Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Veterans Discover Allure of Jobs in Western Wilderness

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Former military men are trying a pilot program in California that gives them a chance to learn new skills and possibly pursue careers in preserving public lands.

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Honoring Illinois' Fallen - United States and Illinois flags at half-staff from Sunrise, Saturday, September 3, 2011 until Sunset, Monday, September 5, 2011.

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The Department of Central Management Services has received notice from Governor Quinn's Office that all persons or entities covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act are to fly the flags at half-staff from Sunrise, Saturday, September 3, 2011 until Sunset, Monday, September 5, 2011.

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U.S. Chamber campaigns to employ vets

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Among the major events preceding the Legion's 93rd National Convention in Minneapolis was a veterans hiring fair produced jointly by The American Legion and the United States Chamber of Commerce. Legion organizers praised the hiring fair as among the most productive of recent Legion-sponsored career fairs and credited the U.S. Chamber's participation, through its network of local and regional chambers of commerce, for its success.

The Legion hiring event was the 19th in an initial series of 100 veterans career fairs to be co-produced by the U.S. Chamber and veterans' advocates nationwide as part of its ‘Hiring our Heroes' initiative.

On Wednesday, Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of veterans' employment programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announced the impending rollout of three additional components in the organization's concerted campaign to employ military veterans. The official announcement of the program expansion will be made on Veterans Day, said Schmiegel, but Legionnaires were being given a "sneak preview."

"On Veterans Day, the U.S. Chamber will launch a private sector national employment advisory council," Schmiegel said. "It will comprise the 25 biggest companies in America. Walmart, FedEx, TriWest (Healthcare Alliance) and Siemens have already agreed to do it. And we're having discussions with companies that are industry leaders because, if we put 25 industry leaders together representing millions of jobs ... think about the impact we can have.

"But it is not going to be done with big business alone. We are going to exercise our network of state and local chambers to get as many of the three million small businesses that are part of it involved with veteran hiring; to commit to hiring one veteran when the conditions are right. If we can just get 10 percent of them to hire one veteran (apiece) by 2013 - just one - we will cut veterans' unemployment in half. That's a movement.

"And we're going to create an IT (information technology) architecture that veterans and employers can go to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Veterans will have the tools they need (there) to transition by getting advice on résumé building (and) by getting advice on how to get a mentor. We'll have a network of millions of mentors, men and women just like you, who are willing to help veterans. It'll be a cradle to grave system. It's not just about the hiring fairs. It's about the day before and the day after.

"I want to stress one thing. "This is not about charity. It's not about good PR. This is about connecting talented veterans and military spouses with jobs that we know exist in the private sector. Veterans are the most resilient, strong, adaptive team players who will rise to any challenge and never recognize failure."

Schmiegel retired two years ago as a lieutenant colonel after 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. "I am often asked why we do this for veterans when the rest of the nation is suffering from high unemployment," Schmiegel said. "As a veteran myself I want to say ‘are you kidding me?' We have men and women putting themselves in harm's way every day and serving their country and you ask the question? Really!

"We have men and women in uniform who leave their families and loved ones behind for 12 months, and we shouldn't make a special effort to help them find jobs? But, instead, I leave those personal feelings aside and make the business case for why we should hire military veterans and their spouses. I talk about the increase in productivity. I talk about effectiveness. I talk about efficiency. I state ‘what's good for business is good for the economy.'

"We believe that there is an incredible opportunity right now; an incredible moment in time to really make a difference. Everyone's talking about this. The White House is talking about this. Congress is talking about this. Non-profits are talking about this. And, the business community is talking about it. Martin Luther King once said, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.' There has never been a moment in time more right than this.

"Finally, you have my word as a Marine that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is going to continue to do everything it can every day to make a difference in the lives of our nation's heroes. Namely, by helping them find jobs in the private sector."


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Over $2.2 Billion in Retroactive Agent Orange Benefits Paid to 89,000 Vietnam Veterans and Survivors for Presumptive Conditions

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cretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today that more than $2.2 billion in retroactive benefits has already been paid to approximately 89,000 Vietnam Veterans and their survivors who filed claims related to one of three new Agent Orange presumptive conditions.

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VA takes aim at jobs, transition help

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Employment, business and education have percolated to the top of VA's crowded priority list as more than 1 million veterans are currently unemployed nationwide and at least as many are expected to leave the military in the next five years, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki explained Wednesday in an address to the 93rd National Convention of The American Legion in Minneapolis.

"These are tough economic times, and that's especially true for veterans," Shinseki told thousands of Legionnaires gathered in the Minneapolis Convention Center. "If we can spend nine weeks in boot camp getting youngsters ready to go operational, we can find the requisite time to properly ensure their successful transition back to their communities, either to go to work or to school."

Shinseki's address came less than 24 hours after President Obama told Legionnaires how veterans can be deployed to help reverse the nation's economic slide. On Tuesday, Obama shared with Legionnaires a White House initiative to provide tax credits for companies that hire veterans, a development Shinseki said demonstrates the president's "unwavering support of veterans, and of business." He said the credits would apply to long-term and short-term employment opportunities for veterans and a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran for firms that hire those with service-connected disabilities.

Shinseki added that VA and the Department of Defense "will spearhead a government-wide effort to reform the way members transition out of the military services. Every member will receive the training, education and credentials needed to successfully transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education."

He said an important component of the concept is to stimulate growth and success for veteran-owned businesses, including increased federal contracting opportunities. "We know, historically, that veterans hire veterans. So increasing the number of successful small business owners who are veterans increases our opportunity to ensure that veterans will have job opportunities."

He also said VA itself has set a goal of increasing its own veteran workforce from 30 percent to 40 percent.

Shinseki said more than 840,000 veterans and family members are now using VA education programs, including 518,000 who are using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. "This fall, thanks to the Congress, we are going to expand that program to provide vocational training and other non-degree job skills for veterans who want to work but who are not necessarily interested in sitting in a college seat for four years."

The secretary rounded out his address by touching on three VA priorities that have been with him for the two and a half years he has held the office: improved access to veterans health-care facilities, elimination of veteran homelessness and reducing VA's backlog of undecided benefits claims.

-On access, he said the number of veterans enrolled for VA health care has increased by 800,000 over the last two and a half years, and more than 89,000 veterans have been approved for benefits due to exposure to Agent Orange during that span.

"We have made it easier for combat veterans to receive care for post-traumatic stress disorder and have hired an additional 3,500 mental health professionals since 2008," he added. "We have built more than 30 new community-based outpatient clinics, and we are building five new VA hospitals. We have also invested heavily in tele-health care, so that we have a constellation of care out there for veterans."

He also said a women's program coordinator has been placed in each VA medical center, and more than 1,200 care providers have received enhanced training in women's care to address deficiencies in that area.

-Shinseki reiterated his promise to end veteran homelessness by 2015. He said VA has housed 29,000 formerly homeless veterans and provided assistance for another 30,000 through VA's homelessness call center. He also called for a "justice outreach" that would place chronic veteran violators of petty crimes and substance-abuse laws in VA rather than jails, to break the cycle of incarceration.

-On the claims backlog, he said it remains a tall order, but success with an automated application process for GI Bill education benefits "gives us a measure of confidence" that VA claims can be similarly processed, and his goal of deciding all claims within 125 days of filing, with 98-percent accuracy, is attainable by 2015.

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