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 on December 31, 2018.

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 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 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.

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