February 9, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
We need your help. My name is Synclair Henry and I am emailing to inform you about the Disabled Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, offered annually here at the University of Florida.

The Veteran Entrepreneurship Program, with all costs covered for the veteran, is a rigorous entrepreneurial learning and development opportunity for service disabled veterans and those who have uniquely distinguished themselves in the military. VEP is designed for veterans interested in starting a new venture as a means to financial independence and for veterans who have an existing business which they would like to grow. The VEP is comprised of three phases: a five-week self-study component, an intense eight-day training program at the University of Florida, and an eight-month mentorship period with online peer-to-peer networking. This three phase program offers an innovative and effective combination of focused, practical training in venture creation and growth, as well as a support structure for graduates of the program.

For the upcoming 2016 VEP Program, applications are now being accepted.  The deadline is February 29th, but we make acceptance decisions as applications come in.  The eight day boot camp will take place from May 7th– 14th, 2016 (again, we cover all travel and accommodations costs).

What we are asking of you is to point us in the direction of deserving veterans that are excited about starting or growing a small business. I have an online brochure with more detail that you can feel free to disseminate. More information can be found on:


If you could provide your mailing address so that we may ship you our marketing pamphlets, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time, and we hope to hear from you soon!

Best Regards,
Synclair Henry
University of Florida ‘16
Graduate Assistant, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
synclair.henry@warrington.ufl.edu | (352) 273-0330

Dear Synclair
I hope this helps.

Shaft Notes
The high-spirted, fun-loving, memorable local celebrity Veteran, Ms. Alyce Dixon, died peacefully in her sleep today at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Community Living Center. She was 108 years old.

She is well-known in the community for her elegant sense of style, her long repertoire of eyebrow-raising jokes and very strong opinions. She credits her long life to sharing and caring. “I always shared what little I have, that’s why He let me live so long. I just believe in sharing and giving. If you have a little bit of something and someone else needs it, share,” she said.

Ms. Dixon was born September 11, 1907, when an American’s average life expectancy was only 47 years. She was born in Boston as Alice Ellis. At the age of 16, she changed the spelling of her name to Alyce after seeing a picture show starring actress Alyce Mills. She lived life on her own terms from that day forward.

Joining the military in 1943 during World War II, she was among one of the first African-Americans in the Women’s Army Corps. Ms. Dixon was stationed in England and France where she played an important role in the postal service as part of the 6888th Battalion.

After leaving the Army, she served many years at the Census Bureau and the Pentagon where she was a purchasing agent, buying everything from pencils to airplanes. She retired from government service in 1973.

At the DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center, she was affectionately called the “Queen Bee” and was known for impeccable dress. She never left her room without fixing her makeup and hair. She always wore stylish clothes and jewelry and sported well-manicured nails.

She loved to sit in the medical center Atrium and watch the people. She was disappointed in how young women dress today. “I tell everyone to dress nice for yourself and you’ll feel better, even if you don’t feel good,” she said. “Wear your jewelry, fix your hair. No one has to tell you that you look good…do it for yourself.”

She led a long and full life. She has met presidents, the first lady, members of Congress, high-ranking military officers, celebrities and musicians. She also held media interviews with many local and national outlets.

According to Medical Center Director, Brian A. Hawkins, MHA, “she will be missed by our “Capitol Excellence” family, especially the caregivers and Veterans of our Community Living Center. She was one-of-a-kind; a strong-willed, funny, wise, giving and feisty WWII Veteran. Her message touched a lot of people. It has been an honor to care for the oldest female Veteran. The DC VA Medical Center won’t be the same without her.”

VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald  recently presented his thoughts to the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee the way forward for the important transformation of the Department of Veterans Affairs—what we call MyVA.  We aim to improve our care and services to all Veterans. In order to do that, I made clear that we would need Congress’ help in legislating a fair, streamlined, and comprehensive process for new appeals, as well as providing much needed resources to address the current pending inventory of appeals.  I look forward to working with all stakeholders to design an appeals process that better serves Veterans.

VA will need legislation and resourcing to put in place a simplified appeals process that enables the Department to resolve the majority of our appeals in a reasonable time-frame for Veterans.

The appeals process we currently have set in law is failing Veterans—and taxpayers. Decades worth of law and policy layered upon each other have become cumbersome and clunky. Most importantly, it is now so antiquated that it no longer serves We are applying lessons learned from the transformative change that allowed us to reduce the disability claims backlog. Like our work with the claims processing, the appeals process will need changes in people, process and technology. Upgraded technology will make changes to our mail system and paper records, and incorporate some efficiencies in the way appeals are managed and processed.


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