Thursday, November 14, 2019

Veteran Homelessness increases in Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA (November 14, 2019) VRI — Number of homeless vets in Indiana increases 6.1% since last year but declines by 25.4% since 2010.

Veteran homelessness in the U.S. continues to decline according to a new national estimate announced by U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson. HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report finds the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in 2019 decreased 2.1 percent since last year.

“Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and now it’s our duty to make certain they have a home to call their own,” said Secretary Carson. “We’ve made great progress in our efforts to end veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure our heroes have access to affordable housing.”


“In Indiana, the increase in veterans experiencing homelessness indicates that our collaborative efforts are helping us to more readily find and assist veterans experiencing homelessness,” said HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph P. Galvan. “We can do better for those who put their lives on the line so we that we could remain the land of the free and home of the brave.”

Each year, thousands of local communities around the country conduct one-night “Point-in-Time” estimates of the number of persons experiencing homelessness—in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and in unsheltered locations. This year’s estimate finds 37,085 veterans experienced homelessness in January 2019, compared to 37,878 reported in January 2018.

HUD estimates among the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in 2019, 22,740 veterans were found in sheltered settings while volunteers counted 14,345 veterans living in places not meant for human habitation. View local estimates of veteran homelessness.

SOURCE: Hud Exchange

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New veterans outreach coordinator unites military students

Bloomington, Indiana, USA (November 14, 2019) VRI — Sarah Bassett spent seven years serving in the U.S. Army. Now, she dedicates her time to creating a supportive community for women veterans on campus.

Bassett started her role as IU’s first women veterans outreach coordinator in September. IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council funded this position through a $10,000 grant.

Sarah Bassett stands Nov. 12 on the front porch of the Center for Veteran and Military Students. Bassett is the new outreach coordinator for female veterans. IZZY MYSZAK

“We were really fortunate that they saw a need for women veterans to come together and support each other,” Bassett said.

Bassett works at the Center for Veteran and Military Students to mentor and connect women veterans with each other. She said she hopes to create a community where they can be vulnerable and express any struggles they face.

“The military mindset is ‘suck it up and drive on,’ and I want to break that down because in the civilian world, without the backing of the military, it can be a lot harder,” she said.

Bassett joined the U.S. Army in 2005, before graduating high school in 2006. She was first stationed in South Korea for a year. She then volunteered for deployment from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division. After re-enlisting in 2008, she was later deployed from Hawaii to Afghanistan with the 25th Infantry Division.

Bassett graduated from IU last May with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. She said she frequently visited the Center for Veteran and Military Students during her time as a student, and it allowed her to meet other women veterans.

“When you walk into a room of male veterans, sometimes you don’t feel like you necessarily fit in,” she said. “Having other female veterans in the room made me feel like I belonged.”

John Summerlot, director of the center for veteran and military students, said one concern is that women veterans at IU graduate at a lower rate than their male counterparts.

“Our women veterans are not graduating at the same rate that male veterans are,” he said. “Sarah is researching the reason for that gap and seeing what we can do to fix this.”

Bassett meets with women veterans to address academic concerns or ways to adjust to college life.

“She’s been able to provide input to me about how we can ensure that our programs, outreach and efforts meet the needs of women veterans as much as male veterans,” Summerlot said.

Bassett serves as a source of information and guidance for women veterans. She said one of the challenges of connecting with these women is finding them.

“Sometimes women are less likely to identify as veterans because the world doesn’t really see them as a veteran,” Bassett said. “I’m just trying to reach out, and find them.”

Summerlot said Bassett’s role is important because she’s the first woman veteran on the center’s staff.

“Since we hired her, I have seen and interacted with more female veterans than I have in the last couple of years,” Summerlot said.

SOURCE: IDS

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Veterans targeted by sophisticated financial scams

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA (November 7, 2019) VRI — Veteran LaVerne Foreman believed he was helping fellow service members at risk of suicide, but a fake veterans’ aid fund was taking his money and diverting it robbing him of the much-needed financial means instead.

“I am proud to be a veteran,” Foreman, 82-year-old Army and Air Force vet from Herndon, Pennsylvania, told the Senate Committee on Aging. “It never occurred to me that someone would be so cold-hearted to make calls and claim to be caring for veterans when in reality they were lining their own pockets.”


Veterans are twice as likely to unknowingly participate in a scam as the general population, Carroll Harris, a U.S. Postal Inspection Service senior law enforcement official, said at the hearing.

According to a 2017 AARP survey, 16 percent of U.S. veterans have lost money to fraudsters, while 78 percent have been targeted by scams specifically crafted to exploit their service history.

One of those targeted is a member of the Committee on Aging. “As a veteran, I get one of these every week,” said Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, an Air Force veteran, waving a printout of a scam email she received.

Foreman’s ordeal began in 2014, when he received a call from the Disabled and Paralyzed Veterans Fund asking for a donation. He complied, but when the invoice arrived, it asked for more than what Foreman had offered; he sent the group a check for the higher amount.

Next year, it was the same routine, but the amount was bigger. The veteran sent the requested amount and asked to have his name removed from the fund’s contact list. In 2016, Foreman noticed that the fund withdrew money from his account without consent. That’s when he reached out to Pennsylvania’s attorney general’s office.

“I was glad to hear that there was an investigation,” said Foreman.

Foreman’s request was forwarded to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which eventually found the scammers and referred them to the Department of Justice for prosecution. According to a Committee on Aging official, the perpetrators likely will be prosecuted in federal court.

Ben Wells, Air Force veteran and a volunteer for Vet2Vet talks at a Senate hearing Wednesday 
(Niko Boskovic/Medill News Service)

Harris said there is an array of services available for veterans who are victims of scams. In 2017, AARP and the Postal Inspection Service launched Operation Protect Veterans to reach out to veterans and warn them of the sophisticated schemes and scams. Wary veterans can call veteran service organizations, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, or visit the Postal Inspection Service’s website, as well as the federal government’s MilitaryConsumer.gov website.

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said some veterans are too embarrassed to report that they fell for a scam, suggesting that the reported number of scams is deflated. She emphasized the need to protect veterans before they become victims, focusing on preventing scams instead of providing remedies.

“I don’t believe we can contain or get rid of every scam that exists,” said Ben Wells, volunteer for Vet2Vet nonprofit organization. “However, with preventive measures, we can hopefully safeguard the most vulnerable among us.”

Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican, said that the federal government, banks and phone companies can do more to monitor these types of scams. Braun said the scams are especially unscrupulous in targeting service men and women, particularly the most vulnerable among them.

In a recent case, a Michigan con artist was convicted of stealing nearly $200,000 from 36 victims who thought they were donating to charities benefiting veterans. On top of financial fraud, the scammer attempted to steal victims’ identities using personal information they had provided.

“Fortunately, through the good work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, this criminal is now behind bars,” Collins said.

SOURCE: Military Times 

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

LEGION Act signed into law

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA (July 30, 2019) VRI — In a significant legislative victory for The American Legion, President Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.

The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. service members who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.


The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.

“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” National Commander Brett Reistad said. “The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service. Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the six million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them ‘Legionnaires.’”

Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.

The law’s journey began on Feb. 14 when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced S. 504, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion measure, H.R. 1641, was introduced in the House by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Ben Cline, R-Va.

Reistad expressed gratitude to the bipartisan members of Congress for passing the legislation.

“We are grateful that President Trump fully acknowledges the importance of The American Legion by signing the LEGION Act in the White House today – just one week after it passed the House of Representatives,” Reistad said. “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans organization in the country.”

Reistad pointed out that existing American Legion membership applications are in the process of being updated but can still be used. “In the meantime, I recommend that prospective Legionnaires and recruiters write ‘LEGION Act’ in the eligibility date section of American Legion membership applications if they fall outside the previous war eras,” Reistad said. “The larger pool of veterans now eligible for The American Legion will also open their family members to eligibility in the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary as well.”

SOURCE:  The American Legion