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Michael G. Sheppard

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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What to Do When Your Returning Veteran Won’t Talk to You

When our loved ones return from duty, it can be an exciting and emotional time. More often than not, we expect our loved ones to come back just as they were when they left. However, many families and friends find that when a veteran returns home, several things have changed. The most obvious of these changes is often a shift in communication with their veteran. While loved ones struggle to be supportive, it can be difficult knowing what to say to someone that doesn’t want to communicate.

Expect a Transition Period

The first step in fixing communication with a returning veteran is understanding where this breakdown in communication is coming from. For a veteran, the first few weeks and months of returning to civilian life can be a challenge on several levels. For some veterans, the transition may be easy, but for most that suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or military sexual trauma (MST), the return home can be anything but easy.

Understand the Change of Civilian Life

The world that a veteran returns to is very different than the one they left. This is particularly true when considering the highly structured nature of the military. While veterans dedicated their time to the military, friends and family moved on and may not be the same people they once were. As much as a veteran may want to fit into the life they once knew, it is virtually impossible.

Help Your Veteran Transition

The first priority is treating any mental or medical issues that the veteran may have. Then, it’s essential to find housing and employment. This can mean returning to school or beginning a new and rewarding career. Families and friends that are hoping to aid their veteran in more substantial ways can call a Vet Center to find out how to best care for their veteran.

Vet Centers are trained to help veterans adjust to their civilian lives. These centers help veterans access their benefits, as well as provide mental or medical health care. Similarly, Vet Centers can offer counseling and legal help, as well as find employment, housing, and other resources that are essential to a veteran transitioning back to civilian life.

If a returning veteran isn’t communicating, it is an outward manifestation of the challenges they are facing within. Don’t let a veteran suffer alone. With the right support and resources, returning veterans can successfully transition back into civilian life, working to create a new life for themselves and their families.

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How Veterans Are Doing Their Part To Ease America’s Teacher Shortage

After veterans have served their country on the field of combat, many return home to serve in other ways: in the classroom, for example. Training the future minds of America to be thinkers and leaders can’t be understated. The experiences and skills that military veterans have acquired because of their service to the United States have proven invaluable in a classroom setting. Some of the things the veterans teach the youth of America include:

  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Understanding
  • Appreciation for diversity

Many schools have struggled to hire qualified educators, but veterans have stepped into the role to fill the gap. The experience veterans have had as leaders have turned them into excellent teachers and role models for young men and women. Lt. Col. Joseph Gross, a teacher of geography and world history at Southside High School in San Antonio, says that while every teacher tries to reach out to students to prepare them for the upcoming job market, an advantage comes from having military experience.

Engaging the Students

Some veterans believe that having an experience in the military has engaged students to ensure they keep an interest in the subject being taught. For example, Gross said that in his job for the military, he had to travel around Europe and Asia in places that most of the world will never see. This engages the classroom when veterans teach about ancient Roman history, and the teacher can show pictures of themselves at the location.

Controlling a Rowdy Classroom

Teachers have to control a rowdy classroom and military-level leadership has proven useful in doing this. 1st Sgt. Christopher Karayannis, a teacher at Thomas Edison High School, says that his military experience gave him confidence when in the classroom to keep things focused and under control.

Veterans also have the advantage of improving the retention rate because they tend to have more discipline than the average individual. That’s because the military teaches people how to have more discipline, and this carries over into all aspects of their life. The teacher shortage has been a dire problem, and many of the teachers in the classrooms today have less than 10 years of experience in teaching. This is the future of America and having veterans in the school system has proven an asset.

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The Meaning Behind the Thirteen Folds of the American Flag

The American flag embodies the values and core beliefs that the United States was founded on. These cherished values are defended by the brave men and women of the Armed Services, who give some or all of their lives in service to their country. The flag is furnished to a departed veteran’s family in gratitude and as a tribute of respect.

Officially, there is no ceremony for the folding of the American flag; the ceremonial thirteen folds are made as a patriotic gesture of gratitude and in remembrance of the veteran who has passed on. While there is no official flag folding ceremony script either, many traditions have been passed down that have become “unofficially official” and imbue each of the folds with a meaning.

The First Fold: is made as a representation of life.

The Second Fold: is made as a symbol of our belief in life everlasting.

The Third Fold: is made in remembrance of the sacrifice of the veteran, who gave a portion of his life to defend the United States.

The Fourth Fold: is a symbol of our weak and imperfect nature, and our need to turn to God for His divine guidance — in times of peace and in times of war.

The Fifth Fold: is made in tribute to the United States of America.

The Sixth Fold: is our pledge of allegiance to our flag and country.

The Seventh Fold: is made in tribute to all of our Armed Service members and to honor their efforts to protect and defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The Eighth Fold: is made in tribute and honor of the veteran’s mother.

The Ninth Fold: is made in honor of womanhood, whose love and loyalty has shaped the characters of the men and women who serve the United States.

The Tenth Fold: is made in tribute and honor of the veteran’s father.

The Eleventh Fold: is made as a symbol for members of the Jewish faith and brings to mind the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Twelfth Fold: is made as a symbol for members of Christian faiths brings to mind God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Thirteenth Fold: is made with the stars pointing upwards to remind us “In God We Trust”.

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Walgreens Joins Forces With the VA

In a thoughtful and well-considered effort to remain competitive in the pharmacy game, retailer Walgreens has joined forces with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide servicemen and -women with more comprehensive care. The alliance dubbed the “VA-Walgreens Exchange,” will allow the VA doctors to view and manage their patients’ prescriptions when the orders are filled at Walgreens. This will help the physicians when it comes to tracking medical history and immunization records, thereby streamlining the process and making life easier for the veterans, as well as the doctors and pharmacists.

While the partnership serves to benefit veterans, Walgreens president of pharmacy and retail operations Richard Ashworth hopes that it might be useful in stemming the tide of the opioid crisis as well. It’s essential for patients to receive the care that they need, and this includes safe and reliable access to prescription drugs; however, it’s just as important to track the dosages and ensure that the proper protocol is being followed. The system could also be useful in alleviating any potentially dangerous drug interactions.

According to sources at the VA, this alliance is not the department’s first collaboration with Walgreens. For the past five years, the pharmacy department has offered free flu shots to veterans, as well as a program designed to educate the population on the importance of timely vaccination. What the VA-Walgreens Exchange will do is free up valuable time, as the physicians will now have access to the prescription information without having to ask the patient about it during the examination. As anyone in the medical profession can attest, more time translates into more comprehensive patient care, and therefore better health overall.

With online giant Amazon’s recent acquisition of PillPack, a web-based pharmacy, stores like CVS and Walgreens are struggling to remain competitive. More and more consumers are turning to the Internet to serve an increasing variety of needs, which is enough to make any brick-and-mortar company feel the heat. Fortunately, the human connection is something that will always remain crucial when it comes to health care. That’s something that all of the competitors should bear in mind as they look into the future. With the VA-Walgreens Exchange, the retailer is protecting its own interests while working to provide a vital service to the nation’s veterans.

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Veteran Groups Divide Over Stricter Transfer Rules For GI Bill

There is currently a rift among two of the largest Veteran’s Advocacy groups in the United States over proposed changes to the GI Bill which would put a cap on the time frame through which the family members of service men and women could take advantage of funds earmarked specifically for GI Bill spending. While there was previously no cap, the new rule would only allow service members who have served less than a total of 16 years to take advantage of the financial assistance. So what exactly is the GI Bill and who is arguing for and against this rule change?

  • What Is The GI Bill?
  • What Do The Two Sides Think About The New Rules?
  • What Portion Of The GI Bill Is Used For Service Family Members?

What Is The GI Bill?

The term GI-Bill actually refers to many different programs designed to help service members and their families continue their education at either a reduced or no cost at all. The specific GI Bill in question here is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This Bill provides up to 100% of the total cost of education for those who have served more than 90 days of active duty after the horrendous terrorist attack that occurred on September 11th, 2001.

What Do The Two Sides Think About The New Rules?

The two sides arguing for and against the proposed rules change are the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW) and The American Legion. The American Legion argues that this is a benefit earned by all service members regardless of how long they have served. The VFW, on the other hand, states that the GI Bill’s transferable nature was always designed as a type of retention tool instead of a true benefit guaranteed to all service members.

What Portion Of The GI Bill Is Used For Service Family Members?

Currently, the GI Bill funds roughly twelve billion dollars in education expenses each year. Of this twelve billion dollars, roughly $1.8 billion was used to fund the educations of service member’s families. This equates to roughly fifteen percent of this large total. While the future of this proposed change to the rules is uncertain, it is certain that it will have a lasting impact on thousands of families across the United States regardless of the final ruling.

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Is Personalized Education the Best Model for Learning in the Near Future?

Although education constantly evolves with our culture, primary educational institutions are sometimes slow to update their models by incorporating emerging technologies. There are many forces that explain the plodding pace of educational reform that include budgetary, cultural and logistical forces.

Despite resistance, the overwhelming cultural force that is the technological revolution has started to influence the thinking of many facilitators of early education in the form of a revolutionary movement: personalized learning.

Personalized learning, or a model of education that utilizes computers to facilitate self-directed, individualized learning that is tailored to a student’s abilities, ideal learning method and interests, has gained a great deal of traction.
What possible effects could personalized learning have on students’ education if implemented?

Advocates of personalized education believe that the benefits of this approach are numerous. Students can learn in a way that is best suited to their personal needs, can interact with the material in a way that takes advantage of their comfort with technology and can take ownership over their own education in a way that builds confidence and well-being. Some proponents claim that the fears people have against personalized education are rooted in outdated bourgeois cultural norms that fail to address the needs of modern students.

The advantages of self-directed learning seem obvious, but what are the possible disadvantages?

Critics claim that a personalized model would exacerbate the polarization of a culture that is already fractured. Self-directed learning amounts to learning in isolation and would degrade students’ already suffering from social development. Working to accomplish educational goals in a group is an important part of socialization that would be neglected by this model. While personalized education is supported by many educators, some teachers unions fear that implementing it would lead to replacing educators with computers.

What does the research say?

Where some studies, including the often cited Gates/RAND report, have shown little evidence to suggest a marked improvement in student performance, a more recent study by Education Elements shows significant progress toward ACT goals in districts adopting a personalized education model. More research is needed.

If anything is certain, it’s that our society is becoming increasingly computerized. The only question is, what degree will these new approaches be implemented, and will we find a balance between tested methods and emerging technologies.

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Suicide Prevention Remains A Top Priority Of The V.A.

Suicide prevention has become the Department of Veterans Affairs’ top priority. All former service members should have a safe place they can turn to if they are having a mental health crisis. This could mean urgent care at a Vet Center, VA emergency department, or the Veterans Crisis Line. Every suicide is a tragedy and is a public health epidemic in America. The suicide rate among adults has increased by 25% and is up over 30% among veterans. The VA is determined to provide lifesaving support and do everything they can to fix this crisis.

When veterans are put in contact with the right resources, it can help save their lives. Only six in every 20 veterans who commit suicide had received health care from the VA. It is crucial that more work is done to get our veterans the services and care they desperately need. The VA is the biggest provider of medical education in the U.S. They work with healthcare professionals and medical schools to help reduce suicide. By raising awareness of suicide prevention resources and tools, they can identify veterans at risk.

There are several misconceptions about Veterans and PTSD. After a traumatic event, trouble sleeping, unsettling memories, and increased jumpiness are extremely common. Without proper therapy and medication, these reactions won’t go away and worsen. Veterans are at a higher risk of PTSD due to being in combat situations, or military sexual trauma. Effective this year, all VHA medical centers are equipped to provide emergency stabilization care for former service members. This means they can receive mental health care for 90 days that includes residential, outpatient, or inpatient care. If they deem the health condition is related to an injury during service, they will be eligible for ongoing health coverage.

If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with PTSD or a mental health condition, take action fast. If you are currently getting treatment, the VA has self-help tools to help you manage stress. You can connect with them on social media to stay up-to-date on treatment information or ask questions. The VA has email publications you can subscribe to including the Clinician’s Trauma Update, the PTSD Monthly Update, and the PTSD Research Quarterly which are free to download. Volunteers can join the PTSD Awareness campaign and help organize events that share information about PTSD.

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Progress on the New Career-Education Law

Senate lawmakers are currently working on improvements in the Perkins Career and Technical Education Law, a law that provides for federal spending for technical education in the United States. This re-authorization of the Perkins Law will now give states and local educational facilities more flexibility in determining where their funding should be directed to reach career goals.

Negotiations on this bill stalled for months because of disagreements that revolved primarily on the restrictions to the authority of the Secretary of Education in determining the manner in which states should use federal funds to achieve the goals of their career training. This updated Perkins Law would allow states more autonomy in meeting career-educational goals. The Senate agreement also requires that if states do not achieve their goals, the federal Education secretary could then assert more authority. This conditional empowerment of the states in determining their specific educational objectives differs from the proposal of the House of Representatives.

In contrast to the Senate bill, The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act proposed by the House of Representatives offers a more simplified application process for states and local educational facilities requesting federal funds. It also requires that employers in the states have more input into the goals of career-education programs. Further, the House legislation eliminates the present requirement that states receive approval by the Secretary of Education for program goals. It does, however, set performance benchmarks. One of these is a measurement of postsecondary programs based on the median earnings of graduates.

The proposed measures of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have been praised by the director of federal policy at the National Skills Coalition, Kermit Kaliba, because they are similar to those contained in legislation that passed last year. However, while the Coalition believes that both the Senate and the House bills are well directed, it is disappointed that career education grants are still receiving less funding than historical funding levels in the past for the Carl D.Perkins Career and Education Act. Kaleb observed that priorities are created in part by the spending levels that are set. Advance Career Technical Education (Advance CTE), another organization that strives to connect learning to work, praised the efforts of the Senate to improve the bill. But, the American Association of School Superintendents found it to be “unrealistic and too prescriptive.”

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