Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs December 15, 2006 by cali0998


									Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs                      December 15, 2006

This Issue:
      News of the Week
         o    Happy 370th Birthday National Guard!
         o    Web Site Celebrates National Guard Birthday, History
         o    Sen. Craig Scores Major Victory for Veterans
         o    Florida Housing Unveils Millions of Affordable Housing Dollars to
              Active Military and Veterans in Florida
         o    Schedule Announced for Release of Tax Statements
         o    Governor Bush Presents Points of Light Award to Veteran
         o    Stress and the Holidays: How to Cope
         o    TRICARE Expands Dental Coverage
         o    TRICARE Open Season for Long-Term Care Insurance
         o    Military Health Care Making Advances
         o    Personal Products Needed for Wounded Troops at Walter Reed
         o    Blue Angels Announce 2007 Show Schedule
         o    Thunderbirds Release 2007 Show Schedule
         o    Golf Executive Calls Troop Support ‘Imperative’
         o    Summit Participants Motivated to Thank Troops
         o    Video E-mail Launches for Deployed Soldiers, Families
         o    Updated Florida Veterans’ Benefits Guide Now Available Online
         o    Filing for Homestead Tax Exemption Under the New
              Amendment 7? FDVA Suggests Documents You’ll Need
      News from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
      Florida Job Fair Information
      Veterans Bills - 2006 Legislative Session Report
      Supporting Veterans
      State Veterans’ Homes Program
        Links and References
        Editor’s Note

News of the Week
Happy 370th Birthday National Guard!
Guard celebrates 370 years – or 19 generations of lifers

What is a few years younger than the Mayflower Compact (1620); a lot older than the
Declaration of Independence (1776) and U.S. Constitution (1787); predates the U.S. Army,
Navy and Marine Corps by 139 years; and is 311 years older than the Air Force?

Answer: The National Guard.

Known originally as the militia, the National Guard turned 370 years young Dec. 13.

It all started in 1636 when the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which
functioned as the colony’s legislature, ordered existing militia companies from the towns
surrounding Boston to form into three regiments: North, South and East.

While other English colonies like Virginia and Spanish colonies like Florida and Puerto Rico
had individual towns with militia companies before 1636, Massachusetts was the first place in
the New World where the population was large enough to justify organizing companies into
regiments for command and control. These regiments became a kind of military “family” for
members. Although their names have been changed and individual companies have come and
gone, the three regiments still exist in the Massachusetts National Guard.

In retrospect, a string of 20-year career enlistments divides the Guard’s life span into more than
18 “generations.” The differences between generation one and the current 19th generation are
countless. Yet, even as the National Guard has transformed many times, it remains true to the
Founder’s intent of a citizens’ Army; and, for the last three generations, a citizens’ Air Force.

The American colonies adopted the English militia system, which obligated all males to possess
arms and participate in the defense of the community. This early militia enforced local laws and
battled Britain’s enemies in America. Now, a force of more than 450,000 men and women serve
voluntarily and can be deployed anywhere in the world.

From its very beginnings, the United States has been a militia–Guard nation. The existence of
and need for the colonial militia was ratified by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.
Congress specifically defined those missions the militia would be used for: “to Execute the
Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions.”

Since then, Congress has enacted several militia and defense acts to strengthen the National
Guard. The first of these laws, passed in 1792, governed the militia for 111 years of the
country’s existence.

The Militia Act of 1903 created the modern National Guard and affirmed the National Guard as
the nation’s primary organized combat reserve force. The National Defense Act of 1947
established the Air National Guard as a separate reserve component at the same time it
established a separate Air Force.

In 370 years and more than 18 20-year enlistments, the weapons and technology have changed
drastically, but the Guard’s contribution to the nation’s defense has remained paramount.

Generation seven rallied to battle the British at Lexington and Concord. Generation 12 faced
off, brother against brother, in the Civil War. Generation 14 “Remembered the Maine” during
the Spanish-American War. Generation 16 was already on duty when Pearl Harbor was
attacked. Generation 19 will never forget and is still responding to 9/11.

In 1636, the militia’s primary firearm was the crude matchlock musket which could take 56
steps to load and fire. Nearly one-third of militia Soldiers carried only a long pole, or pike, into
combat. Today, the Guard’s small-arms arsenal includes M-16 and M-4 rifles, and the Squad
Automatic Weapon which fires off 750 rounds per minute.

Our colonial forefathers could not have imagined much of what their descendants can use in
combat today – jet fighters, tanks, satellite radios, laser-guided munitions, global positioning
systems, rocket artillery, and countless other high-tech devices.

Now, after 360 years, what does the future hold for this always ready and reliable force?

Future National Guard generations will continue to employ all of the modern technology at its
disposal at home and abroad. At the core, however, today’s National Guard members and
yesterday’s Minutemen remain the same person: citizens with the conviction that their military
service is required to make their nation and communities a safer and better place.

Web Site Celebrates National Guard Birthday, History

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON -- The National Guard turned 370 years old Wednesday, and the National
Guard Bureau is celebrating with a Web site dedicated to the organization and its history. The
site, www.ngb.army.mil/features/birthday/index.html, chronicles the Guard's history.

"These first Minutemen answered the call, banding together for the common defense, an effort
which grew nationwide to protect towns, states, and ultimately the nation from all enemies,
civil, natural and foreign," Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau,
wrote in a letter on the site.

"Today, more than 50,000 citizen-soldiers and airmen are serving overseas as part of the global
war on terror," Blum wrote in his letter. "Over 9,000 are serving here at home in domestic
missions such as supporting our nation's efforts to secure our borders, guarding critical
infrastructure, and providing emergency response to our governors.

"Not unlike those Minutemen 370 years ago, today's Guard members are citizens who believe
that an organized militia is essential to the common defense. With centuries of courage,
commitment and tradition behind them, the National Guard proudly remains always ready,
always there."
In a letter commemorating the birthday, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, thanked the members of the National Guard for serving valiantly in times of war and
peace. "We simply could not sustain current operations without the National Guard," Pace
wrote. "The courage and sacrifice of every Guard member are truly inspiring. Your outstanding
service as citizen-soldiers comforts those in need and protects our homeland."

The National Guard has made up a significant portion of the forces deployed to Iraq and
Afghanistan. At one point in 2005, half of the combat brigades in Iraq were Army National
Guard, according to information on the Web site. The Guard is playing a more active role than
ever before, integrating with active forces in combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping missions,
information on the site says.

The Web site lists information from each period in the National Guard's history and details on
some state-sponsored events commemorating the 370th birthday.

Sen. Craig Scores Major Victory for Veterans
Congress passes comprehensive VA legislation

News from the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 -- A comprehensive bill which will benefit millions of veterans was
passed by the U.S. Senate on the last day of the 109th Congress. It now goes to President Bush
to be signed into law.

The legislation (S. 3421) was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, the outgoing Chairman of the
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

"I am extremely pleased that we were able to finally get this done. There were some serious
disagreements between members on a few issues, but everyone compromised a little. That’s
what it takes," said Craig (R-Idaho). "This legislation improves nearly every program that
impacts veterans."

The new law will allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to proceed with major
construction projects across the country, improve mental health care access, enhance telehealth
outreach, increase assistance to address homelessness, improve protections for veterans’
personal information, and more.

The legislation will also require VA to establish an Office of Rural Health. In addition,
veterans’ homes run by state governments will now be reimbursed by the federal government
for the costs of care provided to those veterans with a 70 percent or higher service-connected
disability. The changes will also help veterans in those homes – veterans with service-connected
conditions rated at least 50 percent disabled will be able to obtain their medications from VA.

The bill will also enable VA to create a pilot program that makes non-VA facilities – such as
private nursing homes or community hospitals – eligible for state veterans' home per diem

"This change will allow veterans to stay closer to home and loved ones. I think that’s
important," Craig said.
Among its many provisions, the bill adds $65 million to increase the number of clinicians
treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and $2 million for additional blind rehabilitation
specialists and increases the number of facilities where the specialists will be located. It also
authorizes VA to designate six Parkinson's Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers of
Excellence, and at least two Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence.

The bill also includes a provision sought by Sen. Craig which requires the removal of the
remains of a double murderer – Russell Wayne Wagner – from Arlington National Cemetery.
Wagner brutally murdered Daniel Davis, 84, and Wilda Davis, 80, in Maryland in 1994. Their
son, Vernon Davis, is a veteran and he had sought help from Sen. Craig and Maryland Sen.
Barbara Mikulski to have his parents’ killer removed from that hallowed ground.

"I was appalled to discover that the law enacted in 1997 to deny capital offenders burial in
national cemeteries did not apply to Wagner. While we moved swiftly to close the loophole that
permitted Wagner's burial in the first place, the question remained: should his remains continue
to be included among the scores of honored dead in Arlington? For me and Sen. Mikulski, who
joined me in this effort, the answer was ‘no,’" Craig said.

The new law will also enable the spouse or child of a servicemember who is hospitalized or
receiving outpatient medical care to begin receiving financial help through VA for education.
Sen. Craig crafted that portion of the legislation earlier this year after meeting with Army Sgt.
Jeff Mittman who was blinded during an attack in Iraq.

"Our change will allow him to get the treatment he needs while his wife gets the education their
family will need. This change will be a win-win for all. It’s simply the right thing to do," Craig

The new law will also enable tribal organizations to obtain grants from VA to help them
establish, expand, or improve veterans' cemeteries on trust lands.

The bill contains provisions that will provide VA with additional tools to help it contract with
veteran and disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

Craig praised Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans'
Affairs, for playing a key role in passing the legislation.

"Chairman Buyer deserves praise for fighting for the things he felt strongly about, and for
compromising where he could," Craig said. "I also commend Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii),
the Ranking Member of our committee and others for their hard work in making this legislation

Florida Housing Unveils Millions of Affordable Housing Dollars to Active
Military and Veterans in Florida

Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) recently unveiled $30 million for active
duty and veteran military personnel, teachers, firefighters, health care workers and police
officers interested in buying their first home. This program is called the Community Spot Loan
program and offers this group of professionals lower 30-year fixed interest rates as low as 5.25
percent, and up to $14,999 in down payment and closing cost assistance.
Moreover, those in 13 South Florida counties do not have to be first time homebuyers to go
through Florida Housing’s program. Those 13 counties are Brevard, Broward, Collier, Glades,
Hendry, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St.

The mainstream interest rate for all other eligible first time homebuyers is 5.69 percent. There is
also a 6.2 percent cash assistance option available where four percent is applied toward the
down payment and closing costs.

First Time Homebuyer Program
Florida Housing’s First Time Homebuyer Program provides low interest, fixed-rate loans and
down payment and closing cost assistance to eligible first time homebuyers purchasing new or
existing homes.

Eligible applicants include individuals who don't own their current home, don't claim their
mobile home as real property, haven't owned a home within the past three years, have
established credit worthiness, and have an annual income that does not exceed program limits.

About Florida Housing
Florida Housing was created by the Florida Legislature more than 20 years ago to ensure that
low-income families have access to affordable housing. Florida Housing administers a number
of rental housing and homeownership programs. Homeownership programs include the First
Time Homebuyer Program, the Homeownership Opportunity Pool (HOP) Program, the
Mortgage Credit Certificate program and down payment assistance programs such as the
Homeownership Assistance Program, HOME Down Payment Assistance and Homeownership
Assistance for Moderate Income.

For more information on the First Time Homebuyer Program and the funds that are available,
consumers should call 888-447-2977 or go to www.floridahousing.org then Homebuyers and
Renters, then First Time Homebuyer Program.

Schedule Announced for Release of Tax Statements

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 – Servicemembers, military retirees and annuitants, and federal
civilian employees paid by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service can expect to receive
their 2006 tax statements beginning this month, DFAS officials announced.

DFAS customers with access to the secure, Web-based "myPay" system will be able to retrieve
their tax statements electronically up to two weeks sooner than those relying on regular mail
delivery, officials said.

The myPay system includes layers of defense against identity theft, officials noted, adding that
its technology meets or exceeds security requirements in private industry worldwide.

"Tax statements are available online, allowing customers to view and print W2s and 1099Rs.
Whether anyone needs the statements to complete taxes or just wants an extra copy for their
records, the tax statements can be accessed and printed at any time," Patrick Shine, DFAS
operations director, said. "The printable statements are approved by the Internal Revenue

Here are projected distribution dates for DFAS customers' tax statements:

-- Retiree Annual Statement: Available on myPay Dec. 9, mailed via U.S. Postal Service Dec.

-- Retiree 1099R: Available on myPay Dec. 15, mailed Dec. 16-31;

-- Annuitant Account Statement: Available on myPay Dec. 18, mailed Dec. 19-31;

-- Annuitant 1099R: Available on myPay Dec. 18, mailed Dec. 19-31;

-- VSI/SSB W-2: Not available on myPay, mailed Jan. 4-5;

-- Active Duty Air Force, Army, Navy W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 22, mailed Jan. 23-29;

-- Reserve Air Force, Army, Navy W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 2, mailed Jan. 5-8;

-- Marine Corps active and reserve W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 5, mailed Jan. 9-10;

-- Civilian employee W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 9, mailed Jan. 11-18;

-- Savings Deposit Program 1099INT: Available on myPay Jan. 19, mailed Jan. 19-20; and

-- Vendor Pay 1099: Not available on myPay, mailed Jan. 27-31.

Shine added that current myPay account holders can eliminate the costs associated with
generating and distributing the tax statements immediately by signing up and using myPay. A
personal identification number, or PIN, is required to use the system, and eligible users can
apply for one at the myPay Web site, www.mypay.dfas.mil.

Users with military e-mail addresses -- addresses in the .mil domain -- or a pre-registered
personal e-mail address can receive their new PIN via e-mail. All others will receive their new
PIN via mail in approximately 10 working days from the date of request, officials said.

Customers who already had obtained a PIN but have forgotten it can apply for a new one at the
myPay site.

Governor Bush Presents Points of Light Award to Veteran

TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 13 — Governor Jeb Bush recognized Leonard Sperrazza of North
Miami Beach as this week’s Points of Light Award recipient. Leonard, who was blinded in
military service in 1944, has volunteered more than 27 years with the North Miami Beach
Citizen Patrol.

“Leonard’s efforts help us build stronger, safer communities in Florida,” said Governor Bush.
“I’m proud of his determination and the example he sets for his neighbors.”
Leonard’s heroic efforts on Omaha Beach in 1944 saved the life of a fellow solider, but he
suffered serious injuries that left him blind. However, his enthusiasm for service was not
weakened by his wounds. In 1979, Leonard helped form the North Miami Beach Citizen Patrol,
based on his participation in a residential crime watch group. The second program of its kind in
the nation, citizens patrol neighborhoods and help police officers with other crime prevention
initiatives. Leonard is the only founding member who still actively participates in the program
and has volunteered more than 18,000 hours of service since its inception.

The Governor’s Points of Light Award, sponsored by Royal Caribbean International and
Celebrity Cruises, recognizes a Florida resident or organization that demonstrates exemplary
service to the community. Award recipients are announced weekly. A panel of judges
comprised of leaders in the areas of volunteerism and service evaluate all nominations and make
recommendations to the Governor. The Volunteer Florida Foundation manages the program.
For more information, or to nominate, go to www.VolunteerFloridaFoundation.org.

Stress and the Holidays: How to Cope

Retrieved from TRICARE online Dec. 13, 2006
By David N. Tornberg, MD, MPH
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Clinical and Program Policy

From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, many of us shift into overdrive to meet the increased
demands of the holiday season. When juggling work, shopping, buying and wrapping gifts,
baking and social obligations, you may find yourself short on time and energy.

Quick Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress
As you cross each holiday task off your list, be sure to take a moment for yourself. Here are a
few other ways to keep holiday stress at bay:

    •   Stay positive.
    •   Set realistic goals.
    •   Make a budget and stick to it.
    •   Don't worry about things out of your control.
    •   Exercise.
    •   Eat right by decreasing the fat and sugar you eat.
    •   Try to sleep for eight hours each night.

Most people experience stress during the holiday season, but for some the holidays bring a host
of other emotions.

The Holiday Blues
If the holidays overwhelm you, you're not alone. While holidays are often a time of joy for
many people, they may bring a host of other emotions for others—especially military families
in this time of increased ops tempo and long deployments. The stress and strain military service
is real, and sometimes emotions may be hard to pin down. If you can't seem to shake the holiday
blues, don't worry—help is available.

Put the Pieces Together: The Mental Health Self-Assessment Program
There is no question military life is challenging, particularly during the holidays. To help you
privately evaluate your emotional well-being, the Defense Department offers the Military
Health Assessment at https://www.militarymentalhealth.org/. It's a free, anonymous self-
assessment to determine if you have symptoms consistent with a condition or concern that may
benefit from further evaluation or treatment. The self-assessment also tells you where to go for
help. The self-assessment may not solve your problems, but it's a good place to start—and a
way for you to connect when you feel disconnected.

For those who need help overcoming alcohol and/or drug abuse, TRICARE covers
detoxification, rehabilitation and outpatient care provided in an authorized substance abuse
rehabilitation facility. Ask your primary care manager about available treatment options.

Military OneSource: Helping Active Duty Members and Their Families
You may always visit a local family support center for help, but you should know Military
OneSource is another valuable resource. Military OneSource is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week,
toll-free information and referral service for active duty soldiers, activated guardsmen and
reservists, deployed civilians and their families. It provides information from everyday concerns
to deployment and reintegration issues. For more information, please contact Military

    •   Web site: www.militaryonesource.com (enter User ID: Military; Password: OneSource)
    •   Phone: Stateside (toll free): 800-342-9647
           Overseas (toll free): U.S. access code + 800-3429-6477
           Overseas (collect): U.S. access code + 484-530-5908

With a little planning and goal setting, you can prevent holiday stress from getting the best of
you. However, if you find yourself sad, anxious or just overwhelmed, please know help is
available. Remember, getting help is a sign of courage, not weakness.

Tip of the Month:
Don't Drink and Drive! Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve families and friends gather
to celebrate the holiday season. Sadly, it is the most dangerous time of year to get behind the
wheel, with an increase in alcohol-related traffic crashes and highway deaths. December is
National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month. So, remember to always
designate a sober driver before each holiday party or event involving alcohol.

TRICARE Expands Dental Coverage for Children and Other Eligible

From the Department of Defense Military Health System

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Dec. 1 — The National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 legislated a
change to the TRICARE dental benefit to cover anesthesia services and institutional costs for
dental treatment for beneficiaries with developmental, mental or physical disabilities, and
children age five or under. For TRICARE to reimburse claims, beneficiaries must save their
bills for medical care occurring after Oct. 17, 2006. The change in statute does not include the
actual dental care services coverage through the TRICARE Dental Program and the TRICARE
Retiree Dental Program.
Once program officers finalize implementation requirements, TRICARE will announce when
beneficiaries may submit their bills for reimbursement. Implementation requires changes to
TRICARE Manuals and dental care services contracts.

To avoid costly and extensive dental procedures requiring anesthesia, children should start
seeing a dentist by the time their first tooth appears or by their first birthday; this helps to
prevent tooth decay and other oral diseases. Decay is the single most common chronic
childhood dental disease—and it’s completely preventable.

About TRICARE Management Activity

TRICARE Management Activity, the Defense Department agency that administers the health
care plan for the uniformed services, retirees and their families, serves more than 9.2 million
eligible beneficiaries worldwide.

TRICARE Open Season for Long-Term Care Insurance

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Dec. 4 — During this time of year, many insurance plans offer open
season for long-term care insurance. While TRICARE covers medically necessary skilled
nursing care, it does not cover beneficiaries’ long-term care needs. When skilled services are
no longer medically necessary and beneficiaries begin receiving long-term care services, they
will be responsible for all expenses.

TRICARE usually covers medically necessary skilled nursing facility care if beneficiaries meet
the following criteria:

• Hospitalized for at least three consecutive days, not including the day of discharge;
• Admitted within 30 days of hospital discharge (with some exceptions);
• A doctor determines the need for medically necessary rehabilitation and skilled services; and
• The facility is both Medicare-certified and a TRICARE-participating provider.

During a skilled nursing facility stay, staff members regularly review beneficiaries’ health care
needs to determine the type of care required. If staff members determine beneficiaries need
enough skilled services to meet the defined skilled nursing facility requirements, Medicare and
TRICARE pay the facility a set amount. However, beneficiaries pay for non-covered services
and appropriate cost shares and deductibles. When beneficiaries primarily need help with "daily
living activities,” such as bathing, eating, dressing, personal hygiene, walking, etc., they
typically transfer to a long-term care facility.

As TRICARE does not cover long-term care, beneficiaries may want to consider other coverage
options, such as:

1. Commercial Long-Term Care Insurance, which lets beneficiaries choose coverage; or

2. The Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program, available to active duty and National Guard
activated for more than 30 days, retired uniformed service members and Selected Reserve
members. For more information, please visit the www.opm.gov/insure/ltc/index.asp or call 1-
For more information on TRICARE coverage, beneficiaries may check with their TRICARE
regional contractors or the TRICARE Web site at www.tricare.osd.mil/mhshome.aspx

Military Health Care Making Advances

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 -- The military has made tremendous advances in health care in the
last decade and specifically since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the top Defense
Department official for health care said.

Body armor, eyewear, new surgical techniques and improved medical data collection in this
conflict have all contributed to the lowest "killed-in-action" rate in history, Dr. William
Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in a roundtable
discussion with retired military analysts.

The killed-in-action rate for operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom is 12.5 percent,
vs. 18.6 percent for the first Gulf War and Vietnam, and 25.3 percent for World War II, he said.
The killed-in-action percentage measures the number of servicemembers killed out of the
number wounded.

"Basic stuff is making a difference. Obviously, it doesn't save every injury, but it mitigates a lot
of the injuries," Winkenwerder said.

As of Dec. 2, 23,119 servicemembers had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. Of
those, 55 percent returned to duty within 72 hours, he pointed out. "People miss that, and I think
it's an important thing," he said.

Winkenwerder pointed out some other surprising statistics: of the 37,058 servicemembers
medically evacuated from the U.S. Central Command area of operations as of Dec. 4, 59
percent have been for disease and 21 percent for non-battle injuries; also, as of Nov. 1, the war
on terror has produced 760 amputees, of which 500 lost a limb, hand or foot, and 260 lost
fingers or toes only.

A major issue in this conflict has been post traumatic stress disorder, Winkenwerder noted. The
best statistics on PTSD come from an Army study done on soldiers and Marines returning from
their first or second rotations in Iraq or Afghanistan, in which the rate of servicemembers who
screened positive for PTSD on a questionnaire was 12 percent, he said. He noted, however, that
the pre-deployment rate of PTSD was about seven or eight percent.

To provide better mental health care for servicemembers, the military now does a pre-
deployment screening, a post-deployment screening, and a follow-up screening three to six
months after troops return, Winkenwerder said. This follow-up assessment is important, because
many troops don't report problems right after a deployment, but these problems surface later, he

These extra assessments give military officials more data to work with when analyzing mental
health trends and developing new programs to help servicemembers, Winkenwerder said.
"It's a real profile of what's going on with our people that we did not used to have, and it's
allowed us to develop new programs to reach out where the need is," he said. "I think they're
making a difference; we've gotten very good feedback."

Another area that has seen notable progress is amputee rehabilitation, Winkenwerder said. Of
the total number of amputees, 25 percent have been returned to duty. "The spirit there is
unbelievable," he said.

More improvements are on the way for military health care, as the new Walter Reed National
Military Medical Center is built in Bethesda, Md., Winkenwerder said. The building will be
next to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and across the street from the
National Institute of Health, creating a collaborative environment that will lead to new and
better health care for troops, he said.

Personal Products Needed for Wounded Troops at Walter Reed

Courtesy National Military Family Association

Officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are seeking donations for wounded troops who
are forced to leave behind personal belongings when medically evacuated from war zones.
Many of the troops arrive with nothing. Because of the speed with which the most seriously
wounded are evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan, their belongings are often left behind and
don't catch up. The center is looking for everything from shoes, gloves and winter jackets to
postage stamps, prepaid phone cards and razors. The Family Assistance Center requests that no
cash or used items be donated. Among some of the more specialized needs are weightlifting
gloves (for use by wheelchair patients); trousers with snaps or zips along the legs; umbrellas;
and prepaid gas or grocery cards. Donations can be sent to:

Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Medical Family Assistance Center
Bldg. 2, 3rd Floor, Room 3E01
6900 Georgia Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20307-5001.

Blue Angels Announce 2007 Show Schedule

NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the
Blue Angles, announced its schedule for the 2007 show season. Following winter training, the
team will begin its 61st season March 10, 2007, and will conclude Nov. 10 at Naval Air Station
Pensacola, Fla.

The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 66 demonstrations at 35 air show sites throughout
the United States, as they celebrate 20 years of flying the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet.

Demonstration sites are selected in support of the objectives of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine
Corps and the Department of Defense. Public performances greatly assist Navy and Marine
Corps recruiting and retention goals, enhance esprit de corps among uniformed men and
women, and demonstrate the professional skills and capabilities of the armed forces to bolster
pride in the American public.
“The Blue Angels are fired up and ready for a safe and exhilarating show season,” said Cmdr.
Kevin Mannix, Blue Angels flight leader and commanding officer. “While we wanted to
perform at every air show site, we have a limited number of available performance dates each
season. Every venue that requested to host the Blue Angels received the Navy’s utmost

The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform at the following Florida locations in 2007*:

March 24: Tyndall AFB
March 31: MacDill AFB
April 1: MacDill AFB
July 21: Pensacola Beach
Nov. 3-4: Jacksonville Beach
Nov. 9-10: NAS Pensacola

*Although these dates have been approved, they are subject to change. For the most updated
schedule information, log on to the team’s official Web site at www.blueangels.navy.mil.

Thunderbirds Release 2007 Show Schedule

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN) -- The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron,
"Thunderbirds," has announced its 2007 air show schedule.

The team is scheduled to perform more than 68 shows in 21 states and nine European countries.

The 2007 schedule for Florida is as follows:

April 14-15: Eglin AFB
May 5-6: Fort Lauderdale
Nov. 3-4: NASA Cape Canaveral

"The entire team is excited to announce our schedule for 2007," said Lt. Col. Kevin Robbins,
Thunderbird No. 1, commander and leader. "The Thunderbirds' motto is 'Ambassadors in Blue'
... in the truest sense of those words this year we'll be able to bring the message of every hard-
working Airman to thousands of people around the world."

The second-year commander said his team is ready to take the Airman's story abroad. "We are
well aware this is a time of conflict for our nation, yet it is important to take the time to display
the true nature of our armed forces, both to allies and foes," Colonel Robbins said. "We look
forward to illustrating the dedication, commitment and humility our Airmen display in their jobs
each day, both at home and overseas."

The Thunderbirds will also commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Air Force throughout
their 2007 season.

"We are representing six decades of air dominance this year," Colonel Robbins said. "The Air
Force and Thunderbirds of today uphold the pride and professionalism that millions of Airmen
have displayed for 60 years."
The 2007 team includes the Air Force's first female jet demonstration pilot, Maj. Nicole
Malachowski, Thunderbird No. 3, right wing, in her second year, and the Thunderbirds' first
female solo pilot, Maj. Samantha Weeks, Thunderbird No. 6, opposing solo, in her first season
with the team.

The remaining pilots for the 2007 season include: Maj. Chris Austin, Thunderbird No. 2, left
wing; Maj. Scott Poteet, Thunderbird No. 4, slot; and Maj. Ed Casey, Thunderbird No. 5, lead

A Thunderbirds' aerial demonstration is a mix of formation flying and solo routines. The pilots
perform approximately 40 maneuvers in a demonstration. The entire show, including ground
and air, runs about one hour.

Golf Executive Calls Troop Support 'Imperative'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., Dec. 13 -- The servicemen and women performing tough,
dangerous work to protect America against terrorism deserve the public's full support, a senior
professional golf organization official said.

"What's significant is that they know we support them and their personal commitment in doing
that job, and we all need to participate in that," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said at
an employee summit meeting.

Finchem said his organization, the Professional Golfers' Association Tour, became the first
corporate partner of the Defense Department's America Supports You (ASY) program in
February 2005. ASY is a nationwide DOD program that recognizes citizens' support for military
men and women and their families.

The son of a career Marine, Finchem said he knows about some of the personal sacrifices that
can accompany military service.

"If you're away from home in a foreign land with your life on the line in a combat environment,
it's imperative for us to make that guy feel and know that people over here are thinking about
him and that he's got support," Finchem said.

PGA Tour-affiliated golf courses within the Tournament Players Club network have supported
U.S. troops in many ways in recent years, Finchem said. For example, funds raised by PGA
Tour players, as well as TPC members, guests and employees, have been provided to three

•   Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit organization supported by Tour player Phil Mickelson
    that adapts or builds new homes for accessibility for servicemen and women with serious
    injuries and disabilities;

•   Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit organization supported by Tour player Rory
    Sabbatini that provides financial support for families of military personnel who died in
    performance of their duties; and
•    Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit group supported by Tour player Frank Lickliter II
     that provides unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of servicemen and
     women severely injured in the line of duty.

"To be able to be involved with America Supports You is unique because our people really get
involved personally in it, and it's very special," Finchem said.

The PGA Tour-America Supports You partnership raised more than $1.2 million for U.S.
servicemembers this year, Finchem said.

"I think it has been a great relationship, and we're just looking to do more," he said.

Summit Participants Motivated to Thank Troops

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 -- Clutching a camo-clad teddy bear named "Hero" that she received
from a soldier in Iraq, fifth-grader Bailey Reese stood out among the troop-support organization
leaders who gathered at the Pentagon for the second annual America Supports You Community
Group Summit.

America Supports You is a Defense Department program that spotlights and facilitates support
for the nation's servicemembers and their families by the American public and the corporate

Representatives from more than 80 of the program's 234 nonprofit grassroots organizations met
with DOD officials, coordinated their troop-support functions and shared their stories.

After a hurricane hit her hometown of Niceville, Fla., 10-year old Bailey started "Hero Hugs,"
an organization that sends care packages to troops.

"We were without power, so we went to one of the checkpoints and (Bailey) saw people
snapping at the soldiers and complaining about the lines being too long," said Bailey's mom,
Diana Calvert-Reese. "Nobody was telling them 'thank you.' She was really bothered by that, so
she made it her mission to see that soldiers were thanked."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who later was presented with an America Supports
You poster signed by each of the participating partners, addressed the group. Rumsfeld's
comments were followed by feedback sessions which gave the troop-support organization
leaders the chance to discuss what they enjoy about the program and what could make it even
better next year.

Strengthening the community of support for the nation's men and women in uniform is next
year's goal, said Calvin K. Coolidge of Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides
scholarships and grants to children whose parents have been killed or permanently disabled in

Other ideas mentioned in feedback sessions included reducing shipping costs on items sent to
troops abroad, and harnessing new media - such as blogging, virtual forums and chat rooms -- to
keep America Supports You partners and their donors connected, said Allison Barber, assistant
secretary of defense for internal communications and community outreach. Barber conceived of
the America Supports You program, which was launched in November 2004.

Meeting with congressional representatives to explain their programs on Capitol Hill would also
be helpful, several participants said.

"We welcome the scrutiny and the honesty and your critique, because it will make a stronger
organization," Barber said to the auditorium of America Supports You partners. "We want to
know what's on your mind, and we will help facilitate that. ... It's a great use of our time."

Discussion turned to the annual Freedom Walk, an America Supports You initiative designed to
remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and to honor
the nation's veterans, past and present. Freedom Walks took place in all 50 states this year in
addition to the national event held in the nation's capital.

"The Freedom Walk is a nice opportunity for people to get together and show our consolidated
support for the military," said Linda Davidson, director of OMK, a McLean, Va., nonprofit
organization that provides grants for extracurricular activities to children of deployed soldiers.
Next year's Freedom Walk will be a good way to show support for military families too,
Davidson said.

The annual summit underscores the participants' desire to honor and respect America's
servicemembers, Coolidge said.

"Our troops need to know that they are supported by the American people; the America
Supports You program helps them get that message, wherever they are," he said.

Video E-mail Launches for Deployed Soldiers, Families

By Margaret McBride
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 -- Soldiers and families can now communicate by video e-mail
through the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) intranet portal. On the first day, more than 3,500
video e-mails were transmitted.

"Thank you, that's all I can say," Pvt. Brenden Teetsell of the 44th Signal Battalion e-mailed on
Dec. 6. "Thank you for allowing me to see my family. Your technology helps boost not only my
morale, but thousands of soldiers a day."

AKO video messaging allows all deployed active-duty, National Guard and Army Reserve
soldiers to create video messages on a computer with a Web cam. The message is then stored on
a server and sent to the recipient via a link.

Upon opening an e-mail, the user clicks on the link to get streaming video and sound. The
video-streaming software allows a soldier to hear and view video e-mail even in limited
bandwidth environments, but the link can be accessed any time from anywhere.
Instructions are on a link on their AKO home page. Soldiers must follow the same Defense
Department security measures used for standard e-mail and are not allowed to use Web cams in
secure areas.

Families with an AKO account can send video e-mails from home with a personal computer and
a Web cam. They can also use Web cams in many of the yellow-ribbon rooms on military
bases. Military bases in deployed locations typically have Web cams available at cyber cafes,
officials said.

"Families no longer need to coordinate times to ensure everyone is available to see each other,"
said Gary L. Winkler, director for governance, acquisition and knowledge in the Army Chief
Information Office, who initiated the project.

"This will help geographically separated families stay closer during deployment, and we also
expect other benefits from this capability as users become more familiar and comfortable with
it," he said.

In the future, Army video e-mail applications could also be used for distance learning and
training, recruiting and telemedicine, officials said.

Updated Florida Veterans’ Benefits Guide Now Available Online

The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs has just published its 2006 Florida Veterans’
Benefits Guide. You can access a printable version of the booklet online by clicking

Filing for Homestead Tax Exemption Under the New Amendment 7?
FDVA Suggests Documents You’ll Need

On Nov. 7, the voters of Florida approved a change to the State Constitution amending Section
6 of Article VII. What has become commonly known as Amendment 7 provides an additional
discount in ad valorem taxes for certain partially (10 - 90 percent) disabled veterans. After
receiving numerous questions regarding the implementation of Amendment 7, the Florida
Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) recommends the following guidance to determine

According to the Amendment, the requirements for the discount are:

    1)      Proof of age 65 years or older;
    2)      Proof of Florida residency at the time of entering military service;
    3)      Official letter from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stating
            the percentage of the veteran’s service-connected disability;
    4)      Evidence that reasonably identifies a combat-related disability; and
    5)      Documentation of the veteran’s honorable discharge.

Veterans discharged after Jan. 1, 1950, should be able to provide two documents which would
qualify them in most cases. These documents are:

    1)      DD Form 214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty
            Will satisfy the following requirements above: #1 (Date of Birth), #2 (Home of
            Record at Time of Entry), and #5 (Character of Service). Additionally, #4 may be
            satisfied if the applicant was awarded the Purple Heart for combat wound(s).

    2)      Disability Rating Letter from VA
            Will satisfy requirement #3 (Rating Decision), and may satisfy requirement #4
            (under the headings of Evidence, Reasons for Decision, and/or Associated Claims).

These two documents alone should qualify most applicants; however, there may be other
documents which could support the applicant. Veterans discharged prior to 1950 may present
different discharge documents. Other veterans may be in the process of requesting a copy of
their DD-214 and may not have received it by March 1. In such cases, government-issued
identification cards, other proof of Florida residency at time of military entry (i.e. high school
diploma dated close to military orders), an honorable discharge certificate, or other documents
may assist in determining eligibility.

In cases where the Disability Rating Letter from the VA does not satisfy requirement #4
regarding reasonable evidence of a combat disability, other documents such as award citations
(i.e. Purple Heart for combat wound(s), other citations mentioning a combat injury),
documentation from the Department of Defense for Combat Related Special Compensation (for
retirees), or other military documentation may be useful for tax offices to consider.

FDVA and county veteran service officers are available to respond to inquiries regarding this
Amendment and eligibility for this new benefit for Florida’s veterans. The FDVA point of
contact is Ed Ortiz, Benefits and Assistance Executive Assistant, at (727) 319-7427 or

News from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Two Florida-based VA Health Care Systems Garner Prestigious Award The
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently recognized two Florida-
based, VA health care systems for excellent performance. The VA presented the 2006 Robert
W. Carey Performance Excellence Award to VA health care systems in Miami and in North
Florida/South Georgia for the work each does for veterans in their respective areas. These
health care systems were two of only five recognized nationwide. This is a distinct honor
considering that the VA oversees the operation of 152 VA medical centers nationwide. This is
the second year for the Miami VA to receive this prestigious award.

The criteria used for this prestigious award are based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality
Award criteria that are used by thousands of organizations around the world to continuously
assess and improve their organizational performance in order to be among the best in their field.
Excellence awards are presented to organizations that demonstrate effective, systematic
approaches to management; initiate refinements to continuously improve processes; and show
positive trends and results in many key areas.

Florida Job Fair Information
Job fair information from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation is available on-line at:
Veterans Bills - 2006 Legislative Session Report
SB 122 (Sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano and Rep. Gayle Harrell)
Free undergraduate tuition at state colleges and universities for Florida recipients of the Purple
Heart and other combat-related decorations superior in precedence to the Purple Heart. Eligible
recipients must be current Florida residents and have been so at the time of the action when
their combat decoration was earned. This legislation recognizes Floridians who have
distinguished themselves in battle by offering significant educational benefits, leading to a
college degree and an improved quality of life for the veterans and their families.

HB 573 (Sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett and Rep. Gus Bilirakis)
Building Permit Fee Waiver for Certain Disabled Veterans - This bill waives county and
municipal building permit fees for 100 percent permanently and totally disabled veterans who
are Florida residents when improving access and convenience for activities of daily living to
their dwelling. Florida has the largest population of seriously disabled veterans in the country,
which means this bill potentially affects 15,200 permanent and total disabled veterans. It
addresses an issue of fairness by adding all resident dwellings owned by veterans to this fee
waiver rather than limited to mobile homes, which was previous law.

SB 1370 (Sponsored by Sen. Burt Saunders and Rep. Bill Proctor)
Relating to waiving the residency requirement for admission into a State Veterans’ Nursing
Home (SVNH) - Grants the authority to the Executive Director of the FDVA to waive state
residency for admission into SVNH to otherwise eligible veterans from other states who are
evacuees from the state where that Governor has declared a state of emergency. In the
immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Florida was asked to provide Nursing Home
admission to veterans from out-of-state. Florida Law had heretofore prohibited admission of
non-Florida residents.

SB 2034 (Sponsored by Sen. Cary Baker and Rep. Stan Jordan)
Relating to educational benefits for spouses of KIAs and 100 percent permanent and total
disabled Florida veterans - Provides for free tuition at state colleges and universities for the un-
remarried, dependent spouse of certain veterans who are Florida residents and who were
residents of Florida for one year prior to the action which resulted in their eligibility. Offering
educational benefits to the spouse of a Florida veteran who was killed in action or is 100
percent permanent and total disabled as a result of military service is an expression of tribute
from a grateful state. It is a lasting expression of gratitude for past sacrifices and an offer of
hope for a brighter future.

HB 7127 (Sponsored by the House Committee on Military and Veteran Affairs Chaired by
Rep. Stan Jordan)
Amends Florida’s current prohibition against disturbing lawful assemblies by providing a
higher level of penalty for disturbing the particularly sensitive assembly of individuals gathered
to give military honors to a fallen veteran. Laying a loved one to rest is the most sensitive
moment for a veteran’s family. This law makes clear that disturbing a military funeral is not
acceptable behavior in Florida. Florida’s veterans and families may conduct funerals with full
faith that their observance will be dignified.

SB (SJR) 194 HB (HJR) 631 (Sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano and Rep. Ray Sansom)
Commonly known as Amendment 7, as an additive benefit provides a discount from the amount
of ad valorem tax on the homestead of a partially, permanently disabled veteran who is age 65
or older, who was a Florida resident at the time of entering military service, whose disability
was combat-related, and who was honorably discharged; to specify the percentage of the
discount as equal to the percentage of the veteran's permanent service-connected disability.
This legislation changes the Florida Constitution, specifically Section 6, Article VII. This
change to the constitution took effect Dec. 7, 2006. This initiative does not have an adverse
effect on current homestead exemptions.

Supporting Veterans
License Plates Support Florida Veterans’ Homes

Your purchase of the "Florida Salutes Veterans" or one of the recently approved Army,
Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard Military Service license plates helps people who need it
most, when they need it most. The entire $15 surcharge goes into a Trust Fund for the operation
and maintenance of critically needed Veterans' Homes in Florida. A portion of the Marine
Corps License Plate also supports the State Veterans’ Homes Program.

Headstones and Markers

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes upon request, at no charge to the
applicant, a government headstone or marker for the grave of any deceased eligible veteran in
any cemetery around the world. For all deaths occurring before Sept. 11, 2001, the VA may
provide a headstone or marker only for graves that are not marked with a private headstone.

Spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery are not eligible for a government-provided
headstone or marker.

Flat markers in granite, marble, and bronze and upright headstones in granite and marble are
available. The style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial.
Niche markers are also available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.

State of Florida Veterans’ Homes
Take a virtual tour of a State Veterans' Nursing or Domiciliary Home. The tour includes
ten 360 degree fully interactive pictures. No additional software is required to view these
images. Simply click on the desired picture and the tour begins.

Links and References for Veterans
Click here for a copy of Florida Veterans’ Benefits Guide.

Ask Benefits Questions Via E-MAIL: For specific Compensation and Pension benefits
questions and local regional office issues, the contact list is by state and geographical area of

Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents (Current Edition) - The current edition of this
booklet lists the variety of federal benefits available to veterans and their dependents. Selecting
the link above will allow you to download the booklet as a PDF file in English or Spanish.
La versión en Español de el folleto "Beneficios Federales para los Veteranos y sus
Dependientes", el cual explica la variedad de beneficios disponibles para los veteranos y sus
dependientes, se encuentra disponible en versión PDF al presionar aquí.

VA State Summary for Florida - Current information is March 2006.

Florida Veterans Mobile Service Center - The Florida Veterans Mobile Service Center uses a
state of the art 40-foot van equipped with two exam rooms, as well as facilities for dental care,
to travel the state performing intervention with homeless veterans who live in rural
encampments. This mobile unit offers a unique opportunity to provide homeless veterans
immediate assistance of food and clothing, health screening and assessment, VA benefit
determination and counseling, as well as assessment of housing, mental health, substance abuse,
employment, educational and vocational needs.

Issues and Action: Federal Veterans Issues

Find your member of Congress

United States Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

Combat Veterans Information

Transition Assistance Program

PTSD and Combat Veterans

Survivors Benefits

Women Veterans Information

(Some links require Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded here)

Please encourage others to sign up for efloridavetsNews. Sign up, unsubscribe or change
your email address at http://www.floridavets.org/news/newsletter.asp

Editor’s Note
The material presented herein does not have the effect of laws or regulations.

Please send questions or comments on this newsletter to Public Relations Manager, ATTN:
e-FloridaVets News, 4040 Esplanade Way, Suite 152, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0950 or email

Changes to our e-mailing list may be accomplished by accessing our Web site at

The newsletter archive is available on the Web site at

                    Happy Holidays

To top