January 6, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I have reviewed your Sgt Shaft Columns and other information on the Blinded American Veterans Foundations website. www.bavf.org.

I am a blinded Veteran of from OIF and currently pursuing a PhD in Therapeutic Sciences. My aspirations involve researching the impacts of  identity loss following a disability and assistive technology. There has been much research over the last twenty years that discusses disability concepts like social and affirmative models of disability, disability pride, aging in place, and numerous other aspects of disablement in the 21st century. However, very little exists in terms of research related to these concepts and older adults with a severe visual impairment, with many  articles focusing on blindness amongst youth and early adulthood or general older adults with mild forms of age related chronic conditions.

These items are crucial into investigate for us to understand how blind rehab programs might be altered to meet the needs of blinded Veterans or understanding why certain demographics might be resistant to going through a BRC or adopting anything that might be perceived as acknowledging blindness due to stigmas.

Thank you for your assistance,
Timothy Hornik, LMSW

Dear Timothy
I have forwarded your missive to the Director of Blind Rehabilitation at the Department of Veterans Affairs and asked her to share your letter with all of the VA Visual Impairment Service Teams (VISTS).

Shaft Notes
The online application for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)https://scholarship.moaa.org/login.aspx. The application deadline is noon EST Monday, March 2, 2015. Students can apply for the interest-free loans and grants, which are awarded annually for up to five years of undergraduate study (or until a student graduates.) 

The MOAA Scholarship Fund was established in 1948 to provide educational assistance for children of military families. Eligibility guidelines include:

  • Students under age 24, who are children of former, currently serving or retired commissioned or warrant officers and children of currently serving or retired enlisted military personnel are eligible to apply. Active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired, and former commissioned officers and warrant officers of the seven uniformed services are eligible for MOAA membership.
  • Graduating high school seniors or full-time college students working toward their first undergraduate degree. If a child served in a uniformed service before completing college, however, the maximum age for eligibility will be increased by the number of years he or she served, up to five years.
  • Qualified students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale are considered for selection based on their scholastic ability and participation in extracurricular and community activities, as well as financial need.

“MOAA is committed to serving the families of those who serve this nation, and one of the many ways we do that is through educational assistance for military children,” said MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, USN (Ret).

“In 2014, the MOAA Scholarship Fund distributed nearly $9.3 million in grants and interest-free loans to more than 1,700 military families. Thanks to the dedication of our members, the MOAA Scholarship Fund has ensured bright futures for the families that protect our own,” he continued.

The MOAA Scholarship Fund, a public charity, has provided interest-free loans and grants of more than $130 million to more than 13,500 students since its inception in 1948. It is based on MOAA’s founding principle that “education is the cornerstone of a strong democracy.” It is supported by donations and bequests from MOAA members, chapters and corporations.

The closing of the 113th Congress in the New Year also signals an end to World War II representation in Congress, and the national commander of America’s largest and oldest major combat veterans organization doesn’t want the significance of the moment to go unnoticed.

“When World War II veterans returned home, many experienced the same reintegration difficulties that veterans from all wars do,” explained John W. Stroud, who leads the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “But they persevered, started families, finished their education, and became the scientists, scholars, poets and captains of industry that allowed America to prosper so much in the second half of the 20th century,” he said.

“They also got involved in how their communities and nation were governed, and the VFW is proud to claim among its members six World War II veterans who became president of the United States, and an untold number of others among the 36 Congresses that have convened since the election of Navy Lt. George Andrews (D-Ala.) in 1944 to the impending departure of former Army Lt. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Navy Lt. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) next month,” said Stroud.

Once comprising more than 70 percent of Congress in the 1970s, the number of military veterans has fallen below 20 percent, but the VFW national commander is confident that the new generation of veterans entering the 114th Congress, as well as many other congressional champions, will continue to take care of veterans, the troops, and all their families.

“Taking care of those who serve and sacrifice the most for our great country mattered then and it matters now,” said Stroud. “The VFW salutes the World War II generation for their selfless service to country, and we look forward to working with the new Congress to continue building a better tomorrow for our nation and world.”

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