www.jamesmadison.org Number 68 | February 2011
Trusted Solutions for a Better Florida
Floridians Coping with the Aftermath of War
Dr. Susan A. MacManus
LeRoy Collins Jr. Distinguished University Professor,
University of South Florida
Dr. Susan C. Schuler
President, Susan Schuler & Associates, Inc.
With the assistance of USF Honors College Undergraduate Students
Mary L. Moss and Brian D. McPhee
David Gulliver, Editor
Foreword an exhaustive survey that went beyond
After more than a decade of war involving traditional polling and conducted focus
U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is groups to obtain an “up close and per-
This study is dedi-
a growing realization of the problems and sonal” perspective.
cated to the memory
of an exemplary public special needs of the Florida veterans who The inescapable conclusion is that
servant who was tragi- served there and much work remains
cally killed in July 2010 to be done to ensure
of the military
as the result of a traffic
personnel who that those problems
crash. Rear Admiral Le-
Roy Collins Jr. served continue to are addressed and that
for nearly four years serve, whether the needs are met. Al-
as Executive Director though government at
on active duty or
of the Florida Depart-
in the Reserves all levels bears much of
ment of Veterans Affairs
(FDVA) after a long and and National the responsibility and
distinguished career in Guard. must perform better,
the U.S. Navy. At a time there is a major role
In addition, there has been a growing
when many govern-
realization of the collateral damage on the for non-governmental entities: families
ment agencies tend to
be defensive when an home front as military personnel and their and friends, of course, but also private
outside entity conducts families cope with the aftermath of war. philanthropy. Indeed, there is reason to
research that could in- believe that the non-profit private sector
To gain a better understanding of the
clude an evaluation the
agency’s performance of problems and a better assessment of is uniquely qualified to deliver needed
its duties, the FDVA was the needs, The Gulf Coast Community services efficiently at the community
unfailingly cooperative. Foundation of Venice and The James level, complementing the government
The authors of this study programs in a concerted effort to solve
Madison Institute partnered to commis-
very much appreciate
his leadership. sion the study discussed in this report. It the problems and meet the needs. These
included a first-in-the-nation component: brave men and women deserve no less.
The James Madison Institute
Trusted Solutions for a Better Florida
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the research advisory council of the JaMes Madison institute
Dr. Susan Aud, Senior Fellow, Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation;
Dr. Michael Bond, Professor of Finance, Cleveland State University;
Dr. Marshall DeRosa, Professor of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University
Dr. Thomas V. DiBacco, Professor Emeritus, American University;
Dr. Dino Falaschetti, Florida State University College of Law;
Dr. James Gwartney, Professor of Economics, Florida State University;
Wynton Hall, Professor of Speech Communication, Bainbridge (Ga.) College;
Dr. Randall Holcombe, Professor of Economics, Florida State University;
Dr. Barry Poulson, Professor of Economics, the University of Colorado;
J.B. Ruhl, J.D., Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law;
Peter Schweizer, Research Fellow, The Hoover Institution, and
James M. Taylor, J.D., Senior Fellow, The Heartland Institute.
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Floridians Coping with the Aftermath of War
Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Where they have fallen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Florida’s major role in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Charities step in, with support from a silent benefactor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Key Findings: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
43 grants to 26 nonprofit organizations have been awarded through the Florida
BRAIVE Fund by Gulf Coast Community Foundation in a 25-county area: . . . . . . . . . 9
Grants made collaboratively to ensure statewide coverage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Issue Briefs and Stories
Brief 1: The invisible injuries of a new kind of war . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Story: Saving Jose: A mother and sister sacrifice to save a soldier with TBI . . 13
Brief 2: Stresses of war lead to problems in the home. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Story: Sgt. 1st Class. Kenneth Lovett in Qatar,
comforting aid for his wife at home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Story: A new battle: A combat veteran fights brain injury and
red tape to rebuild his life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Brief 3: Trained as soldiers, they see few jobs, many challenges . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Story: To protect and serve, again: Reserve mom
hopes to become deputy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Recommendations and Key Findings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Components of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s research project. . . . . .29
Analysis of BRAIVE Agency Administrator Perspectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Veteran Focus Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Family Focus Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Florida Veterans Issues Statewide Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
APPENDIX B:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31
The purpose of this report is to document and recommend ways of helping our
servicemen, servicewomen, and their families re-establish peaceful, productive
lives during wartime.
The research funded by Gulf Coast Community Foundation through its
BRAIVE Fund has shown that Floridians applaud Iraq and Afghanistan vet-
erans’ service and want them and their families to receive needed assistance
as they deploy, then reintegrate. They also show that veterans appreciate that
support, but are concerned that the public is tiring of the conflicts and that
support for the troops serving in these theaters may be short-lived.
Veterans interviewed are not always receiving the government benefits
they have earned. In part, this is because of an institutional belief that they
should be able to handle most of their own problems. After separation, there
is sometimes a reluctance to register with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Consequently, when problems eventually emerge, many do not know where
to turn for help, nor understand the benefits to which they are entitled.
Obstacles to getting treatment for mental health issues, including post
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are more formidable than
receiving other benefits because military personnel do not want to admit a
personal weakness. They also strongly believe that both their military and
post-military careers will suffer if treatment for PTSD is on the record.
Family reintegration is another serious concern, as returning deployed
active duty military and those separating from military service grapple with
reestablishing ties with their spouses and children. Veterans generally accept
that they are the ones who need to adjust and fit in.
For the veterans returning home and looking for employment, finding a
job is extremely difficult and frustrating, and worsened by the recession and
Florida’s higher-than-the-national average unemployment rate. Unemployment
amplifies problems related to family reintegration.
Veterans are aware of care packages sent to them when on deployment;
they appreciate personal messages from civilian adults and school children.
But their awareness of not-for-profit support agencies is low. Few are able to
name any nonprofit other than the Red Cross.
At a time when government’s abilities are limited, it is imperative that
services provided by local non-profit organizations reach those in need. It is
also important that local residents’ support for and involvement in such efforts
is strengthened. Success depends upon finding more effective ways to spread
the word.about available services.
That is not to absolve government agencies of their duty to improve their
services; in many cases, pilot programs already have identified
how to do a better job within their current resources. However,
this isn’t to say that there may not be a need at some point to
expand what the Department of Defense and the Department
of Veterans Affairs provide, in order to cope with the increased
It is important to note that in the statewide survey, 92
percent of Floridians said assistance for Iraq and Afghanistan
veterans was “very important.” And 50 percent or more said
they believed the federal and state Veterans Affairs agencies,
county and city governments and the media needed to do more
to help the returning veterans.
Those figures indicate there is broad-based support for efforts
to improve services for veterans. They suggest an opportunity
for policy-makers to restructure and increase support for these
programs, even at a time when other initiatives might see
considerably less support.
Introduction sheriff’s deputy, but cannot find the money
to pay for training.
The purpose of this report is to docu- In North Port, a former Army Ranger who
ment and recommend ways of helping fought in Iraq and Afghanistan now wants
our servicemen, servicewomen, and their to train for a career in nursing, but lost his
families re-establish peaceful, productive tuition support when injuries in a car crash
lives during wartime. caused a break in his college enrollment.
In Zephyrhills, an Army wife and mother
of seven searches for help when her air
Where they have fallen
conditioning fails, her husband is thousands
of miles away and they have too little money
Near Tampa, a Marine who returned to
service as a National Guardsman lies in a
Stories like these can be found every-
bed, his skull shattered by a rocket-propelled
where in Florida, where thousands of
grenade. Beside him are his mother and
servicemen and servicewomen and their
sister, who gave up jobs, college, and a
families have returned after heeding their
home to help him fight for his life.
country’s call to fight terrorism and aid
In Bradenton, a young mother and
fledgling democracies. And too many have
National Guardsman who drove convoys in
been themselves left seeking help when
Iraq now hopes to serve her hometown as a
government programs failed them.
As they lost hope, however, charities members in the service past their expected
stepped in to meet their needs, filling the discharge dates.
gaps that government programs did not an- And in 2007, as coalition members
ticipate. The experiences of those charities, withdrew their troops, the United States had
and of the people they have aided, provide to press its military for another 20,000-plus
a clear mandate for how the country must troops, part of a strategy that became known
improve the support it provides to those as the surge.
who have given the most. When OIF officially ended, on Aug. 31,
2010, more than 4,400 U.S. troops were
Florida’s major role in the killed. Nearly 32,000 more were wounded,
Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts often returning home with grievous injuries.3
The citizens of Florida Enduring Freedom, which
have provided a major por- began with combat in Af-
tion of U.S. forces. ghanistan after the Sept. 11
More than 22,400 Flo- terrorist attacks, entered an
ridians have served in the expanded phase.
active-duty military in Opera- As in Iraq, coalition troops
tion Iraqi Freedom and Op- initially routed the opposi-
eration Enduring Freedom.1 tion, but now are fighting a
Nearly 2,000 have been growing insurgency. Some
“To date, more wounded. Florida also has American troops who fought
than 1,300 sent nearly 22,000 National long campaigns in Iraq are
U.S. troops Guard members to the two now being redeployed to
have been combat theaters.2 fight the Taliban. To date,
Operation Iraqi Freedom began March more than 1,300 U.S. troops have been
20, 2003, as some 248,000 U.S. soldiers led killed and another 9,800 wounded.4
another 9,800 the invasion of Iraq, with another 47,000 Florida also has served fallen soldiers
wounded.” troops from partner nations. from all across America. The state is home
In less than three weeks they broke the to 13 military installations and Tampa’s
Iraqi military, swept the country and cap- James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, the busi-
tured Baghdad with minimal losses. But OIF est of the Veterans Affairs trauma centers,
went on for another seven and a half years, with services from cardiac and spinal cord
as coalition forces — in the end, almost surgery to pain management and mental
exclusively American — battled an elusive health care.
insurgency that fought from shadows and The returning troops return with needs
ambushed them with improvised bombs. unlike those seen after other wars. They
With a smaller, volunteer force and the have served longer deployments — 14 or
war’s long duration, the military was forced 15 months at a time, compared with the
to press its members into more and longer common year or less in Vietnam or Kosovo.5
deployments than it had in Vietnam. It And they were much more likely to have
also employed stop-loss orders, keeping served in multiple deployments — three is
common, and many report five or more.6 Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Ven-
And the wounded are returning with ice. Together, they established the Florida
more grievous injuries, both because of the BRAIVE Fund, intended to support the
enemy’s use of powerful roadside bombs state’s population of military and National
and because advanced medical care has Guard personnel and families.
allowed many to survive wounds that would
have been fatal a decade ago.
In all, it combines to place never-before-
seen stresses on the veterans, their families,
and those who care for them.
Charities step in, with support
from a silent benefactor
In 2006, recognizing that government
agencies were inadequately supporting
returning troops, the California Community “The $250
Foundation established the Iraq Afghanistan million
Deployment Impact Fund (IADF).
The $250 million program resulted
from an anonymous donation, and the
donor’s identity would remain a secret for from an
three years. But in 2009, the publicity-shy anonymous
California philanthropist David Gelbaum donation, and
reluctantly confirmed he was the source of
the IADIF funding.
In the meantime, IADIF began its nation- The foundations divided the state into identity would
wide program. It built relationships with the three geographic regions where they would remain a
Department of Defense and Department of best invest their respective $5 million. secret for three
Veterans Affairs. It funded groups that sup- Over two years, Gulf Coast Commu- years.”
port military personnel and families, both nity Foundation provided grants to 26
during and after deployment. It supported organizations, from proven groups like the
research on the challenges facing veterans American Red Cross to Operation Helping
and volunteer networks to help veterans Hand, a small grassroots organization that
find what they need. And it proved that covered the costs of families traveling to
charities could step up to meet the needs visit wounded service members in Tampa’s
that government did not or could not fulfill. James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.
And in 2008, the fund, trusting communi- This report summarizes research from
ty-based charities to best know local needs, several sources, primarily the Iraq Afghani-
awarded $5 million grants to three Florida stan Veterans Association, the California
foundations: the Miami Foundation, the Community Foundation, and RAND Cor-
Community Foundation in Jacksonville, and poration.
It also provides Florida-based research congruent work from other organizations
based upon: to recommend ways of helping our service-
• a statewide telephone survey of men, servicewomen and their families
Florida residents, re-establish peaceful and productive lives
• a focus group with OEF/OIF veterans during wartime.
• a focus group with OEF/OIF veterans’ Ultimately, devising effective programs
families for deployed and returning military service
importantly, • interviews with the directors of non- members and their families depend on
this report profit groups that received BRAIVE understanding the unique nature of these
offers five key fund grants. war and the difficulties with reintegration
findings on Most importantly, this report offers five it causes. We discuss those difficulties in
key findings on how the wars in Iraq and the following issue backgrounders and
how the wars
Afghanistan still affect Floridians. The profile stories.
in Iraq and findings draw upon the four studies and
1. Veterans and their families report stresses when the service member returns
home. But a stigma attached to mental health care makes reluctant to seek
help; when they do, counseling and other services can be difficult to access.
2. Returning service members face major difficulties finding post-military
employment and obtaining services in spite of a new GI Bill.
3. Veterans, who typically come from a military culture that emphasizes self-
reliance, often go without the help they need -- either because they lack
confidence in government agencies or are unaware of services.
4. Private, local not-for-profit organizations can play a vital role by offering
help that governments cannot or do not provide. Veterans find those
services valuable, but they are often unaware of what’s available. There
is limited communication between private groups and government, and
some nonprofit leaders have expressed concerns about their organizations’
inability to provide ongoing services for veterans because of special needs
and lack of steady revenue.
5. In assessing needs in order to prepare recommendations for local action,
service providers can benefit by obtaining information not only from those
being directly served, but also from their wider interpersonal networks –
family members, friends, and others.
43 grants to 26 nonprofit organizations have been awarded through the Florida
BRAIVE Fund by Gulf Coast Community Foundation in a 25-county area:
AVET Project, $25,000
Providing deployed service members in Afghanistan and Iraq with a gender-specific
Empowerment Equipment Bag to meet their immediate need for basic hygiene items.
BayCare Behavioral Health, $52,468
Providing counseling services for families of veterans and military personnel experiencing
transitory adjustment problems, behavioral problems, or substance use issues.
Charlotte Behavioral Health Care, $100,000
Addressing mental health, substance use, and related psychosocial needs of veterans
and their families.
Civilian Military Community Foundation, $30,000
Providing assistance with childcare costs resulting from deployment to Iraq or Afghani-
stan, and to support community-building dinners at reintegration seminars for returning
reservists and their families in Brevard County.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, $30,000
Expanding the current veterans’ project to target outreach, education, and free legal
representation of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans in
Brevard, Orange, and Seminole counties without regard to income.
Florida Gulf Coast Paralyzed Veterans of America, $68,768
Converting a vacant 1,000-square-foot building into a wheelchair-accessible, all-purpose
activities facility for veterans and their families.
Genesis Health Services, $85,000
Supporting collaboration with Manasota’s Operation Troop Support to provide counsel-
ing, financial assistance, and other help to military service members and their families in
Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Gulfcoast Legal Services, $95,000
Providing legal assistance and education for veterans to ensure they receive the benefits
for which they are eligible.
Haley House Fund, $165,000
Providing temporary lodging to the families of active-duty military personnel being
treated for life-threatening injuries and diseases at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and
Polytrauma Unit in Tampa.
Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Sarasota-Manatee, $400,000
Providing homelessness prevention case management, mental health counseling, and
emergency financial assistance to military families.
Military Spouse Corporate Career Network, $124,500
Providing targeted, focused, and intensive employment support services to military
family members affected by Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Manasota Operation Troup Support (With collaboration/Jewish Family
and Children’s Service of Sarasota-Manatee, Inc.) $179,700
Developing a service center to provide services not available through the military or
veterans’ organizations in Manatee and Sarasota counties, and to advocate for military
personnel as they return from deployment and re-enter civilian life.
Operation Helping Hand, $80,000
Providing travel and other expense for family members to visit wounded or injured
active-duty military patients being treated at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.
Operation Homefront, $60,000
Providing emergency financial assistance to help military families with mortgage pay-
ments, home or car repairs, healthcare, utility bills, and other essential living expenses.
Quantum Leap Farm, $628,566
Promoting and improving physical, mental, and social well-being for disabled veterans
and active military personnel by engaging them in a variety of equestrian activities.
Seminole Behavioral Healthcare, $49,479
Providing treatment and early intervention services for troops who have significant
mental health or substance use issues.
Special Operations Warrior Foundation, $500,000
Providing immediate financial assistance for special operations personnel who have been
severely wounded, to have his/her family travel and be bedside.
State College of Florida Foundation, $219,775
Creating a globally accessible, multimedia Web site www.myrebootcamp.com to help
veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families prepare for and access
Tampa Area Marine Parents Association, $21,000
Purchasing and distributing The Wounded Warrior Handbook with information on medi-
cal treatment, rehabilitation, counseling, and support to all eligible Marine service members.
Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, $50,000
Providing case management for the Courts Assisting Veterans program in Manatee,
Sarasota, and DeSoto counties.
Veterans Plus $180,132
Providing educational outreach initiatives and financial education service options to
Welcome Home Vets, $235,500
Providing counseling and other clinical services for returning veterans and their families,
care packages to overseas troops, and outreach efforts to improve the community’s sensitivity
to the needs of veterans.
WorkNet Pinellas, $150,000
Providing training and employment to veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation
Grants made collaboratively to ensure statewide coverage
American Red Cross – Tampa Bay Chapter, $790,500
Providing assistance, including direct emergency financial relief, to soldiers and veterans
of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and their families.
Florida National Guard Foundation, $325,056
Providing emergency financial assistance to personnel of Operation Iraqi Freedom and
Operation Enduring Freedom.
James Madison Institute, $105,000
Identifying and clarifying why there are still unmet needs faced by deployed and returning
military personnel and their families with recommendations for filling these gaps in honor
of our communities’ obligation to our military heroes, and with a special emphasis on the
important role of private philanthropy and non-profit groups in complementing government
programs and providing efficient delivery of needed services at the community level.
United Way of Florida, $50,000
Providing capacity for the Florida Alliance of Information and Referral Services to create
a statewide network of call centers with live, 24-hour crisis counseling, and a searchable,
online database of services for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom
military personnel, veterans, and their families.
FIRST ISSUE BRIEF: mates more than 320,000 service members
The ‘visible and invisible injuries’ have a probable TBI.8
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
The counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq recognized for decades as “shell shock,”
and Afghanistan resulted in an unprec- is a psychological condition that develops
edented use of improvised bombs, devices after a person experiences a traumatic or
“But thousands that struck with terrible force but little life-threatening event. Symptoms include
more suffered precision. persistent memories of the trauma, height-
damage that Two-thirds of all injuries in Operation ened alertness, nightmares, insomnia and
is usually Iraqi Freedom are blast-related. irritability. Depression may express itself as
Coalition forces, though, had access to persistent sadness, irritability, changes in
medical skills and systems, and time and sleep or appetite, difficulty in concentrating
but no less again saved the lives of soldiers who just a and feelings of guilt or hopelessness.
devastating, decade ago would not have survived. Thou- The conditions come from wounds that
a class of sands of servicemen and servicewomen sometimes draw no blood and leave no
wounds returned home with grievous injuries, scars. Bomb blasts cause percussive waves
recognizable in an instant: missing limbs, that can bruise the brain, strain neurons
burn scarring, and paralysis. or tear blood vessels, all without leaving
known as But thousands more suffered damage that a mark. Victims can develop neurological
invisible is usually invisible but no less devastating, a problems long after the event, and are at
injuries: class of wounds becoming known as invis- greater risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
traumatic ible injuries: traumatic brain injury, post- diseases. And invisibility is a major problem:
traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Studies show that nearly six out of 10
military personnel reporting probable TBI
post-traumatic Traumatic Brain Injury are not evaluated for it.9
stress The best-known, perhaps, is trau- TBI also is closely linked to depression
disorder, and matic brain injury (TBI). It became and PTSD, according to a landmark 2008
depression.” better known after a bomb nearly killed RAND study, which found that each condi-
ABC television reporter Bob Woodruff, tion affected about 14 percent of returning
embedded with a unit in Iraq. Staff Sgt. veterans.10 And the problem grows with time:
Jose Pequeno (next featured story), now A study of 80,000 troops, published in
living near Tampa, also suffered a TBI and the Journal of the American Medical As-
is perhaps the Iraq war’s most seriously sociation in 2007, found 17 percent screened
injured soldier to survive. At least 5,500 positive for mental health problems shortly
servicemen have suffered TBIs in the Iraq after returning from combat, but six months
and Afghanistan wars. later, that rate had climbed to 30 percent. 11
Service members have suffered 195,547 Depression and PTSD are treatable by
TBI cases from 2000 through November psychotherapy, where a therapist helps the
2010, more than 35,000 classified as mod- patient learn to think about the traumatic
erate, severe or penetrating, the Defense event without experiencing stress. Medica-
Department reports.7 An outside study esti- tions can treat the symptoms of PTSD but
Saving Jose: A mother and sister sacrifice to save a soldier with TBI
Nellie Bagley never forgets the promise she made to her son, as he struggled to
survive the massive brain injury he suffered in Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Jose Pequeno was in Bethesda Naval Hospital, three days after a rocket-
propelled grenade exploded next to him on the streets
of Ramadi. Jose was in a coma. Doctors told Nellie he
would die. But she and Jose’s sister Elizabeth, sitting
at his bedside, told Jose of their faith and hope:
“We told him, if you want to let go, we still love
you and we will see you again. But if you choose to
fight we will never leave your side.”
And they didn’t, for almost three years, through
21 surgeries, until Jose came home. They kept the
promise with help from many charities, including
Tampa-based Operation Helping Hand, which is
supported by grants from Gulf Coast Community
Foundation’s BRAIVE Fund.
“They took care of my bills. They took care of flying
my grandkids. They allowed my daughter to fly back and forth to New Hampshire,”
Nellie says. “Helping Hand has been a godsend for us.”
Jose chose to go to Iraq. He served in the Marines, and then became a police
chief in a small town in his home state of New Hampshire. He enlisted in the
Army National Guard. And when the Guard needed volunteers to fill gaps in a
Pennsylvania regiment, he volunteered.
He believed his experience might make a difference. “I can help those kids come
home to their families,” Nellie remembers him saying.
“What do you say to that?” she asks now. “You bless him and let him go.”
By March 1, 2006, he had been in Iraq for more than nine months. Jose was
patrolling a main road in Ramadi, riding in the front passenger seat of a military
Humvee, when bullets and rocket-propelled grenades started flying.
One grenade sailed in and exploded by his left side, killing the driver instantly.
Jose had just opened his door, and the blast threw him from the vehicle. Medics
believe that’s what saved him, but they didn’t realize it at first.
They arrived within 90 seconds and found him with his head blown open,
brain tissue in the sand. They thought he was dead, and moved on to care for
the Humvee’s wounded gunner. Then they heard Jose choking on his blood and
rushed to his side.
At about 1 p.m., Nellie got the phone call telling her Jose had been hurt and
was headed to surgery. Three days later, the family saw him at Bethesda, and they
made their promise.
He rallied, first for a day, then a week. All that time, either Nellie, Elizabeth,
Jose’s wife Kelley, or another family member was there. “He chose to fight, and
we have never left his side,” Nellie says.
Neurologists have learned that the brain is a remarkable organ. In people who
have had radical surgery, even with half the brain removed, the organ rebuilds
connections and redevelops functions believed to be associated with the missing
portion of the brain.
Doctors believe that is happening in Jose. In November 2009 and April 2010,
they performed surgeries that used a muscle from his back and bone from his skull
to reconstruct the brain cavity. They hope that by creating space and relieving
pressure in his skull, it will allow his brain to keep healing and rewiring itself.
Gradually, painfully, the improvement is coming, Nellie says. Jose, now 36, com-
municates with facial expressions and groans, which sometimes sound like names.
He recognizes friends and family members, and responds to their communication.
Jose’s children — daughters Mercedes, 15, and Alexandria, 13, and son Gaige,
12 — spent this summer with their father in Tampa. Jose recognized them, tracked
them with his eyes, and smiled at them.
In late August, when they left for the airport to return to their mother in New
Hampshire, they saw perhaps the truest sign of what Jose still thinks and feels,
and what may be to come.
“His eyes got red and teary,” Nellie says. “But not until they left did the tears
come rolling down.”
According to several published accounts, Jose is the most grievously wounded
soldier to return from Iraq. His case, and his family’s remarkable support, has
drawn attention: Nellie has been to the White House twice.
But the encounter she cherishes most came during a long day in Bethesda,
“The country waiting for Jose to emerge from treatment. Vice President Joseph Biden and his
wife, Dr. Jill Biden, came in to visit families. The Bidens asked Nellie to dinner.
needs to build
She accepted, but when Jose’s fever spiked, she called to decline the invitation.
better support Later that night, she said, Mrs. Biden returned to the hospital, without the usual
systems for entourage, but with plates of food for Nellie, Elizabeth, and -- not knowing his
both the condition — for Jose.
Nellie, humble, says the encounters have allowed her to spread her message:
veterans and The country needs to build better support systems for both the veterans and their
their families.” families. “When an injury like this happens, it doesn’t just happen to the soldier,”
she says. “It affects the entire family.”
do not cure the cause of the injury. itself. Some two million children have
But military culture and poor follow-up experienced a parent’s deployment.14 In
mean most troops do not get that treatment. one study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
By one study, more than half of those seeking behavioral health care, almost one
screening positive for PTSD or depression quarter said their children seemed distant
do not seek help.12 or afraid of them.15
SECOND ISSUE BRIEF: Alcohol and Drugs
Stresses of war lead to problems in Alcohol and drug abuse is increasing
the home and going untreated. On post-deployment
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have forms, 12 percent of soldiers report alcohol “In one study
placed unique stresses on the men and problems, but less than 1 percent of them of Iraq and
women serving in the United States military. were referred to treatment — again, because Afghanistan
During the Vietnam War, a draft supplied of career ramifications.16 veterans
the military with new manpower, allowing As of 2008, some 7,400 Iraq and Af-
ghanistan veterans have been treated at VA
single, shorter tours of duty.
But today’s all-volunteer force has been hospitals for drug addiction, 16,200 have behavioral
pressed into multiple deployments — three been diagnosed with alcohol dependence, health care,
or more is common — and with slightly and 27,000 have been diagnosed with almost one
longer durations and less down time excessive drug use.17 quarter said
between missions than the military has
Homelessness their children
It means that troops are trained in boot
Studies show that veterans whose PTSD seemed distant
camp to perform their duties, but receive
goes untreated have a greater chance or afraid of
of becoming homeless. Homelessness
no training, no “de-boot camp,” to allow them.”
plagues the entire veteran population — in
them to adjust and prepare for their return
2009, some 107,000 were homeless on any
to civilian life.
given night, and more than half had been
They go from deployment, where fellow
homeless for 12 months or more.18 And the
soldiers have clearly defined roles, support-
problem may be growing more acute.
ing each other, to home, where roles are
More than 3,700 veterans of Iraq and
fluid, but others are largely dependent on
Afghanistan have been seen through VA’s
the veteran. In the field, they must respond
homeless outreach program.19 The head
immediately, and often with force, to any
of VA’s homeless programs said Iraq and
provocation; at home, they must forego
Afghanistan veterans were entering the
what has become almost instinct
homeless population within 18 months
It’s little wonder, then, that returned
of discharge, faster than with previous
troops display signs of everyday stress at
wars.20 The nation’s housing collapse has
greater rates and with more dire conse-
contributed, as foreclosures were running
quences than ever, and far more than their
four times the national average in military
communities. 21 And it should come as
The place that should be their refuge
little surprise that studies show PTSD and
— their home — often is a source of stress
For Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Lovett in Qatar,
comforting aid for his wife at home
In Qatar, where Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Lovett was deployed with the Army
National Guard, 153rd Cavalry, Bravo Troop, the early August heat peaked at
Back home in Zephyrhills, temperatures topped out at just
98 degrees. But his wife Amanda was stuck at home with
their seven children, including year-old Katherine — and
the air-conditioning had broken down.
“I hate playing the helpless female,” Amanda said, “but
as soon as he left, every single appliance started breaking
down left and right.”
The trouble began in January, when heating ducts started
falling apart. Then the well pump, which supplies water
to their home, failed. Kitchen sink plumbing cracked and
flooded the kitchen. Then the dishwasher went. And finally,
in late July, the air-conditioning system sprung a major Freon
leak, damaging it beyond repair.
And if having no respite from the sweltering heat wave wasn’t stressful
enough, the series of repair jobs had wiped out their financial reserves. “When
the air-conditioning went, we were at the bottom of the barrel,” Amanda said.
“There was nothing left. We were neck-deep in credit cards.”
She began trying all the usual sources of help, like the Army Emergency Relief
program. But the organization no longer covers home repairs.
From Qatar, Kenneth suggested calling the local Army Family Readiness Group,
which pointed her to the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Red Cross. There
she found Ruby Smith.
As a Red Cross coordinator of service to the armed forces, Smith could tap the
chapter’s $250,000 grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice BRAIVE
Gulf Coast’s BRAIVE Fund helps families and service members who have been
deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where Kenneth had been deployed in 2006. Smith
verified his service, then asked Amanda to put together a budget and estimates
from three companies.
Amanda found a company that said it could do the work for $4,200. The firm
sent the estimate to Smith at the Red Cross office, who in turn responded with a
check for $3,000. With some juggling, Amanda swung the rest of the cost, but the
Red Cross support through the BRAIVE Fund made it possible. Government did
not have the help they needed.
“It was a blessing,” Amanda said. “I don’t know what we would have done
A new battle:
A combat veteran struggles with TBI and red tape to rebuild his life
Sgt. Brock Horner took on some of the most dangerous jobs of Operation Iraqi
Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
In the first week of the Iraq war — March 26, 2003, Brock says with precision
— he parachuted into Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. They
seized Bashur Airfield, then secured the city of Kirkuk. On later
patrols, searching for insurgents, Brock stormed through doors,
never knowing what waited on the other side.
But in the brigade’s next deployment, the enemy found him.
In Afghanistan, a rocket-propelled grenade struck his Humvee,
putting him in the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for
It may be his long road to health that has inspired Brock’s plans
for his future. Now 25 and living in North Port, he is studying
to be a nurse anesthetist, thanks to financial support from Gulf
Coast Community Foundation of Venice BRAVE Fund through the
support of Jewish Family and Children Services.
At Landstuhl, he had surgery on his face and mouth, and CT scans to check for
internal trauma. It wasn’t until then that he and his superiors realized Brock had
suffered some form of brain injury. It manifested as headaches, a wracking pain
that left him unable to even open his eyes. He struggled on for six months, finally
receiving a medical discharge in 2007 and returning to Florida.
Doctors learned oxygen therapy could reduce the frequency and intensity of the
headaches, and Brock soon was able to begin school at State College of Florida.
But a car accident in September 2009 forced him to miss classes and exams, and
the resulting poor grades cost him his financial aid.
He spent his savings on the spring 2010 semester, hoping that would re-qualify
him for aid. But under a GI Bill technicality, he would not be eligible again until
he completed his associate’s degree. Frustrated, he dropped out and occasionally
drank to excess. At one point, he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor
A judge agreed to withhold any conviction as long as Brock continued his work
and counseling at Manasota Operation Troop Support. There, he learned about
Jewish Family and Children’s Service and its Operation Military Assistance program.
With financial support from Gulf Coast’s BRAIVE fund, the program paid Brock’s
tuition and charges for his summer and fall classes at State College of Florida,
about $4,500. With that support, he completed the requirements for his associate’s
degree in August — including perfect 4.0 grades in algebra and statistics.
“I needed this,” said Brock, who, like many veterans, is reluctant to accept
assistance. “I wouldn’t have graduated without it.”
TBI — when untreated — lead to increased among non-veterans. 28 But the rate for
chances of family problems, drug abuse, young male veterans, 24 or younger, was
and suicide.22 about 22 percent — more than one in five,
and greater than among non-veterans.29
Suicide The jobs of reserve and Guard members
Suicide among military personnel is
are protected by the Uniformed Services
perhaps the greatest tragedy of the wars.
Employment and Re-employment Rights
The military suicide rate has increased
Act (USERRA), and joblessness is far lower,
every year since 2004, and the Army and
but they too face problems. More than 40
Marine suicide rate now exceeds that of
percent see income fall while deployed30
the civilian population. 23 From 2005 to
A Congressional study found that among
“From 2005 2009, more than 1,100 service members
Guard and Reserve members deployed since
to 2009, took their own lives — 309 in 2009 alone.24
September 2001, 11,000 were not promptly
more than In September, Secretary of Defense Robert
re-employed, 22,000 lost seniority, pay, and
Gates called suicide prevention a top issue
1,100 service benefits, and 11,000 lost health insurance.31
facing the military, noting the issue of the
members took stigma attached to mental illness and PTS.25
In another study, about 47 percent of
Reserve and Guard members who had jobs
their own lives
before deployment, but received unemploy-
— 309 in 2009 THIRD ISSUE BRIEF:
ment after their return, said they had been
Trained as soldiers, they see few
alone.” jobs and many challenges laid off or not offered a job.32 Three-quarters
did not seek the protections available by
Business schools’ management programs law.33 Those who knew of their protections
teach problem-solving, decision-making, often chose not to fight: Claims typically
teamwork, leadership — all of them skills take almost two years to resolve.34
military personnel put into practice daily. Female veterans have even more post-
But when they return from deployments in military challenges than their male coun-
Iraq and Afghanistan, many are finding their terparts. They earn about $10,000 a year
skills carrying no weight in the civilian job less than male veterans, and they have
market. While a struggling national economy significant problems finding jobs with sala-
certainly plays a role, returning service mem- ries equivalent to their military earnings.35
bers face their own distinct challenges. The new GI Bill, passed in 2008, greatly
Employers often do not understand how improved educational benefits for veterans,
military skills and experience translate to but it still has some weaknesses: It covers 36
the workplace; a survey found 61 percent months of tuition, and has significant limits
felt they did not completely understand the on veterans pursuing vocational training
qualifications former service members of- and certificate prorams.
fer.26 Three-quarters of veterans, meanwhile, FIRST KEY FINDING—Keep
said they were unable to translate their Healthy Relationships
military skills into civilian terms.27 1. Veterans and their families report
As a result, unemployment among stresses surfacing when the service
veterans from the active-duty military was member returns home. But a stigma
over 10 percent in 2009, slightly more than attached to mental health care makes
most reluctant to seek help; when they • DOD and VA should also fight the
do, counseling and other services can be mental health care stigma with a
difficult to access. national campaign promoting use of
services like Vet Centers and Suicide
In the Gulf Coast Community Founda- Prevention Hotline.
tion study, both veterans and their families • DOD should examine the concept of
identified PTSD or depression as a signifi-
a fixed period between tours to allow “Family
personnel to recover and maintain
Family members of Florida veterans members
expressed greater concern about PTSD and • DOD should study best practices of Florida
general mental health than the veterans for protecting the privacy of mental veterans
themselves. They often see veterans refusing health care patients. expressed
to admit they may need mental health care.
They also often report problems resulting Creating a trusted informal support greater concern
from the veteran returning to find new rou- system: about PTSD
tines and responsibilities in the household. • Military units should foster local and general
support group systems, patterned
But service members see mental health mental
counseling as a barrier to career advance- after those on bases that could assist
family members with re-integration. health than
ment and, often, as an unacceptable admis-
sion of weakness. Only half those who • Local support groups should build the veterans
eventually sought mental health care and distribute lists of mentors, pat- themselves.”
reported that need via the military’s previ- terned after the sponsors that wel-
ous paper-based screening system. come new personnel to installations,
Service members also often believe that who can help guide newly returned
counselors cannot understand the stresses of soldiers through the transition from
combat theater deployments, making some military to home life.
unwilling to undergo counseling and therapy. Making care more accessible:
• To address the shortage of counselors
RECOMMENDATIONS: Keeping both in the services and at home,
healthy relationships with families,
DOD and VA must recruit more
friends, and the community
behavioral health professionals with
Eliminating the mental health care special pay and incentives, and
stigma: ensure screenings are conducted by
• Psychological evaluations should be properly trained personnel.
made mandatory for all personnel • DOD and VA should develop and
before separation from the service. distribute combat stress injury train-
• To maintain privacy and alleviate ing for civilian behavioral health
concerns about career advancement, professionals.
mental health evaluations of active- • DOD and VA should authorize service
duty personnel between deployments members to seek care from licensed
should be conducted by private, mental health counselors under
independent care providers. TRICARE, the military health system.
To protect and serve, again: An Army Reserve mom
hopes to become sheriff’s deputy
Even while serving in Iraq, almost 7,000 miles from her family, Amanda Kraft
found a way to read bedtime stories side-by-side with her two daughters.
That seems nearly impossible, but it would surprise few who know her. People
don’t expect a petite, 5-foot-4 woman to drive Army trucks or guard a prison. But
Kraft has a lifelong habit of defying expectations and achieving more than others
“You tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll show you that I can,” she said.
Her latest goal is to continue serving her community, this time as a sheriff’s
deputy in her hometown of Bradenton.
She’s won support from a number of groups, including Jewish Family and
Children’s Service of Sarasota County, which has financed some of her training
costs through Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice BRAIVE Fund.
She starts law enforcement officer training this fall. But her journey began six
years ago, when she received a letter she both welcomed and dreaded.
Since she was a little girl, Amanda had a respect for the military: She
drew on her uncle’s stories of his Navy service in World War II for a
grade-school report, and joined ROTC in high school.
She researched all four service branches for a year before signing with
the Army Reserves. “It was the kind of life I liked,” she said. “I like the
discipline, it teaches you so much. It changes you as a person.”
She always knew that could mean service abroad, possibly under fire,
and that was fine. “I was never scared about deploying. I knew it was
realistic. I looked forward to the opportunity.”
But the letter arrived just a few weeks after her second daughter,
Taylor, was born. Amanda remembers thinking the letter would arrive
any day. And then it was there. “I remember walking to the mailbox at the end of
the road. I saw the letter and I just started crying.”
Her husband, Bernard, was in basic training, so the Reserves granted her a
deferment. But a year later — a week before Taylor’s first birthday — she went
into training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
Bernard ended up with a stateside posting, allowing him to care for their children,
and freeing her for an overseas deployment. By Christmas, she was at Tallil Air
Base in Iraq, driving in convoys some 190 miles northwest to Baghdad or shorter
runs southeast to Kuwait.
Convoys have been infamous as targets for insurgent attacks, and they often
came under small arms fire, she said. But her unit, the 1116th Transportation
Company, saw no IEDs or serious casualties her whole year.
Her hardships were emotional: the separation from Taylor and older sister
Mackenzie. She missed their birthdays and a Christmas. But while in training,
she sent them letters every day. And in Iraq, she found a novel way to read with
them at bedtime.
Before she left, she splurged on a computer with a webcam, a rarity at the time.
They had a similar computer at home, allowing them to have video chats over
But they were no ordinary chats: Bernard would get two copies of a children’s
book, and send one to Amanda. Then she could read to the girls, and the girls
could turn the pages along with her at home.
“It was so important for me to keep some sort of a connection,” she said.
After a year, she returned to Tennessee, where they had been living before
entering training. As she returned, Bernard was about to deployed to Iraq, and the
repeated separations led to a divorce.
She took a job as a corrections officer for a year, but decided to return to roots
in Florida. She moved to Orlando, working at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. But with
her father and many friends still in Bradenton, she moved back to her home turf
a year later.
Then fate struck again, in the unlikely form of a shoplifter.
Kraft was training as an assets protection officer at retailer Target, and she and
her supervisor caught the would-be thief. They called the Manatee County Sheriff’s
Office to take the suspect, and a deputy suggested Kraft consider working for the
That offhand remark sparked an idea. “I’ve always thought about law enforce-
ment, but I didn’t think it was within reach,” she said.
The Manatee Technical Institute’s programs include a law enforcement training
program. Completing the six-month course allows graduates to take Florida’s
certification test for all law enforcement positions.
There were two obstacles. Kraft had to pass a series of physical fitness tests,
including a 1.5-mile run, a 100-yard dash, sit-ups, push-ups, and weightlifting.
Those she could handle. But admission also required a number of expensive
prerequisites, including a medical physical, a polygraph test, uniform purchase,
and more. Her social worker at Veterans Services connected her with Jewish Family
and Children’s Service.
The group tapped into its $300,000 from Gulf Coast’s BRAIVE Fund grant to
assist Kraft with the costs of the tests, and to help her move to a less expensive
apartment, saving her nearly $200 a month.
Kraft took all the preliminary tests and in early August, received another letter
that both thrilled her and broke her heart.
The academy’s advisory board approved her application — but she would also
need $575 for uniforms before she could start the school. At that point, pride set
in. She didn’t want to ask JCFS for more help.
“I made it, but I’m going to have to walk away from it,” she told her social
worker at Veterans Services. “I’m not asking for any more help.” But the worker
called JCFS on her own, and the group quickly approved a payment to Kraft for
They still had to persuade Kraft to accept it, finally convincing her that the check
was an investment in her future. “They pretty much made it clear to me that this
is just for now. ‘You’re not asking for help. We’re giving it to you. This will be
worth it, and next year you’ll be fine.’ “
And when that happens, she said, she hopes to make a gift to JCFS to pay it back.
“I’m really thankful for the organization, for everything. I’ve met some amazing
SECOND KEY FINDING—Create ployers to hire Iraq and Afghanistan
opportunity for jobs veterans by extending tax credit
2. Returning service members face programs.
major difficulties finding post-military
• Military branches should devote
employment and obtaining services in
a portion of their advertising and
spite of a new improved, GI Bill program.
outreach to promote the hiring of
It is unclear if employment problems can
be seen as particular to Florida’s veterans, • Expand and publicize the Vocational
at a time when the entire state has high Rehabilitation and Employment
unemployment. Nonetheless, veterans face program for disabled veterans, which
unique obstacles. is effective but underutilized.
Military personnel sur- • Increase use of the Transition As-
veyed said that finding a sistance Program (TAP), a job-finding
job is the biggest problem collaboration between DOD, VA, and
they face. the federal government, by making
Their skills often don’t its scheduling more flexible.
translate to the civilian
• Clean up mismanagement of the VA’s
world, and some employ-
Center for Veterans Enterprise to get
ers, they feel, distrust vet-
more assistance to veterans who own
erans because of concerns
or launch businesses.
over PTSD or depression.
National Guard members Making Reserve members’ careers
report that upon return, their prior jobs have stable:
been eliminated or filled and they can find
• Government should encourage em-
only a lower position, or none at all. Those
ployers to hire Iraq and Afghanistan
who own and operate businesses can lose
veterans by extending tax credit
the most because of their long absence from
Veterans seeking a college education via • Government should support via tax
the GI Bill are benefitting from the program’s credits any businesses that train
2008 overhaul, but they report struggles returning Guard and Reserve mem-
with technicalities and inadequate support bers, and that set Reserve members’
of vocational training. pay levels to cover the gap between
military and civilian wages.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Finding new • Better enforce USERRA laws, which
homes in the business world and
protect Guard and Reserve members’
training for new careers
civilian jobs, by creating penalties
Helping veterans find post-military and adding protections for claimants.
jobs: • Provide more access to assistance for
• Government should encourage em- Guard and Reserve members who
own businesses, allowing them to • Allow all former active-duty person-
hire replacement staff while deployed nel and Guard and Reserve members
and recover and expand upon return. to qualify for in-state tuition rate to
all public universities.
Making education more accessible
• Help veterans’ families improve
career options by ensuring that
• Government should encourage em- the benefits for the survivors’ and
ployers to hire Iraq and Afghanistan dependents’ Educational Assistance
veterans by extending tax credit Program keep pace with inflation
programs. Expand the new GI Bill to and the number of survivors and
fully cover four-year tuition, and to dependents being served.
cover apprenticeships, training, and
Most Important Problems Facing Returning Iraq and Afghanistan Vets
(Statewide Survey of 800 Floridians)
Note: Horizontal bar percentages add to greater than 100% due to the multiple response question format.
The “Other” responses include reintegration/readjusting, housing, rehabilitation, public support, and political actions.
Source: Statewide telephone survey of 800 Floridians 18 and older, conducted by Susan Schuler & Associates, Inc, July 13-26, 2010,
margin of error +/-3.5%.
medical or financial difficulties develop,
veterans may have no connection to the
system designed to assist them.
Connecting veterans and families
with the services they need
Connecting veterans to services:
THIRD KEY FINDING—Connect
Service Members and families to • Military branches should automati-
the right service providers cally enroll all troops in Department
of Veterans Affairs health care as they
3. Veterans who typically come from leave active-duty service, with the
a military culture that emphasizes self- choice to opt out later.
reliance often go without the help they • New veterans should be matched
need because they lack confidence in with an experienced veteran who can
government agencies or are unaware of serve as a mentor. The mentor or VA
services. personnel should proactively contact
the new veteran 60 to 90 days after
Veterans and families interviewed for discharge to see if any issues have
the Gulf Coast Community Foundation arisen.
study repeatedly cite problems finding and • The National Guard and Reserve
accessing the services they need. branches should develop a program
They have seen firsthand what study establishing that every unit has a
after study has reported: The Department of member trained on available state
Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs and federal benefits.
use cumbersome, multi-stage, paper-driven
• VA should open more regional offices,
with sufficient staff for face-to-face
VA centers are often too far for veterans to
visit when questions arise, and caseworkers
are overloaded. The agency has one Florida
Making existing services work
regional office, and some staff handle 3,500 better:
or more veterans. Hospital appointments
• VA should phase out its current dis-
can require drives of several hours.
ability assessment system, replacing
Expecting complex paperwork and
it with the shorter, simplified Joint
lengthy struggles with bureaucracy, service
Disability Evaluation system cur-
members often do not register with the
rently in development.
VA upon their return. Military culture also
leaves service members reluctant to admit • VA needs to continue increasing staff
they need help with problems until those and to change its evaluation system
problems become crises. for claims processors to reward ac-
As a result of these problems, when curacy, not just volume.
Percent Who Think More Needs to be Done For Returning Iraq & Afghanistan
Veterans: By Group
(Statewide Survey of 800 Floridians)
Source: Statewide telephone survey of 800 Floridians 18 and older, conducted by Susan Schuler & Associates, Inc, July 13-26, 2010,
margin of error +/-3.5%.
FOURTH KEY FINDING— Veterans and family members inter-
Philanthropy and private nonprofit viewed for the Gulf Coast Community
sector fill gaps fill gaps in services Foundation study agreed strongly that
left by military and government nonprofits supported through BRAIVE Fund
agencies grants address high-priority needs. But they
also say that the charities have not done
4. Local not-for-profit agencies provide enough to inform the military and veterans
helpful services that governments cannot communities about their services. From
or do not perform. Veterans find those their viewpoint, nonprofit leaders report dif-
services valuable, but often are unaware ficulties in creating a working relationship
of them because there is a disconnect with VA. They also are concerned about
between private, nonprofit organizations ongoing funding for their services.
and government agencies. Nonprofits Those programs include assistance with
leaders are concerned about their ability military families’ travel and living expenses,
to provide ongoing services for veterans mental health counseling for families,
because of special needs and lack of steady reimbursement for non-tuition educa-
revenue. tional expenses, legal assistance, innovative
physical therapy and rehabilitation, career and local charities that offer services
counseling and job placement for military valuable to veterans.
families, scholarship grants, preventative
• VA should increase claims depart-
health care and more.
ment staffing, allowing nonprofits to
work more effectively with veterans’
Expanding partnerships between
government, philanthropy, and
private nonprofits to improve • VA should explore subcontracting-
services style partnerships with not-for-profit
• Nonprofits need to build relation- organizations that have proven track
ships in their communities, both records with veterans and military
with media and opinion leaders, and personnel.
with business owners and college • VA should improve access to health
graduates. The Gulf Coast Com- care by contracting with local com-
munity Foundation survey showed munity health care providers in areas
both groups had weak recognition of far from hospitals or clinics and
their services and would be potential where access is difficult.
sources of expert and financial sup-
• VA should develop a network of
drivers for vets trying to find trans-
• Nonprofits respond more quickly portation to a hospital and provide
than government agencies, but need cost reimbursement to those forced
to be even more streamlined, as to travel long distances for care.
military personnel and veterans often
• VA should expand programs to cer-
need help within a few days.
tify and train family caregivers as
• Nonprofits see a need for more personal care attendants, allowing
programs and funds to help military them to receive compensation from
personnel and veterans find afford- the agency.
they have a
• VA needs a
ages its staff
FIFTH KEY FINDING RECOMMENDATIONS
In assessing needs in order to
prepare recommendations for Many of the recommendations made by
local action, service providers can our interviewees do not call for expensive
benefit by obtaining information
not only from those being directly
served, but also from their wider The suggestions for local community
interpersonal networks – family level actions fall into two categories: (1)
members, friends, and others. better coordination of local efforts across
the public, private, and nonprofit sectors,
5. Input into program development, and (2) greater utilization of local media
evaluation, and readjustment should not and businesses to publicize available ser-
be limited to potential beneficiaries or vices and help recruit volunteers to assist
users of a service or program. in local efforts. “It is wise
As these research efforts have shown,
to use more
family members, employers, and the general • Local non-profit groups, in coop-
public can provide valuable perspectives on eration with the military branches
the needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and the Veterans Administration, definitions
and the shortcomings of programs designed need to establish and promote of “family”
to help them, as well as recommendations websites such as MyRebootCamp. when
for reform. com, which can guide military
It is wise to use more inclusive definitions personnel and veterans to services
of “family” when soliciting input as to how in their area. The websites would
to structure and improve intervention and include contact information and to how to
assistance programs. Family structures are program descriptions for all local structure
changing. Often extended family members government, not-for-profit agencies and improve
or close friends and mentors play just as, or and organizations offering services
even more, important a role in the veteran’s to the veterans and their families. It
life than immediate family. would provide the same information
A wider net should be cast to determine about support groups active in the assistance
the needs of in-home caregivers who make local area. The website could also be programs.”
long-term sacrifices of their time, resources, promoted by local businesses as part
and careers when their wounded warriors of their regular advertising efforts
are released to go home. and touted as a public service.
A greater effort should be made to target
Florida’s female veterans in local program • Create a data base of local veterans
outreach and in local program materials, who have volunteered to serve
promotions, and events. Although Florida as mentors to returning veterans
has the third largest percentage of female (similar to sponsors on instal-
veterans, a majority of Floridians have little lations who welcome and assist
knowledge of how many women are in the newly-arrived active duty military
military or of their special needs as they and their families). The list and the
deploy or reintegrate. data base access website could be
given to a service member during graduates and business owners—
the separation process so that he/ each generally supportive of veterans
she could immediately connect with assistance—know little about what
a local mentor upon returning home. the local agencies are doing.
This could be a very effective way to
• Make better use of local media.
assist returning Iraq and Afghanistan
Local television, radio, newspapers,
veterans in Florida, with its large
and popular websites can be used to
spread the word about available ser-
• Create a local support group system vices to veterans and their families.
(spouses, families, fellow veterans)
• Give local businesses a bigger role
patterned after those common on
in helping to spread the word about
military installations. Such groups
potential services for veterans and
could play a major role in helping
their families in their advertising.
the reintegrating veterans and their
Both groups—veterans and families—
families find someone to talk to who
praised efforts by local businesses to
has shared their deployment experi-
help the troops, usually around the
ences and difficulties.
holidays. This could become a year-
• Help not-for-profit agencies and round effort. A local “Troop-Friendly”
organizations devise ways to better designation campaign (similar to the
spread the word about their vet- “Green Business” designation) would
eran assistance efforts to potential be inviting to a lot of businesses and
supporters (money, jobs). As the draw media attention.
statewide survey has shown, college
APPENDIX A: Veteran Focus Groups
Two focus panels comprised of military
Components of the Gulf Coast service members with experience in the
Community Foundation’s Afghanistan and/or Iraq conflicts were
conducted in Tampa and Cocoa Beach,
This report is based on personal inter-
Florida during June, 2010. A total of 13
views with agency heads, OIF/OEF veteran
veterans participated in these panels; 3
focus groups, OIF/OEF veteran family mem-
other veterans were interviewed separately.
ber focus groups, and a statewide telephone
Veterans participating in the focus groups
survey of Floridians 18 and older.
represented most branches of the US Armed
It is supplemented by research drawing
Forces: Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast
many sources, primarily position papers by
Guard, Reserves and National Guard. Most
the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Association,
were men, but four women participated.
the California Community Foundation’s
Ages ranged from 24 to 51, and both enlisted
Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund,
personnel and officers participated.
RAND Corp., the Government Account-
The focus group panels were designed
ability Office, the Florida Department of
to: (1) identify the problems faced by
Veterans Affairs, and the federal Depart-
returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
ments of Defense, Commerce and Labor.
and their families in the central Florida
BRAIVE region and determine the relative
importance of addressing each, (2) denote
Analysis of BRAIVE Agency
Administrator Perspectives the veterans’ awareness of and interaction
Personal interviews were conducted May with local not-for-profit agencies, and (3)
3-24, 2010 with the heads of 25 nonprofit give recommendations as to how services
leaders that received BRAIVE grants from and communication could be improved.
the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Specially, they were asked about the im-
Venice to meet the needs of Operation En- portance of addressing problems related
during Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi to education, medical care, mental health
Freedom (OIF) military personnel and their (including PTSD), employment, housing,
families. The BRAIVE grant was to enable finances, relationships, substance abuse,
the agency to provide innovative forms of benefits, social support, and legal issues.
support or meet needs that had not been
addressed before. Family Focus Groups
The purposes of this survey were to: Two family member focus groups were
(1) document the types of services being conducted in Tampa and Cocoa Beach,
provided to OIF/OEF service people and Florida during June, 2010. A total of 13
their families, and (2) identify further family members and friends of Afghanistan
actions that not-for-profit and government and Iraq war veterans participated in these
agencies can take to help these individuals panels. Family members included spouses,
lead productive lives as they reintegrate into parents, siblings, uncles, cousins, and
the civilian world. in-laws.
Focus group participants were asked the importance of helping Florida’s service
to identify the importance of problems members returning from service in Iraq
facing their military service member and and Afghanistan, (2) the problems faced
them as well—behavioral health, counsel- by Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and
ing, reintegration to family life, financial Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans
management, employment, medical care, and their families, (3) the degree to which
education, housing information, substance various institutions (U.S. Department of
abuse, and family assistance. They were Veterans Affairs, State of Florida Depart-
also asked for recommendations as to how ment of Veterans Affairs, county and city
to improve existing services, interactions governments, local employers, not-for-profit
with government agencies, and informa- organizations, the media, the general public)
tion flows. need to help veterans more and how they
can do so, and (4) citizens’ major sources of
Florida Veterans Issues information about Florida’s veterans.
Statewide Survey The large sample size permits analyses of
A statewide telephone survey of 800 Floridians across the state who have served/
randomly-selected adults 18 & over was are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, have
conducted from July 13-26, 2010 (margin- had military service, are family members of
of-error +/- 3.5%). It is the first public Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, and are employ-
policy-focused survey asking Floridians ers and managers with hiring authority. The
about veterans issues. results of this larger survey are consistent
The goal of the survey was to provide with those observed in the focus groups,
a statistically valid representation of the thereby bolstering our confidence in the
views of Florida residents regarding: (1) findings generated from them.
Unmet Needs & Policy Recommendations: A Summary
(Agency Head, Veteran, Family Member, and Public Perspectives)
Problem/Need Interviewee Suggestions
Information about Benefits/Help Sources
Many personnel resist registering with the Start VA registration while still in the service, such
VA due to expectation of bureaucracy and as during the separation process.
paperwork or they are reluctant to continue Match returning veterans with more experienced
dealing with military and related agencies veterans as mentors during the reintegration period
There is a large and confusing array of Provide better guidance for separated military to
benefits programs in the VA apply for the correct program for their situation.
Changes in benefits policies. The new GI Bill VA should provide better training/databases for
passed last year already has 31 amendments. staff that assist veterans.
It’s hard to keep up with all the changes.
Even VA counselors can have difficulty
determining which programs are appropriate
for a given veteran’s situation.
Military presentations about benefits contain Provide information in smaller, discussion groups
too much information to absorb and retain. with less information at any one session.
Provide checklists for actions to take after
Provide wallet card with helpline number and/or
Veterans resist admitting to needing help for Proactively contact veterans about benefits a few
problems until they are in crisis, typically months after separation from the service.
months after separating from the service
Not all personnel are computer-savvy. Provide option for personal counseling.
Some personnel prefer personal interaction to Provide “one-stop” centers covering all sources of
Website-based benefits resources help, preferably private rather than government.
They don’t know how to file claims. They VA should formulate policies that allow for more
lose benefits in 180 days. private providers of services.
Personnel unaware of private, not-for-profit Publicize information services such as FLAIRS
agency resources 2-1-1.
Not-for-profits focus on community outreach,
newsletters and website design.
Too few Senators and Representatives served
in the military. Many don’t respond to
veterans requests made to their offices.
Access to Benefits/Help
VA Regional office too far away to easily visit Florida needs more than one regional VA office.
by agencies attempting to help veterans get
Time it takes for veterans to get help from VA needs to hire more employees.
VA, but emergency cases can be expedited.
Caseworkers handle too large a caseload
VA staff don’t seem to appreciate the veteran VA should hire more veterans and military spouses
is in crisis to assist and counsel veterans.
VA can’t meet all of the needs by itself There should be more dialog between states and
the federal government. States can’t just assume the
Federal government will take care of the needs of
Some veterans with multiple acute issues or The VA should focus on modernizing its
many issues over time can get “lost in the information systems.
Transition time from active duty to VA
services is the biggest issue and is a cause of
Some private not-for-profit help efforts are Organizations sending care packages should focus
not optimally designed their efforts on truly needed items.
There should be communication protocols for
support groups to link to individual deployed
persons and find out what they need.
Not-for-profit approval delays. We give help Agencies should focus on expedited approval
in 1-2 days, other agencies much longer. systems for emergency needs.
Needs are measured in a few days.
Veterans won’t use not-for-profit services, if Agencies should make applications as user-friendly
the application process is perceived as too as possible, with minimal paperwork, or someone
much trouble. to fill out the application for the veteran.
Some veterans don’t use all the benefits to Agencies provide more case management services,
which they are entitled because they don’t help figuring out exactly what they need and
know about them. helping them find it.
Veterans may not relate to older veterans. Organize meetings and service by each war instead
of pooling all veterans together.
More dedicated programs for veterans. Veteran-
specific programs, rather than fold them into the
Injured warriors are often treated far from A greater effort by government to help families of
their families due to lack of facilities. When the wounded.
they are sent home, no support system is in
Families of the severely wounded need a
lot of help for in-home care during often
extended recovery times (years).
Transportation and daily errands for
wounded warriors and caregivers.
Because they need an at-home caregiver; a
family member stays home and can’t work,
leading to financial needs
Wives are often young and inexperienced The military should develop better communications
about the system. (Problem during to families of the deployed, particularly those who
deployment) don’t live near bases.
Support groups for spouses depends on the
initiative of local volunteers
Support group interaction may be impacted
by attitudes of spouses of higher ranking
At home spouses may encounter home repair Military and private not-for-profit groups could
or other financial emergencies, even lawn provide more support for spouses at home who face
mowing may be a problem financial and/or home repair emergencies.
Difficulty of families coping with absence of Private or not-for-profit groups could mentor or
a spouse “adopt” families of the deployed.
Unit preparing to deploy. Soldiers quit
jobs and sell possessions, only to have
deployment cancelled 3 weeks prior to
Post deployment, often prior job is gone, or Fund programs to incentivize employers to
they are downgraded to a lower position. facilitate placement, improve employment services
Military personnel shoulder heavy programs and training.
responsibilities including being entrusted with
multi-million dollar equipment, but civilian
employers don’t value this experience
Military skills often difficult to translate to Provide more job/skills retraining.
Lack of computer skills (fear of computers)
in some applicants, even young ones, since
everything is so computer-dependent now.
Job placement - perception that companies
shy away from hiring combat veterans
because of PTSD concern.
Deployment derails one’s career path in Work with veterans on starting and maintaining
civilian life especially for those who choose to small businesses; match them with a mentor such
own and operate a small business as SCORE.
There needs to be more emphasis on breaking Train and use disabled veterans to work as
the cycle - i.e. focus more on employment counselors out of their homes.
and that will enable a lot of other needs to be
handled by the veteran.
Reintegration to Family
Returning military spouse/parent Mandate a transition period for entire units before
unaccustomed to family routines, practices. their separation from the service. Include spouses
Spouses at home take on more responsibility in these programs.
and authority for the family, leading to
leadership friction when the deployed return
Despite frequent contact via Internet and Provide family counseling.
telephone systems, families at home develop
new relationships that tend to exclude the
deployed military person
It is a challenge to reconnect with children
Both the deployed and spouses may feel
entitled to a break from responsibilities after
Difficult transition from military to civilian.
Civilian life seems chaotic compared to
the relatively simple, disciplined life of
Mental Health/PTSD Stigma/MST
Stigma to having problems. Higher ups expect The military should require all personnel to receive
them to not have issues, and/or deal with psychological evaluation and counseling to lessen
them. the stigma of getting evaluated.
Fear that treatment will adversely impact
career choices later
Fear that seeking treatment will result in an
undesired early discharge from the service.
Many avoid coming forward, lose job due to
Even speaking to a chaplain or counselor Allow for confidential, off-base treatment by
creates gossip and the perception that the private counselors.
military person has a problem
Many mental health counselors cannot relate Provide counselors who have experienced combat
to the military experience themselves.
Mental health needs for the whole family.
VA concerns that private providers unqualified Provide training & education on evidence-based
to treat PTSD etc practices and treatments to private providers.
Many don’t know how to handle money. Make personal finance education available, online
They’re well paid while deployed, and don’t or classes, or personal counseling.
save for future needs.
Between deployments, some military people Provide more financial counseling, either from
waste bonus money superiors in the military, or other sources to help
Large purchases, such as vehicles and personnel avoid financial missteps.
consumer electronics, they may not even be
able to keep when the next deployment comes
Reduced family income at the end of Provide emergency assistance, especially for
deployment non-recurring needs; with counseling on financial
State law prohibits gifts to active duty Repeal this law (in process).
Some you help and help and help and they Refer more cases to mental health services.
don’t get there; because they are unable
(PTSD etc) or they don’t do enough.
Delays in getting appointments for medical Use private providers for families and for military
care personnel that are not deployed or injured.
Family members agreed that, after the initial
180 days, it is much harder to get attention
from the VA.
Some people overuse limited medical
resources to the detriment of others that
genuinely need access to them.
Military base family centers, staffed by Military family help specialist should be military
subcontractors - some don’t care and show it spouses or veterans who understand the military
culture and family centers should be able to fire
Inconvenient hours at VA clinics.
Low provider reimbursement rates from
Veterans lack understanding of education VA and agencies provide better information and
benefits under the new GI Bill counseling about educational benefits .
GI Bill tuition benefits fall short of covering The State of Florida should grant in-state tuition
out-of-state tuition rates rates to recently separated veterans, with the
requirement that they remain in Florida some
minimum number of years when starting their
Education funding delays. VA or agencies provide proactive reminders to
veterans to apply timely for educational benefits.
Surviving spouse college education. Many Agencies should add spouse education to services
spouses in their early 20’s. Educating them provided.
would help the whole family for years, and
set up a good role model for the children
when they reach college age. Spouses are not
eligible for government education benefits
like children are.
Adjustment to campus life for an older Establish student veteran organizations on campus,
student transitioning from military campus offices devoted to veterans.
Housing for active duty personnel. Too little
on-base. Off-base housing stipend insufficient.
Esp. for spouse/children.
Difficult housing market for military people
Help children of the deployed. Schools are Focus more help on female military personnel
cutting back on their programs & when school and veterans, especially single mothers and their
is out, kids lack services and meals. children.
There’s a lack of resources to assist homeless
female veterans. Even care packages lack
female products. Women come back with no
job due to repeated deployments and kids.
Pro Bono services are limited; attorneys are
selective who they provide it to.
Most economic problems have a legal
Young soldiers need legal advice before
signing away benefits for a one-time payment.
Some agencies perceive lack of cooperation/ Agencies need a governmental affairs specialist on
referral from military and/or VA staff. staff
Some county offices are very open and willing Agencies should initiate more outreach to county
to talk, others are more reluctant. Some ap- offices
pear to be protecting their turf.
Inconsistent exchange of information
VA staff overwhelmed with all the needs and
they are approached by would-be providers
who may or may not be qualified.
Large bonuses facilitate heavy drinking, drug Government or agencies should train family
abuse, especially by young, single military members on substance abuse
Military should provide training, counseling on
Informal Support Networking
To make social connections with veterans Military, VA and/or agencies facilitate mentoring
from earlier conflicts, because the nature of of younger veterans by older veterans, and
the experience is the same. make better use of social networking-based
Endnotes 14 Molinda M. Chartrand, et al. “Effect
of Parents’ Wartime Deployment on the
1 Florida Department of Veteran Affairs Annual Behavior of Young Children in Military
Report, 2009, p. 6 Families,” Archives of Pediatric and
Adolescent Medicine, 2008, 162(11), p. 1009.
2 Florida Department of Veteran Affairs Annual
Report, 2009, p. 6 15 Steven L. Sayers et al, “Family Problems
Among Recently Returned Military Veterans
3 U.S. Department of Defense Web site, www.
Referred for a Mental Health Evaluation,”
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Feb. 10, 2009;
4 U.S. Department of Defense Web site, www. online, p. e2.
16 M i l l i ke n , Au c h t e r l o n i e, a n d H o g e,
5 Vanessa Williamson, “Supporting Troops, “Longitudinal Assessment of Mental
Veterans, and Their Families: Lessons Learned Health Problems Among Active and Reserve
and Future Opportunities for Philanthropy,” Component Soldiers Returning from the Iraq
California Community Foundation, Report War,” p. 2144.
on the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact
17 Vanessa Williamson, “Invisible Wounds:
Fund, November 2009, pp. 13-14.
Psychological and Neurological Wounds
6 Vanessa Williamson, “A Breaking Military: Confront a New Generation of Veterans,”
Overextension Threatens Readiness,” Iraq Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America,
and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Issue Issue Report, January 2009, p. 10.
Report, January 2008, p.6.
18 John H. Kuhn and John Nakashima,
7 U.S Department of Defense, Military Health “The Sixteenth Annual Progress Report,
System Web site, “Department of Defense Community Homelessness Assessment,
Numbers for Traumatic Brain Injury,” www. Local Education and Networking Group
health.mil./Research/TBI_Numbers.aspx (CHALENG) For Veterans,” Department of
Veterans Affairs, March 17, 2010, p. 8, p. 21.
8 Terri Tanielian and Lisa H. Jaycox, Eds.
“Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological 19 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America,
and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, “2010 Legislative Agenda,” January 2010,
and Services to Assist Recovery,” RAND p. 18.
Corporation, 2008. p. xxi.
20 Vanessa Williamson and Erin Mulhill,
9 Tanielian and Jaycox, “Invisible Wounds of “Coming Home: The Housing Crisis and
War,” p. xxi. Homelessness Threaten New Veterans,” Iraq
and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Issue
10 Tanielian and Jaycox, “Invisible Wounds of
Report, January 2009, p. 4.
War,” pp. 96-97.
21 Williamson and Mulhill, “Coming Home,”
11 Charles S. Milliken, Jennifer L. Auchterlonie,
and Charles W. Hoge, “Longitudinal
Assessment of Mental Health Problems 22 Williamson, “Invisible Wounds,” pp. 8-11.
Among Active and Reserve Component
23 Department of Defense Task Force on the
Soldiers Returning from the Iraq War,”
Prevention of Suicide by Members of the
Journal of the American Medical Association,
Armed Forces, “The Challenge and the
298(18): 2141-2148. (November 14, 2007).
Promise: Strengthening the Force, Preventing
12 Tanielian and Jaycox, “Invisible Wounds of Suicide and Saving Lives,” Final Report,
War,” p. xxi. August 2010, p. 15.
13 Lawrence Korb, Peter Rundlet, et al., “Beyond 24 DoD Task Force, “The Challenge and the
the Call of Duty,” Center for American Promise,” p. ES-1.
Progress, March 6, 2007, pp. 3-6.
25 Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,
remarks on launch of National Alliance for 31 Vanessa Williamson and Erin Mulhill,
Suicide Prevention, National Press Club, “Careers After Combat: Employment
Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2010. and Education Challenges for Iraq and
Afghanistan Veterans,” Iraq and Afghanistan
26 Military.com, “Military.com Study Reveals
Veterans of America, Issue Report, January
Profound Disconnect between Employers
2009, p. 5.
and Transitioning Military Personnel,” www.
military.com/aboutus/twocolumn/0,15929, 32 David Loughran and Jacob Alex Klerman,
PRarticle110507,00.html, Nov. 5, 2007. “Explaining the Increase in Unemployment
Compensation for Ex-Service Members during
27 Military.com, “Military.com Study Reveals
the Global War on Terror,” RAND, 2008, p.
Profound Disconnect between Employers
and Transitioning Military Personnel.”
33 Government Accountability Office, “Military
28 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor
Personnel: Federal Management of Service
Statistics, “Employment Situation of Veterans
Member Employment Rights Can Be Further
Summary,” March 12, 2010.
Improved,” October 2005, p. 5
29 Department of Labor, “Employment Situation
34 Government Accountability Office, “Military
of Veterans Summary.”
Personnel: Federal Management of Service
30 G o v e r n m e n t Ac c o u n t a b i l i t y O f f i c e, member Employment Rights Can Be Further
“Preliminary Observations Related to Income, Improved,” p. 6.
Benefits and Employer Support for Reservists
35 Williamson and Mulhill, “Careers After
During Mobilizations,” March 19, 2003.
Combat,” p. 4.
Solutions to Restore Florida’s Property Insurance Marketplace
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Protecting Florida’s Cities Through Pension Reform
Dr. Randall G. Holcombe
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Dr. Michael Bond
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Property Insurance Solutions to Protect Homeowners, Taxpayers,
and Florida Government from Financial Devastation
Backgrounder # 64, March 2010
The Economic Effects of Proposed Cap-and-Trade Legislation on the State of Florida
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A Cost-Effective Bridge to Florida’s Energy Future
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