healthy, and sustainable.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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Battle of Coral Sea veterans to be honored in NYC

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It has been described as “the battle that saved Australia.” The May 4-8, 1942, Battle of the Coral Sea between U.S.-Australian forces and the Japanese Imperial Navy was not only a defining moment in World War II, it also forged an alliance between two nations that continues today.

U.S. and Australian veterans of the Battle of the Coral Sea are being called to action once again, this time for a 75th anniversary commemoration at the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

John Berry, former U.S. ambassador to Australia who now serves as president of the American Australian Association, says as many as possible Battle of the Coral Sea veterans and one family member can receive expenses-paid travel and housing to the event, scheduled for May 4, from 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.

The Coral Sea veterans will also have head-table seating among national military dignitaries, veterans representatives and elected officials scheduled to attend.

Those wishing to attend are encouraged to contact Debbie Chappel by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by phone at (212 ) 338-6860, ext. 2063, before March 1. To learn more about the American Australian Association, visit

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Department Spotlight: South Dakota resurrects close relationship with state leaders

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Editor’s note: This is a weekly series of Department Spotlight stories featuring unique programs and initiatives of departments throughout The American Legion. Department adjutants are invited to recommend subjects for their departments by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The American Legion Department of South Dakota has seen the hard work of making its case to state officials pay off with input in the process of a new state veterans home.

A lackluster relationship between the Legion and the state began to improve in 2010, when Department Adjutant Denny Brenden and Department Service Officer Warren Aas approached both gubernatorial candidates about re-establishing a state cabinet-level Veterans Affairs department, which had been downgraded to a division in 1972. In years previous to this, the Legion had enjoyed a much higher stature in the state capital of Pierre (pronounced “peer”) – in fact, Legionnaire Walter “Speedy” Travis became renowned enough for his lobbying efforts after World War II to have a chair outside the House chamber named after him.

Both candidates agreed, and the winner, Dennis Daugaard – now reaching the end of his second and last term – was as good as his word. The Legion was asked in 2011 to help pick the best candidate for secretary of the new department – Larry Zimmerman, who continues to hold the office today.

At the same time, discussion was ramping up on what to do about the state veterans home in Hot Springs. The first Dakota Soldiers Home was established in 1889, and over the years the facility failed to keep up with changing times.

“Everyone knew that something had to be done,” Aas says.

The cost to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act was prohibitively high, so the idea was floated of building a new facility more central to the state than Hot Springs’ southwest corner. The Department of South Dakota opposed moving or closing the facility in a 2010 resolution, and their input was heard at the state level. It was ultimately decided to raze some of the older buildings on the campus and build brand new.

Work on funding began in 2010, and construction was formally approved by the state legislature in 2013, with a groundbreaking in September. During this time and throughout the construction process, Zimmerman and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels consulted with department leadership for their input; the home’s superintendent traveled to department meetings and conventions to keep Legionnaires up to date.

The Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home officially received its residents in January 2016, along with a formal dedication. Fitzmaurice, a Legionnaire, was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War; a statue of him sits in the lobby. The two-story, 133,000-square-foot facility has beds for 100 veterans plus some capacity for spouses or family. A “neighborhood” design incorporates several rooms and common areas in each spoked wing. Several green elements were included in the construction, from low-flow fixtures to utilizing local wood chips as a fuel source.

Legion department officials were present at the dedication, and the project as a whole stands as a testament to the power of speaking up. Says Brenden, “We have a voice in matters concerning veterans.”

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BLAST: Greater speed, accuracy in recognizing brain injury

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Modern body armor better protects warfighters against shrapnel from explosive blasts. However, they still face a hidden threat – the resulting blast pressure and shock wave that could cause traumatic brain injury (TBI).

To fight this invisible, insidious adversary, the Office of Naval Research is sponsoring the development of a portable, three-part system that can measure blast pressure, establish injury thresholds for the brain and analyze potential TBI symptoms. It’s called Blast Load Assessment Sense and Test – BLAST, for short.

“A system like BLAST is vitally important because it can help recognize the signs of TBI early and tell warfighters they might need medical attention,” said Dr. Timothy Bentley, a program manager overseeing the research for ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “This reduces the likelihood of someone enduring multiple blasts and suffering more serious brain injury. BLAST also is unique for its unique suite of technology.”

Department of Defense doctrine requires all those within 50 meters (approximately 165 feet) of an explosion to “stand down” for 24 hours and undergo a mandatory medical checkup. Bentley said this approach presents two major challenges. First, some forward operating bases are only 100 meters (approximately 330 feet) across, so half of the personnel would need to stand down after an explosion. Second, 24 hours isn’t enough time for a regular medical exam to detect signs of even mild TBI.

BLAST uses coin-sized sensors that are tough enough to survive an explosion, can be worn on helmets and body armor and are able to record blast pressure. This pressure can be downloaded with a specialized scanner – design possibilities include a handheld barcode-style scanner or a stationary one modeled after airport metal detectors. By using a special algorithm to convert data into a “go or no-go” injury threshold, BLAST indicates if exposed warfighters can stay in the fight, or need a TBI-focused medical exam with the third component: a neurofunctional assessment tool.

This assessment tool is sized like a computer mouse, fits in the palm of the hand, and emits vibrations to stimulate fingertip sensations and assess brain health. By testing whether or not warfighters feel these vibrations, administered in a variety of patterns, a medic or corpsman can decide if someone exhibits TBI symptoms and needs to stand down.

“BLAST sensors can provide valuable blast pressure data that can be used to assess the possibility of TBI,” said Dr. Amit Bagchi, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, which is developing the physical sensors. “The more data we have, the better we can predict the presence of TBI.”

“Together, the components of BLAST can enable us to designate a pressure threshold number for when someone is at risk for TBI and needs to stand down for more advanced testing or medical care,” said Dr. Laila Zai, a scientist with ARA, a research and engineering company helping to develop BLAST’s algorithm and neurofunctional assessment tool. “Think of a speedometer. Whether you’re going too fast or slow depends on road conditions, and is indicated by the speed limit. BLAST determines a safe ‘speed’ for the brain.” 

BLAST sensors currently are being tested in laboratories using electrical shocks to simulate blasts of varying size and intensity. Within the next year and a half, Bentley said, the system should be tested on field mannequins and then by Marines completing breacher training – overcoming obstacles such as walls and doors using explosives.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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Several dignitaries to attend, speak at Veterans Inaugural Ball

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Guests at the sold-out Veterans Inaugural Ball – A Salute to Heroes include Medal of Honor recipients, senior military leaders, veterans, corporate executives, entertainers and others.

The ball, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday with a reception before the dinner, features three dozen Medal of Honor recipients including Thomas Kelley, president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Jodi Ernst, R-Iowa, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, are among the speakers planned at the event.

Other dignitaries include David Shulkin, nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs; retired Gen. James Mattis, nominee for Secretary of Defense; retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, nominee for National Security Advisor; and Ted Roosevelt, IV, a Legionnaire, Navy veteran and grandson of one of the founders of The American Legion.

Corporate representatives of the ball’s sponsors such as American Airlines, Boeing, Walmart, UPS, Applied Information Systems, T-Mobile, Farmers Insurance, Moore DM Group, Four Roses, Samsung and others will also be in attendance.

Drew Carey, veteran of the Marine Corps Reserve, will be the emcee. Rascal Flatts lead vocalist Gary LeVox will perform with two of Nashville’s top songwriters, Wendell Mobley and Neil Thrasher. Silver Star recipient James McEachin, a Korean War veteran, will perform a dramatic reading. The “Star-Spangled Banner” will be performed by Janine Stange, who has sung the national anthem in all 50 states.

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Did you know?

Military Funeral Honors ceremonies must be scheduled in advance.

The law requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, which includes the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “taps,” upon the family’s request. This Department of Defense program calls for the funeral director to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veteran’s family.