Numerous organizations strive to help veterans

A website called 4vets.biz reports it helps veterans receive discounts from select local and national companies. The site lists businesses that voluntarily offer discounts and reduced fees.

It reports that the nation’s approximately 21 million-plus veterans can be reached and marketed to, and, at the same time, it seeks additional companies that will offer discounts.

Companies that sign up to offer veterans discounts have to pay an annual fee; but veteran-owned companies are offered a discount, of course.

The enterprise says it offers veterans access to the Veterans Affairs Department website so veterans can access copies of their DD214 discharge papers and request eligibility certificates to apply for VA real estate loan guarantees. Concerning retail discounts, users can review lists of U.S. cities and determine which local firms offer benefits.

COAST GUARD AUXILIARY

Earlier this month I attended the annual district training of the 11th District Southern Region of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which includes Southern Nevada. The event was held in Costa Mesa, Calif., under the command of Commodore Bert Blanchette, and offered dozens of classes for volunteers on topics such as homeland security investigations, social media in public affairs, marine safety overview and auxiliary music. The latter was a preview to the possible formation of a local auxiliary band and chorus.

When requested to do so, the auxiliary provides help and assistance to the Coast Guard. Outgoing Auxiliary Commodore Al Verdi told the group that the two organizations “have perfected” the volunteer model for the past 75 years, and he humorously “apologized” to all the other volunteer military services. He praised the auxiliary members for being a part of an “avenue for achieving your best … the opportunity to serve and help others. It’s your horn to professional plenty.”

Keynote speaker Coast Guard Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio told the group to be ready and prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. He asked auxiliary members if, as recently as six months ago, they envisioned “half-price gasoline, children pouring over the U.S. southern border, or Ebola?” He used those events to illustrate the rapidly changing American landscape.

The local Metro Las Vegas Flotilla 9-5 meets monthly at the North Las Vegas airport and draws members from across the southern portion of the state. Contrary to the perception of some, no boating experience is required to join, as there are many diverse categories in which to volunteer. Contact Cmdr. Barry Keller at 702-219-2236 or brkinlv@aol.com.

SUICIDE PREVENTION

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a bill that the Veterans of Foreign Wars helped shape and strongly supports, passed unanimously in the House with a vote of 403-0. The legislation would begin to address the crisis of veterans suicide by allowing the VA to hire more psychiatrists, collaborate with local nonprofit mental health organizations and expand its successful peer support networks.

The SAV Act passed the House last Congress but was stalled in the Senate because of procedural difficulties despite broad bipartisan support. The VFW continues to work closely with the bill’s Senate sponsors, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., along with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to ensure its passage in the Senate.

POW/MIA

The Pentagon announced interim leadership to guide the reorganization of the three largest military organizations involved in the prisoner of war/missing in action accounting mission. Navy Rear Adm. Michael Franken will be the agency’s interim director. Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague will serve as deputy director, and Army Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, the military deputy to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, will be the agency’s senior Department of Defense adviser.

The decision to merge was made last year by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the accounting community came under intense congressional scrutiny. Being merged are the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Air Force Life Science Equipment Laboratory. The consolidation will include policy guidance, archival research and analysis, worldwide investigations and recovery operations, among others.

Journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He can be heard each Thursday from 8-9 p.m. on “The Veterans Reporter Radio Show” on KLAV 1230 AM.

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