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Brandon Dorfman Heather Ramirez Jeff Namart Kelly Tran Sunny Walters AMVETS When our group was

presented with the task of choosing an organization to evaluate, one target in particular stood out to the five of us. Considering our group is compiled of the only two Veterans in the class, and the fact that the rest of our members have family and friends whom have served in the armed forces, we decided it would be fun and informative to look into an organization that affects a group of people whom we all have in common; Veterans. For the purpose of this paper, we seek to investigate the effectiveness of the American Veterans (AMVETS) volunteer-led organization, in terms of informing and aiding Veterans with filing and claiming their entitled benefits. We will proceed by analyzing the contributions to this issue that many outsiders consistently overlook, due to lack of knowledge on a soldier’s mentality, as well as the stigmas associated with seeking help/ aid. During basic training, military culture is instilled in every sailor, airmen, solider, and marine to believe and live by the following general core values: duty, honor, and country. These instilled core values contribute to the reason a majority of those whom serve in the armed forces, neglect to claim their health benefits or seek physical and psychological treatment. Basic training prepares recruits for all elements of service: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Basic training provides recruits with the basic

tools necessary to perform the roles that will be asked of them for the duration of their time in service (Boot Camp). The duration of military Basic Training ranges from eight to ten weeks depending on which branch the recruit has joined. For most of these recruits, they are fresh out of high school and this serves as the first time they have been away from their parents. On day one, recruits are greeted by Drill Sergeants who verbally abuse and torment them. At this point, the Drill Sergeant’s primary objective is to physically and mentally break a recruit down, and build him/ her up into either a sailor, airmen, soldier, or marine. Recruits are forced to learn about weapons, tactics, discipline, teamwork, and leadership. If not, they are forced to do physical activities, which range from holding sandbags for 30 minutes to low crawling for a mile, all in order to further instill discipline. Enduring constant physical and mental abuse from Drill Sergeants, allows recruits to quickly understand that being physically and mentally tough allows them to push through the most difficult obstacles in order to succeed. For Veterans, there is a stigma followed by seeking treatment/help or claiming physical and or psychological assistance, as a sign of weakness (Hsu). Unfortunately, it is because of this stigma that many Veterans with severe physical and psychological disorders go untreated. The following statistics portray the percentage of Veterans whom fear seeking treatment due to: · · · 65% fear the perception of being seen as “weak” (Hsu) 63% fear leadership might treat them differently (Hsu) 59% fear others would have less confidence in them (Hsu)

It is because of these fears that many neglect to seek aid and potentially end up homeless or in a worsened psychological state. In most cases, Veterans were simply too proud to seek the proper treatment which allowed their disorders to worsen. If Veterans simply understood the importance of

seeking assistance and didn’t allow themselves to be influenced by stigmas that, although maybe accurate during their tour of duty, do not apply once they return home. Under the Department of Veteran Affairs (va.gov), Veterans are medically compensated for any physical and/or physiological conditions they may have as a result of incidents suffered while in the service. Although the process of filing the necessary paperwork is difficult, and it is not uncommon for one’s medical records to be misplaced during the time they were overseas/ away from home, it is ultimately up to the Veteran to make that first step towards finding necessary help. Thankfully, American Veterans (AMVETS) is an organization that encourages and assists Veterans in claiming their health benefits. AMVETS is a volunteer led organization formed by World War II veterans of the United States on December of 1994. AMVETS’ mission statement is, “To enhance and safeguard the entitlements for all American Veterans who have served honorably and to improve the quality of life for them, their families, and the communities where they live, through leadership, advocacy, and services” (amvets.org). AMVETS’ main objective is to inform and safeguard the benefits of veterans, primarily through health claims. To many Veterans, like Jeff Namart and Brandon Dorfman, they believe that “The military does a poor job on informing Veterans how to go about filing and claiming their health benefits, forcing many to simply figure it out on their own or simply give up.” It is because of this, that AMVETS is essential to every Veteran, providing Veterans with peace of mind in knowing that all of their physical and psychological claims will be filed correctly and approved by the Department of Veteran Affairs. AMVETS does not only reach out to Veterans, but to the family of those who have served our country as well, making sure they are aware of the educational and health benefits that they may qualify or be entitled to. In a sense, AMVETS acts as a liaison, to guide Veterans and their families through the

proper procedures in order to obtain entitled benefits, which eases the transition from military to normal civilian life. Once home, many Veterans are eager to attend school in order to learn a career that they can carry on for the rest of their lives, however most lack the resources in order to do so. Due to the fact that many Veterans enlist right out of high school, after completing their tour, most Veteran’s who go back to school, have gone through a period of anywhere from 3-6 years since they were last in a classroom setting. The process of writing claims in order to obtain benefits is very time consuming, and it is not uncommon for paperwork to get lost and errors to occur that further delay processing. According to Chris, a national officer of AMVETS newly created “College Transition Program” (SOURCE), it currently takes a total of 18 months for paperwork to be filed through the AMVETS College Transition Program. The paperwork is extremely detailed and one minor mistake can offset the whole process and lead a Veteran right back to square one. With a plethora of programs; such as CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran Affairs) or TRI-CARE, even if the paperwork is done correctly, without the proper guidance towards the right program, one could waste time applying to a program that obviously does not match their situation, while neglecting programs that they might have a chance to qualify for. Another commonly overlooked problem is that the emotional and physical trauma endured by a Veteran does not simply affect them, but their families as well. Before 1944, families of Veterans did not receive help from the government on behalf of their deceased or injured loved ones. Fortunately under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the G.I. Bill of Rights was formed to help the returning vets of Vietnam and their families (pbs.org). The bill stated that any Veteran as well as their spouse/ children, under eligible terms, can and will receive benefits. It is the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and their support from organizations, such as AMVETS, that aid and brings fourth awareness of these entitled

benefits to Veterans and their families in such demanding times. If a Veteran passes away in the line of duty, or becomes severely injured, these programs will also ensure that his/her family is taken care of. Do to the stigma and the fear of being portrayed as weak, it often very hard for a Veteran to swallow his/ her pride in terms of seeking awareness of the benefits available to them and their family. It is through AMVETS, that Veterans receive accurate knowledge one on one, in order to better gain acceptance and peace of mind, knowing that it is not perceived as a sign of weakness, and that they are merely gaining the knowledge on the benefits that they are entitled to. With any organization that hopes to bring a higher level of awareness and positive results to an issue they feel needs additional attention, it is important to establish both short and long term goals. As previously stated, AMVETS is dedicated to “serving those that have served our country” (amvets.nfs.org) and ensuring the success of preexisting, as well as newly developed programs. For example, AMVETS’ newly created College Transition Program’s (Mellard) primary short term goal is to establish a personal connection between themselves and the Veterans, inform Veterans of the benefits currently out there that may help/ apply to them and present solutions on how to get that Veteran the help that he/ she is entitled to. It is only until that Veteran has begun the process of receiving treatment and utilizing the benefits afforded to them that AMVETS may be able to assist them with applying for any disabilities related to their military service. At that point, AMVETS is hoping that if the Veteran is entitled to educational/ health benefits that he/she was unaware of, they can help the Veteran claim their entitled benefits and reach AMVETS long-term goal, of the Veteran and their family having a better quality of life (Mellard). AMVETS wants to make a positive impact on the lives of Veterans and their family, and most importantly make them feel appreciated for the Veteran’s commitment to our country. In order to reach AMVETS to reach their specified goals, they must utilize all the resources available to them. AMVETS uses thrift stores as one of the many ways to generate revenue to fund

different programs like the “College Transition Program.” AMVETS also receives monetary donations and sponsorships that help fund ways to further spread awareness. An integral component to the success of AMVETS is their volunteer base, all of whom have a genuine concern for reaching out and informing Veterans. Upon the creation of the organization, AMVETS selected a great location to launch their pilot program. According to Chris Mellard in his interview, “SoCal is the hub for everything Veteran friendly” (Mellard). Another resource for AMVETS here at Pasadena City College, as well as other community colleges, is the VRC center, and the VA Certifying Officials’ Office. There are employees that are there specifically to help the student Veterans. They also get regular visits from AMVETS’ employee, and one of the only 2 representatives currently dedicated to the College Transition Program, Chris, who has been successful in reaching out and informing the Veterans here at Pasadena City College. It is the accessibility to an employee of the program, who has been trained with accurate knowledge, which has led to such positive results from the newly formed College Transition Program. Although AMVETS is a well-known and well-established organization, they continue to overcome various hurdles in order to secure the funding for their programs. Some argue that the amount of money spent on Veteran beneficiary programs is more than necessary. Much of the disproval towards government funded Veteran Aid derives from politicians of the Republican House Party and Congress, who continually decrease the budgets allotted to support VA Health benefits. In an online article from Aljazeera America, writer Elijah Wolfson (Wolfson, Elijiah) explains how because of the government shut-down, which was encouraged by the Republican Party, many Veterans were unable to receive their checks and services that were provided to them. For example Elijah states in the article, “*Because of the partial government shut-down]... 3.8 million veterans are in jeopardy of losing those promised benefits…The GI bill will no longer be able to provide educational benefits and living stipends that are

currently allowing more than half a million former service members to earn degrees and get the training they need to reintegrate into society.” Cutting these educational benefits for Veterans is damaging to the Veteran population around the world, since it affects a large population of our country that may or may not be disabled due to their time servicing our country. However, and increasing amount of requests from political leaders to decrease funding, are becoming more difficult to ward off. In another article brought to us by CNN, writer Michael Martinez states that, “Veterans service organizations say filing a claim can be as challenging as filing a complex tax return or defending yourself in a lawsuit. In the meantime, Veterans experience hardships” (Martinez, Michael). Cutting back the spending on Health related benefits for Veterans would mean setting the Veterans back another 3 years before being able to start receiving entitled benefits. So how do we go about solving these long developed Veteran issues, considering many of these problems occurred consistently without change since before the Vietnam War. During history, our country has had several wars, in which we have neglected to follow through with the promises of helping improve the quality of life for Veterans after service. In a New York Times article written by Erick Elkholm, titled Veterans’ Benefits System Needs Overhaul, Panel Says, Elkhom quotes Dr. Lonnie Bristow, chairman of Institute of Medical panel, “It’s a system originally designed in 1945 and it hasn’t kept pace with modern changes in medicine and in our understanding of disability.” (Elkhom, Erick). With the challenges of keeping records and the unorganized process that the government uses to file their paperwork for these vets, it is extremely time consuming and frustrating to gather all the appropriate and necessary information that is needed to complete health benefits paperwork. In a recent article by Mike Scotti of The New York Times, Scotti states, “There are potentially hundreds of thousands of veterans who are struggling with post-combat mental health issues who never ask the V.A. for help. Some, hamstrung by fear of stigma, are too proud or too ashamed to ask for help. Others don’t ask because they’ve heard too many stories from peers who have received poor care or been ignored.”

(Scotti, Mike). From the people and Veterans that are hired to provide this profound service to the wonderful volunteers that participate in making a difference in the Veteran’s community, little by little the increase of more and more Veterans receiving benefits, including health and education has risen. In tandem with AMVETS, there are many other organizations and service offices that work hand in hand, to help ensure Veterans take advantage of the possible benefits programs available to them. For example, here at Pasadena City College, along with many other public schools across the country, a Veteran Resource Center is available to assist new students currently transitioning from military to civilian life. The VRC provides Veterans with resources such as priority registration, mentoring programs, workshops and many other amenities (pccvets.com/vrc.php). The Disabled American Vets is another organization dedicated to “Empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity” they, like AMVETS, focus on assisting Veteran’s and their families in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service” (www.dav.org). Another well-known organization allied with AMVETS is CAL Vets who takes things one step further, and not only offer the services that the previously mentioned organizations provide, but also further assist Veteran’s with employment and housing options (www.cdva.ca.gov). Veteran Affairs (www.va.gov) will offer the above help, along with assistance to Veteran’s with starting their own small business. As you can see, there are many organizations that share a common goal with AMVETS. With multiple organizations having similar goals of helping Veterans, you would think that there any many different approaches’' to reaching out to Veterans by these organizations. In reality, for the most part, they employ the same strategy. The typical strategy is to support Veteran’s events, send out informative flyers, and hope the Veterans come to the organization and seek information that the Veteran may benefit from. This is where AMVETS and the College Transition Program are using their unique tactic to revolutionize the veteran care process. What makes AMVETS different is the proactive approach they

have taken with their new program. To reach out to the Veterans, in a place they are comfortable and Veterans are in abundance, is a huge leap forward. The Veteran stigma plays a role in Veterans seeking treatment, and this tactic of AMVETS, making the Veteran as comfortable as possible, has been shown to help increase the effectiveness of the program. Overall, after volunteering with AMVETS, conducting interviews with Veterans, and further researching how AMVETS connects Veterans with other organizations in order to achieve their goals, we believe that they are a very efficient and effective organization that could be revolutionizing how other Veteran organizations decide to appeal to their targets. It is ultimately because of AMVETS that an increasingly large amount of Veterans and their families are becoming more aware of all resources and benefits, both medically and educationally, that are available to them. AMVETS’ relatively new “College Transition Program” has generated awareness and aided in improving the lives of many student Veterans with no end in sight. We hope that they continue to employ more representatives as their positive results continue to increase.