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Michael G. Sheppard

4 Common Myths About Veterans

Although there are 22 million veterans in the United States and two holidays dedicated to those who have served, there are still a few myths associated with veterans. Below you can find the most popular of those myths and why they are far from the truth.

Myth #1: Every Veteran has PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a pressing issue within the veteran community. While serving the country, many servicemen and servicewomen will witness death and violence up close. Sometimes witnessing these experiences can lead to PTSD. However, not every person who has served will return home with PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD affects 31% of Vietnam veterans, 10% of Gulf War veterans, 11% of veterans from the war in Afganistan, and 20% of veterans from the Iraqi war.

Basing your knowledge on these statistics, don’t assume that every veteran is suffering from PTSD. Unless a veteran directly shares that information with you, assume otherwise.

Myth #2: Veterans who have PTSD are violent.

Although not every veteran will have PTSD, there are those who suffer from the disorder. A common association with PTSD is that it makes people violent and irrational. Less than 8% of PTSD patients have violent outbursts. Typically people with PTSD experience a number of problems including, depression, anxiety, drinking or drug problems, relationship problems, or physical symptoms like chronic pain.

Myth #3: There are barely any female veterans.

Women have been working alongside men on the battlefield since the Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and the Spanish War. Back then women typically served as nurses or cooks, unless they dressed as men to secretly fight on the field.

By the end of WWI, women were officially allowed to serve in the military as spies, nurses, or in other supportive roles. After WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, more opportunities for women were created.

By the mid-70s women were able to enroll in service academies like Westpoint and by the 90s women were flying on combat missions and being deployed to the Persian Gulf.

Needless to say, women have been fighting alongside men for several decades. In the United States (including Puerto Rico and Foreign Terrorities) you can find almost 2 million female veterans.

Myth #4: Veterans get hired easily after returning home.

Transitioning from service life to civilian life can be challenging. When veterans begin their job search after serving, they often find that the skills they used in combat don’t easily transition to a typical 9 to 5. Employers may also be apprehensive about hiring a veteran due to upcoming deployments or stereotypes surrounding veterans.


Originally published at michaelgsheppard.net on December 31, 2018.

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How Service Dogs Can Help Veterans with PTSD

As veterans return home from war, many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some veterans can experience flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, or depression. While therapy can be beneficial in addressing some of these symptoms, some veterans don’t have access to therapy or won’t admit that they need help. One way that veterans can better cope with PTSD is with a service dog.

Researchers have recognized that there are therapeutic benefits in getting a service dog. In a study conducted by Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine, it was discovered that PTSD symptoms were lower in veterans who had service dogs. Pet owners across the world will agree that their furry friends have helped in boosting their mood, but for veterans, the benefits of pet ownership go beyond just happiness.

Service dogs encourage their owner to be more active.

As any dog owner knows, dogs love their walks. Because of a dog’s need to exercise it helps to encourage veterans to get out of the house. Depression and anxiety, two possible symptoms of PTSD, can cause veterans to want to stay inside and closed off from the world. A service dog gives an excuse for a veteran to leave the house and become more active.

Service dogs help their owner feel more protected.

From nightmares to panic attacks, PTSD can make a veteran feel vulnerable and scared. Service dogs can help their owners feel comforted and soothed in the event of a sudden anxiety episode. Service dogs are often trained to recognize the symptoms of an anxiety attack and help their owner before things get too out of control.

Service dogs help to rebuild trust.

PTSD has the ability to affect the relationships that veterans have with their loved ones. Often trust is hard to give after experiencing the terrors of war. This often causes veterans to be more reclusive. Dogs, as loyal as they are, can help veterans realize they aren’t alone. After opening and trusting their furry friend, veterans can begin to trust those around them.

Service dogs help with the transition to civilian life.

While service dogs help to provide companionship and love to veterans, they are also trained in helping complete everyday tasks. If veterans return home with injuries, it can be difficult to go back to the life they led before. Service dogs can complete numerous tasks from carrying objects to turning lights on and off, to opening doors.


Originally published at michaelgsheppard.net on January 2, 2019.

3 Tips for Veterans Transitioning to a Civilian Job

Leaving the service in the pursuit of a civilian job can be daunting. After being apart of the military for quite some time it can be challenging to leave the uniform in the closet. Although employment opportunities for veterans have improved over the years, it can still be difficult to land a job. In April of 2015, veterans had an unemployment rate of 6.9% compared to non-veterans with a rate of 4.9%. However, using the right tips, any veteran will be able to claim victory as they transition into the civilian working world.

Prepare Yourself

The job hunt is no easy task. Job hunting can take anywhere from a few months or even years. It can even become more challenging when a job requires a post-secondary education that you put on the back burner. Set yourself short-term and long-term goals and stick with them. For example, a short-term goal could be reorganizing your resume and a long-term goal could be going back to school to get a bachelors.

To show your experience, training, and military service to possible employers, print out copies of your Report of Separation and Verification of Military Experience and Training. Along with that, be sure to include any transcripts detailing any military training or coursework you may have completed. All of these things will be helpful in filling out your resume.

Showcase Your Character

While it is important to document your certifications and experiences, employers are looking to see how you have applied your skills in real life situations. Use your cover letter, resume, and interview as a way for you to illustrate that you have the skills that employers are looking for. Emphasize any situations where you took the lead or how you created a solution when no one else did.

Reach Out and Network

After leaving the military, don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends, or old comrades. Any one of your connections can lead you to your next job. If you are still having trouble with networking, you can turn to the help of numerous groups and organizations that support veterans in their job search. Veterans Support Organization, America Wants You, AMVETS are a few other options.

Although finding a civilian job can be intimidating if you treat it like a mission you will be able to succeed. Preparing yourself, showcasing your character, and expanding your network will all help you in taking the next step in your career.


Originally published at michaelgsheppard.net on December 28, 2018.

Benefits and Programs for Female Veterans

Over the years, more and more women have enlisted in the military. However, even though women make up 15% of active duty, women are still underrepresented when it comes to benefits. Within a decade the number of women veterans is expected to double in size. To ensure those female veterans have access to benefits and services, the VA has formed a few new programs as well as revised old guidelines.

Hotline for Women Veterans 

Although the number of female VA users has increased, women only make up 6% of the VA’s patient total. Part of why this number is so low is due to the lack of knowledge to what VA benefits and services women veterans have. To make more female veterans aware of what benefits they are entitled to, the VA has created a Women Veterans hotline. By calling 1-855-VA-WOMEN (829-6636), the VA will respond to questions from women Veterans and their families across the country about what VA services and resources are readily available.

Gender-specific Services and Benefits

Both women and male veterans are entitled to the same VA benefits. However, more gender-specific services and benefits have been established. Benefits for women include:

  • Breast and pelvic examinations
  • Contraceptive services
  • Menopause management
  • Reproductive counseling
  • Mammography

Like men, women are entitled to care for any injury, illness, or psychological illness. In addition, counseling, and treatment for victims of sexual assault or harassment during military service is available by trained VA health care professionals.

Women who experienced military sexual trauma (MST), such as rape, physical assault, domestic battering, and stalking, have complete access to free and confidential counseling and treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to MST. Veteran women can receive these benefits even if they are not eligible for other VA services. To receive MST services, you are not required to have proof or documentation that the incident occurred.

Programs for Women Veterans 

Many structural changes have been made within the VA to ensure the privacy of women veterans is respected. At every VA facility, there are Women Veteran’s Coordinators who can assist women veterans in finding treatment and benefits. Women Veteran’s Coordinators can help a female veteran with a number of things including claims intake, development, and processing of military sexual and personal trauma claims.

Women have often reported that they feel invisible as Veterans. To address this issue, The Center for Women Veterans(CWV), aims to raise awareness about the service and sacrifice of women veterans. Additionally, the CWV helps to both monitor and coordinate VA’s administration of benefit services and programs.

This blog was originally posted on MichaelGSheppard.com 

5 Ways to Give Back to a Veteran This Holiday Season

The holiday season presents a great opportunity for us to give back to those in need. One group of individuals that is more than deserving of a lending hand is the men and women who have served in the United States military. To bring the holiday spirit to a veteran this year, try one (or all!) of these five things.

“Adopt” A Military Family 

During the holiday season, many families experience financial stress. Veteran families face the same stressor. Often veteran families are on a tight budget that even gets tighter during the holidays. Soldier’s Angels is one organization you can turn to if you are looking to help out a military family this Christmas. Help show your gratitude to those who served by picking out gifts for sons and daughters of a service member or buy grocery gift cards to help with the holiday dinner!

Write a Letter or Send a Care Package 

For many service members, it can be a difficult transition to go from a warzone to civilian life. To ease the transition think about sending a care package or writing a letter. Operation Gratitude is an organization that helps sends both packages and letters to current service members and veterans in the military community.

Gift Your Frequent-Flyer Miles  

If your schedule is jammed pack this holiday season and don’t have time to volunteer, consider donating your frequent-flyer miles. By donating your frequent fliers you can help veterans reunite with their families during the holidays. Organizations like the Fisher House Foundation, will graciously accept your frequent flyer donations and provide round-trip tickets to veterans.

Volunteer Your Time at a Local Veterans Shelter 

When veterans return home from serving their country they are often faced with many challenges from homelessness to unemployment to mental health issues. Across the country, you can find shelters with transitional programs that help veterans overcome these challenges. By checking out Volunteers of America you can see if there are any volunteer opportunities at nearby shelters for you or your family this holiday season.

Show Your Gratitude 

The simplest way of giving back is just by saying “thank you”. Saying thank you is both quick, effective, and easily shows your appreciation towards a serviceman or woman. Next time you see someone in a military uniform, stop and say thank you. You don’t have to make an elaborate speech or have all the right things to say. Sometimes a simple thank you can make a veteran’s day.

This blog was originally posted on MichaelGSheppard.com 

Famous Veterans Throughout History

We owe a large debt of gratitude to those who have served our country. While many who have served in the military now live quiet and unassuming lives, there are veterans who have gone on to make a big splash in business and in Hollywood.

Montel Williams

After graduating high school in 1974, Montel Williams enlisted in the Navy. Showing great skills in leadership, he eventually made his way to the US Naval Academy. Once he had graduated from the academy, Williams had a successful career as a cryptologist aboard multiple submarines. After his time in the military, Williams wanted to work with youth. His goal was to inspire them to reach their full potential. This is what eventually led him to create the Montel Williams Show.

Alan Alda

When you look at the face of Alan Alda, you most likely remember him as the loveable Hawkeye Pierce of the hit TV show M*A*S*H. However, most fans of this actor don’t know that he was actually a gunnery officer in the Korean War. Alda went on to have a very successful career in Hollywood writing, acting, and directing.

George Steinbrenner

If you are a Yankees fan, live in New York, or have watched the hit TV show Seinfeld, you have most likely heard the name, George Steinbrenner. After joining The American Shipbuilding Company, which was the family business, he amassed a fortune that would allow him to become the owner of the New York Yankees. After his purchase in 1973, the Yankees have won the world series more times than any other team in Major League Baseball history. Steinbrenner originally gained his knowledge of sports management as he helped manage Air Force sports teams during his time enlisted.

Fred Smith

In the shipping industry, there is almost no other name more well-known than Fed Ex. After only being home from a tour of duty in Vietnam for two years, Smith decided to start a shipping service that would allow customers to deliver products overnight. During the first night of service, only seven packages were shipped. It is rumored that out of those seven packages, only one was shipped on time.

These are just a few examples of the many veterans that came home to have major success. It is important to thank our veterans who put so much on the line to support us and our country. This Veterans Day, reach out to a veteran and show them your appreciation.


Originally published at michaelgsheppard.net on November 8, 2018.

Military Families Face New Obstacles

While November is National Veterans and Military Families Months and while a lot of vets and their families will be enjoying free meals and social media posts declaring solidarity with current and former armed service members. However, at this time, many families within the military community are experiencing undue hardships at this time. This is the purpose of an editorial published in Military.com about the struggles that military families are currently dealing with. Changes to the healthcare system for military families have thrown areas of coverage into doubt. Access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention is imperative for many veterans and their family members. Housing for Marines in Camp Lejeune for military members have suffered catastrophic damage, leaving families living in uninhabitable conditions.

The most sweeping change to military families is the new shifts in the infrastructure to the military’s system of healthcare, Tricare. Currently, Tricare is holding open enrollment until December 10th where families can examine and choose between two plans, Tricare Select and Tricare Prime. After enrollment is closed, whatever plans families have will be locked into place and only a “qualifying life event” such as the birth of a baby will allow a change in plans. This could lead to confusion in coverage at a time when healthcare coverage has become a prime concern nationally.

In conjunction with healthcare is quality mental health treatment. The stresses of military life can be overwhelming for both service members and their loved ones. The military has put programs in place to offset this. Their effort includes family life counselors that can help process stress factors in life as well as Family Readiness Groups (FRG) and Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) programs that build community and coping mechanisms. Nonetheless, suicide in the military remains a firm problem and, despite the National Defense Authorization Act mandating the tracking of family suicides in the military, actual data on the subject has yet to be published. This makes building effective prevention measures difficult.

Perhaps most alarmingly, Marines stationed in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune are under the thumb of a severe housing crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Following the storm, houses have been shown to be unsafe with water-damaged floors and broken ceilings. Mold and power outages abound within the on-base housing and the response to fix it by the manager of the privatized housing has been slow. Such issues with private housing on posts have been a military-wide problem as standard tenet protections often do not apply. These kinds of problems, the Military.com op-ed asserts, need to be rectified if the military is expected to give it all for their country.


Originally published at michaelgsheppard.net on October 25, 2018.

4 Reasons Why Employers Are Not Hiring Veterans

Leaving the military and adjusting to civilian life is difficult, and the process becomes even more so when vets struggle to find jobs. When making the transition, it’s helpful to understand why employers sometimes hesitate to hire veterans. Understanding the problem makes it much easier to find solutions for it.

Have the Right Skills

Military service builds confidence and leaves many soldiers believing that they can accomplish any task with the right training and practice. This may be true, but the military is one of the few employers willing to train personnel from scratch. Most private sector employers require their new hires to have the skills they need to hit the ground running. If a certain civilian job requires skill that the military didn’t impart, vets would do well to attend classes or training sessions before applying for the job.

Translate Those Skills

Even when vets have the right skills for a job, the employer may not recognize them when looking over his resume. People who haven’t served don’t understand many of the acronyms and terms used in the military. Vets need to translate military language into civilian speak. A good plan is to have a civilian read the vet’s resume to catch and correct any MOS or other references that could confuse a potential employer.

Overcome Stereotypes

Men and women come home from military service and smoothly transition back into civilian life every day. These men and women, however, are not the ones on the evening news. It’s only the troubled soldiers with untreated PTSD and other serious issues that people hear about. Unfortunately, this has led to the stereotype that returning vets are dangerous or mentally unstable. To combat this, vets should practice their interviewing skills in order to present a calm and logical demeanor. It’s okay to appear a bit laid back, as well. Many people believe that military service makes a person stiff and rigid. Point out that disciplined doesn’t mean unyielding.

Address the Elephant in the Room

Upon leaving full-time military duty, many vets continue to serve as reservists or guardsmen. This means future military time commitments and possible deployment, both of which sometimes concern potential employers. Vets should always truthfully acknowledge how much of a time commitment their future military service will require, but they can also point out the positives of that service. Employers who hire reservists and guardsmen are getting employees who actively cultivate their leadership skills while keeping other skills sharp and well practiced.

It may seem unfair, but vets do sometimes struggle to find civilian jobs after leaving the service. The key is to point out to employers the many benefits vets bring to the table and to keep on applying. It’s the vets who keep marching that ultimately reach their goal.


Originally published at michaelgsheppard.net on October 5, 2018.

Hurricane Florence Causes the VA to Struggle

Hurricane Florence has impacted many people throughout out the state of North Carolina. A group of veterans, many of them sick and disabled, began a return to the VA Medical Center in Hampton, Virginia on September 17th. The veterans were evacuated from the Medical Center to keep them safe from the effects of Hurricane Florence.

The situation was not as stable in North Carolina where the heavy rain from the storm resulted in many hospitals and clinics to remain closed. The VA Medical Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina remained ‘isolated’ by flood waters and was planning to reopen on Wednesday. Officials note that each facility will only be reopened when it is safe for patients, their families, and staff to travel to and from the facilities.

The Veterans Administration took the precaution of closing five hospitals along with 18 clinics in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. These closings took place just ahead of the landfall of Florence on September 14.

The Veterans Administration says that approximately 1.5 million veterans and more than 28,000 employees of the VA live in the storm-affected area.

The VA announced before the storm that oxygen and energy supplies had been ‘topped off’ and all facilities possessed enough food items to last for two weeks after Hurricane Florence made landfall. The VA also moved 217 ill veterans from the medical center in Hampton to medical centers in other parts of the state.

The VA also prepared mobile units to be ready once Florence passed to provide medical services to veterans in the region affected by the storm. It is not clear at this time when these mobile units will become active in North Carolina.

The aftermath of Hurricane Florence includes reports of 23 deaths attributed to the storm. News reports in the area report that the city of Wilmington, North Carolina has been effectively cut-off from the rest of the state by the storm.

Roy Cooper, Governor of North Carolina, said that the storm is slowly making its way across the state. The governor explains that the main worry at this time is the rising water that has accompanied the storm.

Governor Cooper explains that the rivers continue to rise with each inch of falling rain and that the flooding is expected to continue into next week. Cooper ends by saying that when all is said and done, the state of North Carolina could see flooding of historic proportions.

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