May 19, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
You have highlighted many organizations who have helped our wounded military personnel.  Can you recommend another organization which does exemplary work to which I can contribute?

Thank you for your interesting and up-to-date information.

RS
Via the Internet

Dear RS
I highly recommend the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed Foundation) who by the way recently announced the lineup of special guests who attended this year’s 11th annual Night of Heroes Gala, “Building the Future. Honoring the Past.” The event was held on Thursday, May 14, at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., to honor those who lead the way in serving our nation’s defenders, and will also include a special tribute to those who served during the Vietnam era.

“We are proud to honor this diverse group of Americans for their commitment to our troops and their spouses, families, and caregivers,” said Jane Whitfield, president and CEO of the PenFed Foundation. “They represent so many others who support our military community and help them along the way, and we are thankful for their leadership.”

General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret), 32nd Chief of Staff of the United States Army and president and CEO of the Association of the United States Army, received the Military Hero Award. Elizabeth Dole, former U.S. Senator from North Carolina and founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, received the Community Hero Award. Betty Easley, the wife and caregiver of United States Army veteran Greg Easley, received the Hero at Home Award.

Other notable guests attending this year’s gala included awards presenters General George W. Casey, Jr., who served as the 36th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and R. James Nicholson, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Jake Tapper, anchor and Chief Washington correspondent for CNN, who l served as the Master of Ceremonies, and Miss DC Teresa Davis made a special appearance. The evening also included special messages from First Lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The Night of Heroes Gala, a black tie or military dress occasion, begin at 6 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Washington, D.C., with a reception and silent auction followed by dinner, live auction, and the program.

“America’s military community is spread out among numerous bases and towns around the world,” added Whitfield. “It’s nice when one night a year we can bring the community together to honor such leaders for their tireless work helping the men and women who work to protect our freedom.”

Sponsors of this year’s gala include event underwriter PSCU and Lee & Penny Anderson; corporate circle of honor sponsor The Niner Foundation; and legendary hero sponsors Allied Solutions, HMS Home Warranty, Leidos, TitleClose, and TrueCar, Inc.

Shaft Notes
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, with leaders from local and national service organizations, corporate employers and government agencies, will announce the launch of the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative, an effort focused in a total of 50 U.S. cities to promote economic success for Veterans. The goal: to increase education and employment opportunities America’s Veterans by bringing together local and national employers to coordinate services for Veterans, Servicemembers and military families.

The Veterans Economic Communities Initiative launch event will be hosted at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas. During the event, Secretary McDonald, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and Medal of Honor Recipient Kyle White will provide remarks. Campaign partners will participate in panel discussions on public-private partnerships and the Dallas area’s efforts to create a community conducive to Veteran economic success.

Representatives from major corporations such as Hilton Hotels and Resorts and TriWest Healthcare Alliance will also join Secretary McDonald in pledging their commitment to furthering Veteran economic opportunities across the country.

The first 25 communities participating in the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative include:

Atlanta, Georgia; El Paso, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; New York, New York; San Antonio, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Honolulu, Hawaii; Los Angeles, California; Norfolk, Virginia; San Diego, California; Cincinnati, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; Phoenix, Arizona; Seattle, Washington; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Miami Florida; Richmond, Virginia; St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; Riverside, California; Washington, D.C.

For more information about the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative, contact Ozzie Garza, Ozzie.garza@va.gov 214-505-4315 and James Hutton, james.hutton@va.gov, 202-461-7600.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which would restore eligibility for Department of Defense benefits, including tuition assistance, if an individual is unable to complete their education due to the closure of the school.

Last month, Corinthian Colleges Inc. closed its remaining campuses, leaving more than 16,000 students in limbo and thousands of employees without a job. It is estimated that the closure of Corinthian Colleges Inc. could cost American taxpayers $214 million.

After the House Rules Committee refused to consider the amendment, Takano released the following statement:

“I’m disappointed that the Republican-run House Rules Committee refused to consider an amendment that would restore Department of Defense benefits to servicemembers and veterans who are unable to complete their education because their school closed. As we now know, for-profit colleges have intentionally sought to enroll servicemembers and veterans to their institutions specifically for their guaranteed benefits. With several for-profit colleges being investigated for fraud, and the closure of the largest for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges, Congress should be working to help the students who have been left with mountains of debt and worthless degrees – especially if they are serving or have served our country. By refusing to consider this amendment, Republicans in the House have aligned themselves with the very worst actors in the for-profit sector, instead of our nation’s heroes. While I’m frustrated with this development, I will continue to explore other avenues to help servicemembers and other students who have been taken advantage of.”

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