Supporting Family Caregivers of Wounded, Injured and Ill Veterans

A photo of Garry J. Augustine, the executive director of DAV.

By Guest Blogger Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director, DAV

Last month’s special report in the Washington Post highlighted the challenges and opportunities family caregivers face in caring for their loved ones. It included a short but compelling look at the experiences of two parents caring for a veteran severely injured during combat operations in Afghanistan.

The devastating types of injuries that thousands of veterans endure are, in many cases, so severe that family members put their lives on hold and face financial and emotional hardships in order to help their wounded sons, daughters, husbands and wives. Family caregivers provide crucial support to help veterans achieve meaningful and active lives, often at the expense of their own education, job and health.

Five years ago, DAV played an instrumental role in developing the legislation requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a comprehensive caregiver support program for family caregivers of severely injured veterans. Unfortunately, when lawmakers finally passed the legislation, it limited these benefits only to caregivers of veterans injured during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; caregivers of veterans from Vietnam, Korea, World War II and other eras were not eligible. DAV believes that family caregivers of all severely ill and injured veterans — regardless of when they served —should be eligible for comprehensive caregiver support.

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Celebrating the Bravery of Heroes with Invisible Disabilities

Picture of the American flag and fireworks

By Guest Blogger Wayne Connell, Founder and President, Invisible Disabilities Association

In a few days, our nation will celebrate Independence Day. What an amazing time to honor those who have given so much to ensure our freedom.

To these individuals, I want to say thank you! It always amazes me when men and women believe so strongly in freedom and the American way of life that they are willing to fight for these causes. I am even more astounded when these heroes fight for freedom in areas far from home.

Because of their incredible sacrifices, it is especially sad when the cost of freedom is paid for in lives and injuries. It is also very disheartening when those who return home are abandoned, marginalized or shunned, despite their courage and ability to perform seemingly impossible feats in theaters around the globe. This poor treatment can be exceptionally painful for those who return with mental health conditions and other injuries that are not visible to the naked eye, those whose wounds are hidden. Examples of heroes who have experienced these types of injuries include former Captain Luis Carlos Montalván, former Army Medical Specialist Juliet Madsen and Bob Woodruff, co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight.

In The New York Times bestselling book, Until Tuesday, Luis shares his amazing story of the “war after the war” – his battle with invisible disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – and how his service dog, Tuesday, has given him hope and healing. Before Tuesday came into Luis’ life, he was overwhelmed by his debilitating injuries and memories of war, and could barely leave the house due to Agoraphobia. Today, Tuesday assists Luis with his balance, retrieves things off of the floor, reminds him to take his medications, wakes him up when he is having flashbacks, gets Luis out of the house, provides him with the unconditional love we all need to give us strength and much more. In 2011, Luis was the first recipient of the Invisible Disabilities Association’s (IDA) Invisible Hero Award.

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The Happiest Companies for Veterans

Photograph of a flag and a medal with the words "Career Bliss" on it

By Guest Blogger Reyna Ramli, Writer for, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace.

Good news for veterans – the unemployment rate for veterans, ages 18 and older, dropped to 7.3 percent in May (down significantly from 12.7 percent a year before) and is now on par with the overall unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While there is still much work to do to get the rate even lower, it’s great to see that employers are recognizing the unique skills and qualities that veterans bring to the civilian workforce. In fact, many companies have programs specifically for recruiting former members of the military. BAE Systems is one of them.

“Veterans possess the unmatched skills, expertise, character and determination to get the job done,” said Chris Davison, manager of Military Recruiting and Veterans Programs at BAE Systems, Inc. “It’s our goal to provide an environment where veterans and reservists alike can identify with, contribute to and become passionate about the mission-centered work they do every day.”

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3 Tips for Increasing Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

CJ Lange

By Guest Blogger CJ Lange, Senior Vice President, Corporate Sales and Marketing, Industries for the Blind, Inc. – Milwaukee 

Americans with disabilities confront and overcome many challenges in their day-to-day lives, but one of the most troubling issues remains finding steady employment. Too often people with disabilities are denied a chance to work because they are defined solely by their disability.

Most of us are aware of the grim statistics.

People with disabilities account for just 21 percent of labor force participation and have an overall unemployment rate of 13.6 percent, compared with a rate of 7 percent for those without disabilities, according to the most recent figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor 

At Industries for the Blind – Milwaukee, increasing employment for people who are blind or visually impaired is our top priority. We’re equally passionate about creating well-defined paths for advancement, giving our talented professionals a clear path to upward mobility.

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Military Spouse of the Year ® Program

Photograph of Susan Reynolds and her son IanLet’s stop and think for a moment about all the way we can identify ourselves.  I am a woman, mom, daughter, wife, sister, adult with a a learning disability, advocate,  finalist for the 2013 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year ®, and the list goes on and on.  My recent identity that I am embracing is finalist for 2013 AFI Military Spouse of the Year ®, presented by Military Spouse magazine.

In 2008, Military Spouse Magazine created the Military Spouse of the Year ® program.  The message of the program was simple; honor deserving military spouses.  Throughout the years, the program has evolved to include branch level winners, National Guard spouses, and this year saw the addition of installation winners.  The Military Spouse of the Year ® program allows for spouses to continue in their advocacy work, to bring about an awareness of the military family and provides support to the winner.

I truly honored and humbled by my nomination and to have made it to the National Finals.  But I’m scared.

How could I be scared?  You have to remember that I’m an adult with a learning disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  The scared little girl that was always afraid of saying too much, being too silly or not understanding the homework assignment because it was hard to read is a part of me.  Insecurities like those are hard to move past.

I have to remember why I was nominated.  And one of those reasons is because I have a learning disability.  I have learned throughout the years how to take my disability and turn it into my ability.  I am incredibly aware of the areas I need to focus on and where I excel.  I excel in advocating for military families.  I excel in advocating for pediatric healthcare reform for military children.  I excel in being myself.

Advocacy work isn’t easy.  It takes hard work and dedication, and it can be heartbreaking at times.  When Tricare for Kids, the legislation that I have been working on, found me last year, I was able to put my ability to work.  I have had to remember how to work with my disability so I don’t miss anything.  I take notes, ask a lot of questions and clarify, clarify, clarify.  I know that I can do this work.  I’ve been self-advocating since I was a teenager, but now I’m advocating for all military children.

Today, March 5th , is the final vote for 2013 AFI Military Spouse of the Year ®.  My ability led me on a path that wasn’t always known, but has always been an adventure.  I have found a voice in me that I am proud of and I hope will represent both the Air Force and Military Family well.

You can take a look at my profile and cast your vote at MSOY profile.