Transition as viewed from the hiring manager’s side of the desk

I keep my finger on the pulse of military transition and veterans affairs, and in my daily search for news and insight into transition I ran across this article a few days ago.  I read it once and then re-read it several more times.  It was included in an Orders to Nowhere Transitionnews post, but it is well worth reposting for those who may have missed it the first time.

The author, Sultan Camp, is both a veteran and a recruitment expert at Orion International.  He squarely pounds the nail through the board with his nine points, all of which I agree with.  If you are transitioning now, will be in the future, or already have, read this and pay attention to what the author is saying.  You can read the original article here.  And here.

The 10th item on the list, should I be so bold as to add to it, would be for military folks and veterans to stop drinking their own bathwater in terms of what they offer employers.  Sure, you have mad leadership skills.  Sure, you have used those skills in the most dire of situations.  Sure, you know how to get people to do things that they don’t want to do.  That said, the military does not have a patent on leadership; the corporate world has been getting along just fine without you by employing the leadership and management skills that resonate in the business environment.  In addition, leadership is a bit different when you can send those who disobey you to the brig.  In the corporate world leadership is not the same as the military, and the differences are such that if you don’t adapt to the outside world then the outside world will ignore you.  Recognize that you have tremendous leadership skills (great!), and that those skills need to be paired with another set of skills that an employer actually needs.  They already have leaders, managers, and employees.  To become one of them, you must show that you can do more than stand around with your chest puffed out and barking out orders.  You need to be a contributor to what the company sells, makes, or otherwise provides to customers.

Anyhow, without further ado, here it is:

Congratulations on Your Military Service… Now Here Are 9 Reasons Why I Won’t Hire You

So, you’ve decided to hang up the uniform after years of distinguished service  to our great nation. You’ve attended a few transition classes and have your  interview suit and shiny new resume as you make the leap into the civilian  world.

You feel confident, because you’ve seen your colleagues leave the  uniform on Friday and come to work the following Monday in a suit and tie making  twice as much salary. You storm the job boards and job fairs. Never mind that  although you’ve drafted a plan of action and milestones (POA&M) for every  significant evolution of your military career, some of you have invested the  least amount of time and effort into your own transition POA&M.

Those of us in the hiring and recruiting business know firsthand  that not all veterans are created equal, and, sometimes, it’s a great business  decision to hire a military professional into our companies. Often, though, many  don’t. Why? Because you’re just not the right fit. A more impressive candidate  captured our attention, or maybe, through no fault of your own, we found someone  internally or received a referral from one of our own employees.

The irony is that many veterans and servicemembers have the  skills and experience to make the cut, or even get the second interview, but  blow it. As a military candidate recruiter, I see  consistent themes in why military professionals don’t get the job. Many may  blame the new Transition GPS, their branch of service’s career center or even  the employers themselves, but here are the top real reasons why you’ll never get  hired:

1. You Can’t (or Won’t) Accept That You’re Starting Over

Let’s suppose that immediately after graduating from college or  high school, I went to work for one of the well-known defense contractors.  During the course of my 20+ year career at that company, I was very successful  and promoted to the position of Program Manager, frequently working with the  military. However, I’m now at that point in my career where there isn’t any  opportunity for further advancement, or I’m simply weary of the industry.

I’m now in my late 30s or early 40s and decide it’s time to leave  the company to pursue a different career. I’ve worked with the military my  entire adult life, so I decide I want to join its ranks. Because of my previous  experience with managing multimillion dollar budgets and hundreds of personnel,  I feel I’m the equivalent of a Commanding Officer or Senior Enlisted Leader.  When I talk to a recruiter about my level of entry, what would they tell me?

The cold dose of reality is that despite all of my experience, I’d  have no idea what the organizational culture is like in the military. I’d be set  up for failure if someone allowed me to don the collar devices and step into a  command position. On day one, something as basic as sending an email to a flag  officer could go very sour very quickly. This is because even though I may have  transferable skill sets, I lack the knowledge of industry norms and protocol  experience to succeed.

A senior military professional transitioning into the private  sector faces the same dynamic. The transition is a bit easier within the  Department of Defense and Federal arenas, but you’re starting anew.  It’s imperative that you understand this. As a result, you should seek ways to  learn the organizational structures of potential employers many  months before you’ll be entering the job market.

Just as I would have been far better informed had I spoken to a  military recruiter before I left my civilian job, so should you be similarly  informed before entering your last year of service. Use recruiters, headhunters,  employment counselors, hiring managers, etc. to gain intelligence and  information so you can be pragmatic in your expectations and planning.  Also, getting a mentor who has successfully navigated into  the private or government sector and is also a veteran will provide invaluable  insight from a perspective you’ll be able to relate to.

2. You Believe You’re Unique (Just Like Every Other Transitioning  Person That Day)

Each and every day, 200 to 300 service members exit the  military. This number will only increase as the nation’s wars come to an end  and forces continue to draw down. In 2012, an average of 470,000 resumes were  posted on Monster each week. Essentially, for every job opening in  the U.S., there are roughly 187 qualified and unqualified job  applicants.

This is the challenge you face in relying on job boards as your  sole method of getting a job. I suggest you think of hitting the “apply” button  as being similar to walking down to the local convenience store and buying a  lottery ticket, then deciding to not do anything else (or continue buying  lottery tickets) until they call your number.

Are job boards still relevant? Yes. However, it’s best to post your  resume to a niche job board that  aligns with your background or industry — and make sure your resume is targeted  specifically for the jobs you apply to.

3. Your Resume Is Longer Than the CEO of Our Company’s (or Shorter  Than a Recent College Graduate’s)

A long resume doesn’t impress me at all. Even worse, a resume that  has neither definition nor clarity is guaranteed to be placed in the trash. I’m  probably going to look at it for six seconds, tops.

Your resume should be a windshield document. That is, it  should reflect the positions you’re going towards. (Click  here to tweet this thought.) It shouldn’t be a rearview mirror which  simply lists all of the duties you performed. It should contain keywords, which  websites such as wordle and tagcrowd can help you identify in both job  announcements and your resume. This is because your resume will most likely be  filtered by Applicant Tracking Software before it even gets to a human resources  screener.

And, while I appreciate that you volunteered to clean up a highway  or had some collateral duties in addition to your main assignments, I’m looking  for candidates who have years of matching relevant experience, the right job  titles and are in the same industry. Most importantly, I’m not looking for a  “jack of all trades”; if I were, the job posting would have said so.

How do you craft a resume that’s forward-looking? Find about 15 to  20 job announcements that match up with your ideal target job title. Incorporate  their language into your resume and make it contextual by inserting your  metrics. Review each bullet point you’ve chosen to use by asking yourself if it  demonstrates a problem you solved or action you took and the results that were  accomplished. The actual length of your resume? It depends on your audience.  Seek out current or former employees at the companies you’ve identified in your  target list and ask them what their company’s preference is.

4. You Didn’t Proofread Your Resume

I would be a millionaire if I got 10 bucks for every time I come  across a candidate who’s an “experienced manger.” There isn’t any substitute for  attention to detail here. Don’t trust spellcheck, and don’t rely  solely on your own review. Have your resume reviewed and critiqued  free of charge by as many eyes as possible. The trained professionals at your  Fleet and Family Support Centers, Army ACAP, and Airman & Family Readiness  Centers are the best resource to catch those mistakes before I do.

After getting your resume reviewed for spelling and substance, take  it to the local university’s English department and have it critiqued for proper  grammar. Seem a bit excessive? Well, if I see misspellings and poor grammar on  your resume, what will I expect from you if I need you to communicate with my  clients?

5. You Don’t Have a LinkedIn Profile (Or, Even Worse, It’s Not  Complete)

In a 2012 JobVite survey, 89% of  hiring decision-makers and recruiters reported using social media sites such as  LinkedIn to find their candidates. If this is the case, shouldn’t you have a  profile already?

Your knowledge of managing your online presence lets me know how  proficient you are in using technology to communicate. It also allows me to see  your skills, even if they’re nascent. If you have an incomplete profile, it may  communicate that you might also expect me to complete your work for you.

Take the time and get your LinkedIn profile set up  right. There are lots of places and resources available  online to get help at no cost, so there isn’t any excuse for not having  one. Additionally, a complete LinkedIn profile allows you to take advantage of  LinkedIn Labs’ Resume Builder to automatically generate 11 different  resume styles based on your LinkedIn profile. Talk about a time saver!

6. You Think Social Media Is For Kids or Sharing War Stories

If you think social media is a huge waste of time and doesn’t offer  real value, watch this video.

The reality is that two out of three job seekers will get  their next job using social media. What does that mean to you? It  translates to lesser-qualified people using technology to their advantage to get  hired. They know how to use each of the social networking sites to the maximum  extent in their transition action plans. If you think Twitter is of little use  to a job seeker or professional, your competition will be happy to land the job  you want because they’re using it and you  aren’t.

7. You Didn’t Prepare For The Interview

During the course of your military career, you’ve conducted  countless boards and interviews. It seems to make sense that you should have no  problem interviewing. After all, you did pretty well in your transition class  mock interviews, didn’t you?

Wrong approach. I’ve seen instances where the most junior  servicemember outperformed a much more seasoned military leader because of one  simple strategy: practice, practice, practice. Practice with  someone who regularly hires or who has hired people at your level recently.

Why do you need to practice? Because you need to be able to be  conversational, convey energy and yet let me know you’re aware of what my  business is, who my competitors are and even who I am. Did you go to the  company’s website to see if we have a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter page? Did we  make the news recently? Google News is a great way to find this out.

I want you to distinguish yourself from the regular job seeker. I  want to know you’re as passionate about my company and what we do as I am, not  just out to get a paycheck and benefits. Make sure you have a set of questions  that I haven’t heard before, and  when we’re about to finish the interview, ask for the job. Don’t worry; I’m not  going to be offended, because I want to see that fire in your belly. Just don’t  overdo it by saying something presumptuous such as, “So… when do I start?”

8. You Wrote a Thank You Note (But Only to Say Thank You)

Sending a thank you note is something that sets you apart from the  competitors also vying for this position. And while it’s appreciated and  infinitely better than sending nothing at all, don’t just send the note to say  thank you; use it to tell me how much passion you have for my  company and the job. Remind me of those things that excited you during  our interview and, if there were any areas you looked vulnerable in, ease my  concerns.

9. You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

When asked what you want to do, the worst possible answer you can  give is, “I don’t know” or “anything.” You have to be able say  specifically what types of positions you’re interested in and how you can add  value to them. If you don’t, you’re essentially saying, “Invest  lots of time and money in me, and maybe it will help me figure out if I want to  do something else.”

If you have no clue where to start, start by looking at colleagues  with backgrounds similar to yours who have recently transitioned. Which  industries are they in? What companies are they working for? Where are they  living? What job titles do they have now? The LinkedIn Labs Veterans App is a great tool to help with this. Be  sure to check it out. Start volunteering to gain professional experience and  seek out internships long before you sign your DD214.

Employers want to feel secure in knowing that you’ll last and that they can  depend on you in your new work environment. Doing an internship or volunteering  will help both the employer and you determine if a position is a good fit.  Additionally, due to the flood of resumes that come in for each job posting,  applicants who have volunteered or performed internships will stand out well  ahead of the others.

Military professionals, especially senior ones, have a lot to offer  our country when they hang up the uniform. The President and American companies are working hard to  ensure that servicemembers and veterans have well-paying jobs with opportunities  to advance. However, no one is ever guaranteed a job, and the more senior you  are, the more challenging the transition can be in terms of education,  credentials, certification and relevant industry experience required. Having a  powerful network is essential and can open doors for you. That said, your  comrades, friends and family can generally get you to the  door, but it remains up to you to be fully prepared when the door is opened.

Well done, Sultan!

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A truly insightful look into the 1st, 2d, and 3d order effects of breaking the military retirement promise

This is a repost of Tony Carr’s exceptional piece on the effects, both intended and unintended, of breaking the nation’s commitment to its military retirees.  The implications of changing the COLA for the military retirement plan go infinitely deeper than simply saving the taxpayer six billion dollars.  In my humble opinion this article is the best yet written on the COLA debate, and you can go to the original posting at John Q. Public.

Risk and Promise: Strategic Advice for Congress

Since 1973, America has relied on volunteers to fight its wars, and they have relied on America to take care of them when the fighting is over.

Led by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray but abetted by Barack Obama, Congress recently gambled with our nation’s future for an extremely modest short-term gain. In doing so, it was given aid and comfort by knowledge-starved pundits, axe-grinding editorial boards, and self-anointed armchair analysts everywhere, as it  left the military and veteran community standing with their jaws on the ground in despairing disbelief.  Exploiting pressure to strike a budget compromise, Ryan and Murray entered into an unholy alliance to reduce veteran pensions – including those already vested under previous covenants – by an average of $84,000 to $120,000.  They obscured this act, as often happens when attempting to mislead, by employing complex-sounding budget doublespeak to minimize the magnitude of the associated moral breach as well as the consequences to veterans and families.  In a way, this debacle can be seen as part of our nation’s continual inability to comprehend and bear the costs of being a global superpower with quasi-imperial interests secured by less than one-half of one percent of its population.  But the particulars in this case suggest something more disturbing lurking behind the standard wallet-grabbing Congressional milieu: a startling absence of strategic deliberation.  When such a deficit impairs elected leaders responsible for national security, potentially grave consequences attend.

Good strategists always ask of any potential course of action two key questions.  First, what will this do for us?  And second, what will this do to us?  Given the dearth of statesmanly impulse at the national level in modern America, it is perhaps unsurprising that in crafting the recent budget, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray asked only the former question, leaving the latter for others to worry about.

The provision at issue retroactively renegotiated the deferred compensation of more than two million military veterans – including tens of thousands still serving in harm’s way — who did their duty in reliance on promises around which they structured their lives. The vast majority of these veterans endured historically abusive operational tempos. Most will carry with them the invisible scars of war for the rest of their lives, running up against psychological limits that in subtle but consequential ways – ways no one who hasn’t served could possibly understand even if veterans were immodest enough to attempt explanation.

Many transitioned out of military service (or will in the future) to find that their skills and capabilities did not translate well in the private sector.  This can slow earnings growth, making an earned military pension critical during the adaptation to civilian life in a down economy.  Those retirees fortunate enough to preserve their marriages have typically dragged spouses through a dozen or so relocations, never giving them a chance to establish professional footing.  This is key, not just in terms of the sacrifices rendered by military families, but in economic terms; in modern America, two incomes are now required to generate the same standard of living one income provided thirty years ago, and this is often beyond the reach of retired military families who have led very abnormal lives prior to retirement.

The All-Volunteer Force relies heavily on the 17% of its members who choose to serve for a career, most of whom are NCOs.

The shorthand employed by Ryan to sell his beloved pension cut envisions healthy, well-adjusted, fattened mercenaries stepping into corporate America to collect millions during the balance of their working years.  How he arrived at this vision boggles the imagination; most retirees struggle to integrate into a new workplace with skills that don’t directly translate while trying to keep pace with competitors roughly half their age.  73% of retirees are noncommissioned officers whose pensions are barely sufficient to keep them above the poverty line.  As a rule of thumb, these people are figures of sympathy rather than valid targets of the socialistic “they don’t need it anyway” notion behind Ryan’s sales pitch.

Ryan and Murray obviously weren’t thinking about these issues.  They also weren’t thinking about the fact that every veteran who has retired since the year 2000 made a decision upon reaching 15 years of service: either turn down a $30,000 career status bonus and retain an inflation-protected pension upon reaching retirement, or accept the bonus and also accept a 1% annual reduction in cost-of-living adjustment with a one-time “catch-up” at age 62.  Most veterans chose inflation protection, which ends up being worth far more in most calculations than the bonus. In summarily removing inflation protection from all military pensions, Congress breached the contract formed with those who turned down the 15-year bonus.  It did this without holding a single committee meeting or public hearing. In a clear signal it wasn’t thinking strategically, Congress did this in a back room not populated by the joint chiefs, who claim to have been surprised by the provision altogether.

But this all makes sense if Ryan and Murray were only asking “what will this do for us?” And it did a couple of things.  First, it bought them the public acquiescence of the service chiefs, who are desperate for funds given the limits of sequestration imposed without mission relief.  Their only option to preclude mission failure is to hold open the gate while others raid the pensions of the very people whose interests they’re charged to safeguard.  This perversely explains why they said nothing as a provision impacting the career decisions of every active duty and retired member of the military sailed through uncontested.

But what the provision really did for those who championed it was to lay the groundwork for a new funding stream to perpetuate pork barrel spending.  If this provision sticks, Congress will have retroactively renegotiated the compensation contracts of more than two million war veterans during a time of war.  If a promise of this magnitude can be rendered so cheap with so little effort, nothing is sacred. This will create broad legitimacy for further pension and benefit raiding, making this just the first of many breached promises and a lucrative source of cash by which Congress can purchase electoral advantage.  It does this by funding needless bases and infrastructure (to supply jobs in their districts), by acquiring and continuing to operate needless weapons (again, jobs), and by continuing to support the nation’s promiscuous involvement in wars of choice that are a boon for defense contractors and war profiteers . . . and therefore, a steady source of votes and contributions.  Footnote: this is an election year.

The Ryan-Murray pension-raid was not a “mistake” as some have claimed and as I’ve suggested elsewhere is a fallacious notion.  It was a calculated breach of the faith for short-term political advantage.  Ryan, Murray, Obama, Hagel, and the rest of those who pushed and supported this knew they were acting immorally, but were willing to accept doing so out of a rational calculation of what it would do for them.  What they didn’t ask is what it might do to them . . . or more importantly, what it might do to us, the nation they claim to lead.

In the modern age, politicians tend to be tacticians rather than strategists.  They’re interested in winning a series of short-term battles that supply them with talking points for use in the next election.  This is so because getting elected has replaced principled leadership as the contemporary political raison d’etre.  By extension, raising campaign funds has come to dominate the activity of elected representatives, displacing time and focus essential to strategic reflection. But in failing to take a sober, adult look at the future when making decisions, politicians assume huge risks on the behalf of the nation as they collect rewards that fall narrowly to them.  When it comes to the legal heist recently carried out against veteran pensions, the risks are enormous.

Alienating today’s warriors risks destroying the willingness of others to step forward in the future.  Military service is very much a family business; it’s difficult to find an active member who isn’t acting on the example of a relative or ancestor. Military service immerses individual warriors in a system of values rooted in honor, trust, and commitment.  This makes them particularly sensitive to moral compromises.  Ordinarily content to serve with quiet obedience, military members will not hesitate to sound off when they see an obvious moral wrong perpetrated (and woe betide us as a country if ever they became blithely accepting of such wrongs).  They’ve shown in the past few weeks that attempts to breach trust with them will not go unnoticed or unmarked.  The implication for politicians is clear: when you break a promise, you’re tampering with the delicate formula upon which the strength and vitality of the all-volunteer force is based.  The consequences to future American security could be severe, and should be studied carefully before risking even the perception of a moral breach.  Pension formulas were last disturbed in the mid-1990s, creating a retention crisis that sent the joint chiefs panicking to the Hill, where they persuaded Congress to restore a 50 percent, inflation-adjusted retirement package.  All we’ve done since then is ask even more of our volunteers, and nothing suggests they are today any less sensitive to these kinds of budgetary shenanigans.

Politicians claim a choice between readiness and personnel funding, but this is a false choice. Tampering with promised pensions could fundamentally injure readiness by hurting morale and chilling volunteerism.

But there’s a deeper and more insidious risk already touched upon, and that’s the risk attendant to avoiding genuine reform of our defense institutions.  It’s true that current defense spending is unsustainable.  It’s not true that this is a result of personnel costs.  They’ve remained constant at about 25% of defense spending since 2001 (despite two manpower-intensive wars) and are down from 30% of spending since 1991.  Other elements of defense spending have grown explosively over the same period of time.  The nation has expensively fast-tracked new capabilities from scratch as a result of being caught strategically off-guard by 9/11 (this, in turn, is attributable in part to the recklessly rapid pace of intelligence downsizing in the prior decade, which afforded America reduced global awareness as the calculus of national security shifted wholesale). It has also fielded costly new weapons systems in an attempt to contend with an uncertain future, virtually all of them coming up short of expectations and over budget as a result of a dated acquisition process riddled with misplaced influence and needless red tape.  Meanwhile, unneeded bases remain open and their facilities remain operating due to Congressional obstruction, and no serious discussion concerning service roles and missions has been undertaken in nearly three decades.  As a result, the services are tripping over one another with duplicate weapons and capabilities, a bonus for defense contractors but an injury to taxpayers.

If Congress is once again permitted to step over dollars to save dimes and mask the waste lurking in defense spending, we’ll continue tracing along the path of unsustainability without addressing it.  Eventually, those masked costs will come due, and it won’t be Ryan or Murray who pay for it, but every citizen who loses security.  To be fair to some counterarguments, there is a real need to study military compensation and benefit structures and ensure they fit within our means.  But this should be forward-looking in order to keep the faith with those who already kept their end of the compensation bargain, and it should be preceded by a genuine attempt to address the structural reforms Congress is avoiding.  If Americans really want to see a drastic reduction in defense spending, they must encourage their representatives to stop obstructing a Base Realignment and Closure Commission and to charter a Roles and Missions Commission. Moreover, Congress should bind itself to the recommendations of both in order to avoid the political mischief that has characterized previous reform efforts and led to the current morass.  But even more than that, if Americans want to see drastically reduced defense spending, they should stop electing and emboldening politicians who send American troops into wars without fully advertising the costs of doing so.

This is the greatest risk of all — a risk potentially fatal to our national life.  We’ve developed a nasty habit in the modern age of waging war without paying for it, and that has set us on a long road to ruin.  We’ve yet to pay for the wars fought in the last 12 years, having pushed the costs off on future generations by borrowing against the national debt (save for the $6B pick-pocketed from those who did the fighting).  No raised taxes (in fact, tax rates are at a record low as Congressional conservatives who voted overwhelmingly to authorize wars and troop surges complain about the national debt). No war bonds. No draft.  No appeal to our richest citizens to finance an expedition.  We’ve been at war for a dozen solid years without asking Americans at-large to make a single material sacrifice. Now we turn to veterans and expect them to foot the bill.

Veterans understandably refuse to willingly do so, not only because it is unspeakably wrong for them to have been asked in the first place, but because they understand covering up the cost of war is dangerous to our way of life.  When war no longer carries even the faintest whiff of sacrifice for the vast majority of citizens, they will readily support it without rigorously considering its necessity or the manner of its execution.  This is a path to endless war, and when we have warred enough that our interests have become overextended and we’re bogged down with inescapable obligations we can no longer sustain (hints of which are noticeable already), national collapse becomes inevitable.  It’s not a new story historically, and we’re not so exceptional that we can avoid it.  Paying our veterans what we owe them is one of the ways we feel the pain of having supported going to war (and by extension, failing to prevent it), and for that reason more than any other, we must pay what we owe . . . even (and perhaps especially) if doing so feels inconvenient.

So as Congress returns to session, it seems like a good moment for some unsolicited strategic advice, even if it disturbs the self-congratulatory saccharine party Washington has undertaken in the wake of a signed budget. Congress, you can either have an honorable military, or one that accepts broken promises.  You can either have a cheap military, or the world’s best.  And you can either have an expensive but secure way of life, or something less.  Oddly, doing the morally right thing leads to the best outcome in each of these choices, proving that strategy and morality need not be misaligned. Reconciling the two is matter of considering not only what a course of action does for you, but what it does to your country.  Thinking about it this way should compel a swift amendment to restore the promises made to our veterans and their families.

Posted by Tony Carr on January 2nd, 2014.  You can view the original here.

Well said.

Transitionnews 1/7/14

Transitionnews for Tuesday, January 7th 2014:

Good news story of the day

Wyoming’s homeless veterans have an ally in local nonprofit  (Wyoming Tribune Eagle)  A new initiative that seeks to reduce homelessness among veterans in Wyoming is already producing results – while showing that more work needs to be done.

Transition

Enlisted quality force review board to be held in May  (Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs)  A quality force review board will convene here May 5-16 to consider eligible Airmen for retention, Air Force Personnel Center officials announced recently.

Military-friendly businesses and more resources make dent in Rock Hill vet unemployment  (The State)  Don Lowman described his first transition from military to civilian life as a tough one, filled with “reckless behavior” where he estranged himself from family and friends and could barely find or hold down a job.

AF to convene enhanced selective early retirement board in June (Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs)  The Air Force will convene an enhanced selective early retirement board here June 16 to consider eligible officers for early retirement, Air Force Personnel Center officials said today.

Tactical Veteran: Vet entrepreneurs give advice to startup hopefuls  (Military Times)  Separating from the military is like beginning a new life, with seemingly infinite new choices.

Veterans

Veterans feel sting of Ramadi and Fallujah losses  (USA Today)  For David Bellavia, seeing the images of al-Qaeda flags flying over buildings in Fallujah and Ramadi in recent days has been devastating.

Jerry Coleman, legendary broadcaster, Marine pilot, dies at 89  (Fox News)  Jerry Coleman, a former second baseman for the New York Yankees and Hall of Fame broadcaster who interrupted his pro career to fly as a Marine Corps pilot in World War II and Korea, died Sunday after a brief illness, the San Diego Padres said.

Former Marine who died protecting students earns honor  (Marine Corps Times)  There is an old saying in the military that Marines run to the sound of the guns.

Veterans dismayed that gravesites kept under wraps  (Dayton Daily News) The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl has burial sites available, information dismayed veterans organizations say was never shared with them.

Former Marine Gets Dying Wish of Honorable Discharge  (NewsMax.com)  A former Marine who received an “undesirable discharge” in  1956 for being gay has had his dying wish come true — he now holds an honorable  discharge.

Veterans Affairs

Care and Benefits for Veterans Strengthened by $153 Billion VA Budget  (MilitarySpot.com)  Continuing the transformation of the Department of Veterans Affairs into a 21st century organization, the President has proposed a $152.7 billion budget, a 10.2 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2013, that will support VA’s goals to expand access to health care and other benefits, eliminate the disability claims backlog, and end homelessness among Veterans.

Southern California University of Health Sciences Selected for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ First-Ever Chiropractic Residency Program  (PR Newswire)  Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCUHS) is proud to announce its participation in the first ever VA chiropractic residency training program. On December 6, 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) unveiled its plan to initiate a pioneering chiropractic residency program beginning in July, 2014.

Lawmakers accuse VA of disrespecting Christians  (Fox News)  Why did VA hospitals restrict and in some cases ban volunteers from bringing holiday cheer to patients?

MRSA infection rates drop in Veterans Affairs long-term care facilities  (MedicalXpress)  Four years after implementing a national initiative to reduce methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) rates in Veterans Affairs (VA) long-term care facilities, MRSA infections have declined significantly, according to a study in the January issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

VA hospital’s release of delirious veteran latest in string of failures  (The Washington Times)  Doctors at a Veterans Affairs  hospital in Puerto Rico released a patient who was suffering from delirium  and barely able to function, ignoring evaluations by staff nurses, an  investigation found — the latest in a string of high-profile incidents at the  department’s medical facilities.

Agency works to draw down costs, maintain top medical care  (Armed Forces Press Service)  The Defense Department’s goal to save medical dollars and deliver the best health care possible has made strides in its first 100 days, the director of the new Defense Health Agency said.

Benefits

Measure Extends Telehealth Coverage for Military Service Members  (iHealthBeat.org)  Last week, President Obama signed into law a measure that expands telemedicine coverage for military service members as part of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (S 1197), FierceHealthIT reports.

Tricare launches pharmacy cost calculator  (Military Times)  As the deadline nears for Tricare for Life beneficiaries to begin filling routine prescriptions at military pharmacies or by mail, Tricare has introduced a calculator to show just how much money they’ll save by making the switch.

Bill Would Stop Veterans Benefit Cuts and Saturday Mail  (U.S. Government Info)  Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, an influential House Republican has introduced a bill that would prevent a controversial cut in veterans’ retirement benefits by ending Saturday mail delivery.

White House Silence On Benefits Cuts Irks Veterans Groups  (Buzzfeed.com)  Cuts to military veterans benefits in December’s budget deal have outraged veterans groups, but as Congress and President Obama return to Washington this week, the cuts don’t appear to be going anywhere soon.

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