The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cut Military Funerals?

The following is a letter that AMVETS National Commander Cleve Geer wrote in response to Bill McClellan's column, which focused on cutting military funeral honors in order for the government to save money. To read his column, visit:

I am outraged and disappointed in the opinions expressed in your column that calls for the end of military funeral honors. As the leader of AMVETS, a Congressionally chartered veterans service organization, it is appalling that you suggest cutting funeral honors for military personnel in order for both the federal and state governments to save money.

Only 1 percent of Americans currently serve in the military and less than 7 percent of Americans are veterans.  For you to state that “most veterans did nothing heroic” is absurd. The mere fact that these men and women served in the Armed Forces proves that they are willing to sacrifice time, blood and their very lives for people like you, who they have never met. This in itself is heroic. Our veterans are the role models that children should be looking up to in today’s society. They have exhibited courage, whether behind a desk or in the midst of enemy fire; show that dedication to one’s country is more than demanding the government hand out benefits; and do not complain when the country turns their back and ignores their service, as with Vietnam veterans.

In fact, funeral honors for veterans should be protected in the coming days of spending reductions. Veterans have shed blood and sweat so that we may live in a free and prosperous country. To deny them the honor of being buried and celebrated because you believe they are not heroes shows just how unappreciated military service has become in our country.

Considering how little veterans ask for in return for their service, the least Americans and our government can do is provide them with a proper and honorable burial.

Veterans Supporting Veterans,

Cleve Geer
AMVETS National Commander

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Medal of Honor Recipients to Award Top U.S. Citizen Heroes

Ceremony Marks 150th Anniversary of the First Medal of Honor Presentation

ARLINGTON, VA March 25, 2013 – Our nation’s greatest war heroes – Medal of Honor recipients –
will personally present awards to four unsung citizen heroes who’ve saved lives in extraordinary circumstances, during a special ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.  Approximately 20 Medal of Honor recipients are expected to attend the ceremony.

The recipients will first commemorate Medal of Honor Day, on the 150th anniversary of the Medal’s first presentation, with a wreath-laying at 2:00 at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The recipients will then present the Citizen Service Before Self Honors (CSBSH) awards at 2:30 to four honorees selected from a nationwide campaign for going above and beyond for their fellow man.

The four honorees for the Citizen Service Before Self Honors (CSBSH) are:
  • Father Joe Carroll, (San Diego, California) – Developed and ran a multi-faceted homeless support center offering assistance, counseling and job training, that is now modeled throughout the U.S.
  • Marcos Ugarte, (Troutdale, Oregon) – 15-year-old boy who saved a younger neighbor from a burning home by climbing a ladder, pushing his way through a window and coaxing the boy to safety.
  • Jesse Shaffer III and Jesse Shaffer IV, (Braithwaite, Louisiana) – During Hurricane Isaac, this father-and-son team used their boat to rescue 120 people from their flood-ravaged town after official rescues were called off.

These four honorees were chosen by Medal of Honor recipients from a pool of 23 finalists, announced last month in the CSBSH program that collected hundreds of hero nominations from across the U.S. between September and December 2012. It’s all part of the Medal of Honor Society and Foundation’s mission to share the values of the medal with all Americans.

“We believe that the values of the medal, courage, sacrifice and selflessness are present in all Americans. These four hometown heroes have demonstrated these values by acting courageously to change fate. We celebrate these heroes today, and thank them for the hope they give us,” said Medal of Honor Society President Hal Fritz.

Citizen Service nominations were made online by Members of Congress, police and fire officials, mayors, governors and ordinary citizens. Nominations for heroes surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December are being handled separately later this year.

The complete list of CSBSH finalists, including details of their heroic stories, and more information on the CSBSH program is available at  More information on the Medal of Honor can be found at

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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Hypocrisy of Time's Joe Klein

"Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a Soldier, or not having been at sea."    Samuel Johnson
Most men, anyway.  But not Joe Klein, a journalist, kind of, who clearly thinks very, very highly of himself.  In his most recent self-promoting crusade, Klein calls for the resignation of the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki. 
Why?  According to Klein, Shinseki should “take the fall” for the VA claims backlog, he’s “old-school military” (whatever that means), “stoic,” and “wary of the press” (wonder why); he doesn’t have the “creativity and leadership skills” to deal with VA challenges, and because unnamed detractors are “legion among ... Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”
A few days after his call for Shinseki’s resignation, after several of the most prominent Veterans Service Organizations with millions of members lambasted Klein and supported Shinseki, Klein wrote “Eric Shinseki is a fine man, and a courageous one. He spoke truth to power at the beginning of the Iraq war.” But, he still needs to go.
Really Joe? And who are you to question the secretary’s leadership, judgment, advocacy for veterans, and knowledge of veterans’ issues?

Klein has made a career of writing and saying idiotic things and then backtracking. His outrageous statements have earned the wrath of Catholics, Jews, and even the physically handicapped. He wrote a book, anonymously, lied about being the author, and publicly staked his credibility as a journalist that he didn’t write it, only to turn around months later and admit that, in fact, he had. Exaggerations?  Read it online:
Klein has denied being a supporter of going to war in Iraq prior to the invasion—revisionist history garbage, and a huge flip-flop.  He was a supporter:  Klein said on Meet the Press in 2002: "War may well be the right decision at this point. In fact, I think it--it's--it-it probably is."
Hey Joe, the Iraq war was a primary contributor to many veterans’ issues; you might be surprised to know this, but wars produce wounds, casualties, PTSD and more veterans claims for benefits for VA.  You’d know that if you’d ever served.
At about the same time Joe was concluding that the war was the right decision, Shinseki was testifying before Congress on the war. When asked how many troops were needed, he responded, “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems.”   New York Times, January 12, 2007 “New Strategy Vindicates Ex-Army Chief”
With the benefit of hindsight, Joe, and on the 10th anniversary of the beginning of that conflict, who had it right back in 2002?  Where might we be if we had listened to Shinseki and disregarded media cheerleaders like you?  Is it possible there would be fewer veterans wounded and fewer VA claims?
These two men—Shinseki and Klein—are generational peers; Shinseki was born in 1942 and Klein in 1946.  Comparing how they have spent their lives might help the American people better judge who to trust on veterans’ issues, and who is the better advocate for veterans:
Shinseki is a 1965 graduate of West Point, Klein of U. Penn, 1968. 
While Klein was enjoying draft deferments, working hard toward his Arts and Crafts degree, Shinseki graduated, attended the Army’s Ranger Course, deployed to Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division, led Soldiers in combat, earned his first Purple Heart (shell fragments, chest and shoulder), and was grievously injured in a helicopter crash, breaking his arm, jaw, several bones in his face, and suffering a severe concussion—what we now know as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), one of the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By 1969, when Klein graduated and started his first real job, reporting for The Peabody Times in Massachusetts, Shinseki had undergone months of hospitalization and recovery, and then voluntarily returned to Vietnam as a captain.
And in 1970, while Joe was still scribbling at the Peabody, Shinseki was leading over 120 men in the 5th Cavalry Regiment in combat, stepping on a landmine that removed most of his right foot and resulted in myriad other injuries, receiving his second Purple Heart, and was well into a tough year of rehabilitation—learning how to walk again.
For the next 33 years, Joe wrote some books and served as a reporter at many different media outlets, including Rolling Stone.  
During those same years, Shinseki served around the world, commanding every echelon of Army unit up to and including the vaunted 1st Cavalry Division (with about 18,000 Soldiers). Later, he was the planning officer for the entire United States Army.  In 1997, he assumed duties commanding United States Army Europe, Allied Land Forces Central Europe, and the NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Then served as Vice Chief and Chief of Staff of the Army during terribly difficult years as we entered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And since 2009, Secretary Shinseki, 70, has been working tirelessly to improve VA and best serve his fellow veterans—arguably the most difficult job in Washington after more than a decade of war.
And improvements have come.  His decisions on presumptions of service related conditions for Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, and PTSD, among other improvements, have led to increases of over a million veterans to VA’s rolls for care and benefits.  Since the day of his arrival, he has insisted that VA’s 325,000 employees be advocates for the veterans they serve: “VA must and will change its approach to dealing with veterans.  We can and will become advocates for the men and women who have protected our country and defended our way of life.”
Shinseki has the leadership skills and moral courage to increase access for more veterans—knowing the backlog would rise, willing to take heat for that, even from non-player, bench-sitting, armchair quarterbacks like Klein. And he had the creativity and vision, early in his tenure, to demand that benefits processes be automated in massive changes to the way VA has previously done business.  Those changes are coming on line now, and they will bring the backlog down.  Not fast enough for veterans, not fast enough for Shinseki—but it will happen because of changes he has demanded.
 VA is far from perfect; Shinseki has said so on numerous occasions. But he has a plan to fix issues that go back decades, and he will be successful—if people disregard the idiocy of the Joe Kleins of the world, whose self-serving opinions swing with the blowing wind, who crave publicity and fame rather than volunteering for the hard, thankless work of solving complex problems and serving others. 
 So, you tell me—who has more credibility—Shinseki or Klein?  Who has served their country with more distinction? Who better understands veterans, their injuries and issues?  Who has a better track record of integrity and getting things right? Who has led huge organizations with difficult missions to success? Who better understands how those organizations operate and how to motivate people?  Who has leadership skills, experience, creativity, and the drive to insist on change? Who should we believe?
My vote goes to Shinseki. 

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Statement by acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris regarding BLS report on employment among veterans

WASHINGTON — Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris issued the following statement on today’s release of 2012 veterans’ employment data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“Today’s veterans’ employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows promising signs that post-9/11 veterans are finding and keeping jobs in larger numbers as our overall economy continues its steady recovery. But it also makes clear that we must continue to use every tool available to honor their sacrifice by helping veterans find opportunities to succeed in good middle-class jobs.

“The report shows a significant decline in the unemployment rate for veterans overall from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 7.0 percent in 2012. Post-9/11 veterans saw an encouraging decline to 9.9 percent in 2012 from 12.1 percent in 2011. Other categories also saw improvements. Recent broad-based gains in the overall economy have helped to drive down these rates as we continue adding jobs at a steady pace, but support services that address the unique challenges faced by veterans are essential to improving upon today’s positive report.

“The Obama administration is deeply committed to ensuring the well-being of America’s veterans, transitioning service members and military families. Assuring veterans a pathway to good jobs is a critical element of that commitment. First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have demonstrated a tireless dedication to veterans through the Joining Forces Initiative which is securing commitments from thousands of private employers who recognize that veterans bring unique skills and leadership to their workplaces, and for a lift to their bottom lines.

“The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service at the Labor Department is the lead government agency dedicated to veterans’ employment. VETS serves hundreds of thousands of veterans and transitioning service members each year. In addition, programs like My Next Move for Veterans, the Transition Assistance Programs and the Veterans Gold Card provide enhanced employment services to veterans and transitioning service members, and give targeted support in education and training that will help us reduce the unnecessarily high unemployment rates among younger veterans and female veterans.

“While this morning’s report shows that we are moving in the right direction on reducing unemployment among America’s veterans, much more needs to be done to ensure that no veteran struggles to find work after serving honorably to keep us safe and secure.”
# # #   
To access the Bureau of Labor statistics veterans' employment report, visit:

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013 and Release Key Findings following National Veteran Employment Summit

New Report Features Recommendations for Employers on How to Hire and Retain Military Veterans

Maynard, MA and Washington, DC - March 19, 2013 -, the worldwide leader in successfully connecting people to job opportunities, and flagship brand of Monster Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: MWW), and, the nation's largest military and veteran membership organization, today released a report summarizing the top-line recommendations and discussions following the first National Veteran Employment Summit held in December 2012. The Summit brought together senior human resource professionals, military and government officials, academic leaders and military veterans to address the best practices for preparing, supporting, and connecting veterans to the organizations that want to hire them.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. Va), an active member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised organizations that focus on hiring veterans and stated, "Today's veteran's make great hires, and I've always said, if you want to help a vet, hire a vet."

The report highlights that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every organization looking to implement a veteran hiring program.
Recommendations from the conference include: 
  • Learn from the best. Look to the targeted veteran hiring initiatives, like those at Boeing, JP Morgan and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and emulate their best practices.Take advantage of the tools. From military skill translators to workshops and seminars, there are numerous tools for organizations to use as they implement and grow their veteran hiring program.
  • Build Veteran Affinity and Mentoring Programs. Make use of the veterans you have in-house. Employed military veterans can help support an organization's veterans' hiring initiatives, educate their peers, and serve as a resource to in-house recruiters.
  • Give veterans a chance. 99 percent of employers who have hired veterans recommend doing so.
  • Take the lead. Turn a million transitioning service members into a million talented candidates for your company.
One million service members are expected to transition into the civilian workforce over the next five years, creating an opportunity for companies to take advantage of this diverse, skilled and experienced hiring pool.
Employers are increasingly hiring veterans and reporting satisfaction with their decision to do so. In fact, according to Monster's Veteran Talent Index, 99 percent of employers who hired a Veteran in the last year said that their veteran hires were doing as well or better than their non-veteran peers, and nearly all would recommend hiring a veteran to another company.

However, veterans report facing two main challenges in trying to find work: they feel stuck inside their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) and they leave the military unprepared to deal with the civilian job market. Many are entering the job market as high school graduates who are looking for their first private sector job and lack the tools necessary to translate their skills, training, and experience into corporate culture.

Dr. Rebecca Blank, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, continued with the message that veterans make great hires and stated, "America's veterans have the leadership, the character, and the team-oriented approach that employers are looking for."

With a continued effort from the private sector to empower transitioning veterans in translating their advanced training, specialized education, and military experience early on in the transition process, a new generation of veterans will be able to articulate their military work for the civilian marketplace. And that's something recruiters need help understanding, but with the use of military skills translators and other readily available tools, seeing the workplace potential in a veteran has never been easier.

Veterans also need support as they affiliate with an organization. A key for every employer is to onboard them properly and recognize that internal veteran affinity and mentoring programs will ensure they retain that individual.

To learn more and access Monster's National Veteran Employment Summit report, visit, and to learn more about hiring veterans, visit the Veterans Employment Center.

About is the nation's largest online military destination serving over ten million members, including active duty personnel, reservists, guard members, retirees, veterans, family members, defense workers and those considering military careers. enables the 30 million Americans with military affinity to access information about their benefits, advance their careers, enjoy military discounts, and stay connected for life. develops efficient affinity marketing and communications programs for government agencies and companies serving this market. is a business unit of Monster Worldwide, Inc. More information is available at

About Monster
Monster is the worldwide leader in successfully connecting people to job opportunities. From the web, to mobile to BeKnown® on Facebook, Monster helps companies find people with customized solutions, using the world's most advanced technology to match the right person to the right job. With a local presence in more than 40 countries, Monster works for everyone by connecting employers with quality job seekers at all levels and by providing personalized career advice to consumers globally. Through online media sites and services, Monster delivers vast, highly targeted audiences to advertisers. To learn more about Monster's industry-leading products and services, visit their website. More company information is available in their press room.
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Friday, March 15, 2013

21st century technology paves way for Ashford University graduates

CLINTON, IOWA (March 15, 2013) – South Dakota’s first secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, a global Fortune 100 company's top executive, and a Colorado chief of police have something in common – all three turned to Ashford University's 21st century online education model to advance their careers and become leaders in their fields.

The online model allows students to enhance their education with accessibility and flexibility. Ashford University uses innovative technology to provide online degree programs, with the mission of developing foundational leadership values, such as self-worth, creativity, interdependence, service, integrity and effectiveness.

The mission resonated with Larry Zimmerman, a top enlisted member of the South Dakota National Guard. He became the first official secretary of the state’s new Department of Veterans Affairs on Jan. 9, 2013, just two days after completing his bachelor’s degree in business and organizational management from Ashford University and, coincidentally, on his 59th birthday.

In his new leadership role, Zimmerman oversees more than 100 employees and leads the department responsible for ensuring South Dakota’s 70,000 veterans are receiving the right benefits and opportunities.

When asked what led him to pursue higher education after 29 years in the Army National Guard, Zimmerman said he aspired to set an example for his five grandchildren. “I had to show my grandkids the importance of an education,” he said. “Considering my extensive travel with the Army National Guard, I wouldn’t have been able to get a degree without the accessibility of online education. It worked for me and my career. Recently, I utilized my education to develop a mission statement and write a strategic plan for the new department.”

An assistant vice president within the Securities and Lending Division at JP Morgan Chase, Kaveen Benedict earned his Ashford University master's degree with an information systems specialization at the age of 36. The 2012 graduate was working full-time when he took online classes and credits the university with helping him keep a “healthy work-family-study balance.”

“Online education is the way of the future,” said Benedict. “I used new tools, such as the Ashford mobile app, to post assignments and discussions at any time and from any location. My education has given me the tools for managing larger teams and to fast forward my career.”

John Dyer, a seasoned law enforcement professional with 25 years of experience, earned a bachelor's degree in organizational management from Ashford. Soon after, he was promoted to chief of police in Rifle, Colo.

Like millions of working Americans, Dyer wanted to pursue higher education but was limited by choices. "I wouldn't have been able to make the move up to chief without the degree and would never have been able to fit coursework into my schedule without online education."

As a leader and mentor to his staff of 22, Dyer continually stresses the importance of education. "I tell sergeants and everyone I come in contact with – you have to think three steps ahead to achieve your goals."

Zimmerman’s, Benedict’s and Dyer's preference for online higher learning parallels a national trend. According to a recent national consumer poll by Penn Schoen Berland on behalf of Ashford University, more than 60 percent of adults between the ages of 35 and 48 say online degree programs provide a more realistic learning environment that mimics today’s work culture than traditional campus programs.

Technology makes it possible for students of all ages and backgrounds to advance their careers and become leaders in their fields.

About Ashford University
Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Informational Alert #13 - 1

Newly Introduced Concurrent Receipt Legislation H.R. 303, H.R. 333, S234

This alert is related to AMVETS Resolution 13-21, which calls for enactment of legislation that would provide full and immediate concurrent receipt for all disabled military retirees.
Issue: Congress needs to fully eliminate the law that makes most disabled uniformed services retirees forfeit part or all of their military retired pay for VA disability compensation.
Background: For years, AMVETS has fought for legislation to provide relief from the antiquated law that requires a dollar-for-dollar offset of military retired pay for VA disability compensation. AMVETS wholeheartedly believes that retired pay is earned during a career of uniformed service, and VA disability compensation is recompense for pain, suffering and lost future earning power due to service-connected disabilities.
Since 2003 when Congress took the first, yet limited step towards eliminating this injustice for a small, yet significant, group of disabled retirees, steady incremental progress has continued to be made. Over the last six years, AMVETS has been involved in the battle which fully restored earned service-based retired pay for 100 percent disabled retirees with at least 20 years of service and all combat-disabled retirees without regard to length of service or percentage of combat-related disability.
Perhaps most importantly, AMVETS fought in the battle, which won a scheduled 10 year phase-out of the disability offset (to be completed by 2014) for retirees with 50 percent or higher-rated non-combat-related disabilities who have at least 20 years of service or were retired under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority of the 1990s.  
AMVETS has been and continues to be committed to ending the disability offset for all disabled retirees.  AMVETS strongly believes in the precept that career military members earn their retired pay by service alone, and that those unfortunate enough to suffer a service-connected disability during their time in service should not have any VA disability compensation subtracted from their retirement pay.  AMVETS does not support any distinction between service members disabled for combat versus non-combat-related causes, since the impact on their quality of life and future earnings ability would be equivalent.
Key Bills/Status: Congressman Gus Bilirakis, R-S.C., has reintroduced H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act, would expand concurrent receipt for all length of service retirees regardless of disability rating.
Congressman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., has introduced H.R. 333, the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act, which includes elements of H.R.303 and expands concurrent receipt to Chapter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service.
Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently introduced S 234 which is a bill to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation, and for other purposes.
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