The next time you apply for or renew your Pennsylvania driver’s license or photo ID or renew your motor vehicle registration, you will have an opportunity to make a $3 tax-deductible contribution to the Veterans Trust Fund [VTF]. Since this additional $3 is not part of the renewal fee printed on your renewal application, you will need to add the donated amount to your payment. The same process would be followed if you renew online via PennDOT’s website.
The Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF) was established in 2012 by Pennsylvania law (51 Pa. C. S. § 1721). The VTF is a special, non-lapsing fund of the Pennsylvania State Treasury. The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is authorized to solicit and accept donations to the VTF on behalf of the Commonwealth.
“I grew up thinking of my grandfather as a drunk. His spiral into self-destruction left a legacy of bitterness and addiction that will haunt our family for generations to come. But only recently have I begun to realize how much of that legacy is rooted in the war.” – Adam Linehan
Photo illustration by Jesse Draxler
by Adam Linehan
“My friend Paul Critchlow fought in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with valor. Then he returned home to Omaha, Neb., and nobody wanted to talk about it. So he did what many combat vets did after the war: He kept his head down and drove on, built a career, raised a family, avoided anything that reminded him of Vietnam, compartmentalized the trauma, drank heavily and abused drugs. He did as his old coach once advised after he broke his leg playing college football: “You’ve got to play above the pain, Critchlow.” It was a productive approach.
“He eventually landed on Wall Street and rose to become head of communications for Merrill Lynch. But then one morning in 1994, he woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t find the will to move. The doctors told him he had clinical depression. In Critchlow’s mind, however, it was much more specific than that: a hill in the Central Highlands of Vietnam that the Army numbered 102. Many of his close comrades died there during the battle in which he was wounded. He blamed himself.
“There were fewer than 200 American soldiers on Hill 102 when it came under siege by the entire Second North Vietnamese Army Division on the afternoon of Aug. 19, 1969. Critchlow was a 23-year-old forward observer for Charlie Company, responsible for calling in airstrikes and artillery barrages. As the Vietnamese troops advanced farther up the hill, the grunts dug in along the perimeter shouted over the radio to Critchlow for more and more bombs. The battle raged through the evening, and once it got dark, Critchlow lay on his back in a roofless French plantation house and used a strobe light to guide an AC-47 Spooky gunship to its targets. Just before midnight, a lone figure appeared in Critchlow’s periphery. He was armed with a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, and Critchlow knew he was an NVA soldier by the shape of his helmet. The explosion lifted Critchlow off the ground, and suddenly he was immersed in brilliant white light, spinning slowly through the air, certain he was dead. Five hours later, he was tossed onto a helicopter packed with bodies, and bullets pierced the fuselage as the bird lifted off the ground. Critchlow begged God not to let him die after all he had just survived. He prayed to go home. But as soon as he got there, he wanted to turn back around. He felt as if he had abandoned his men. ‘By putting myself in harm’s way, I left them behind,’ he recalled thinking after waking up in a hospital in Danang.”
This New York Times Magazine long read (below) is so important to gain insight into what warriors grapple with after returning from hostile actions in other nations.
I was convinced the deaths of my friends in combat were my fault. It took me years to realize this feeling had a name: survivor guilt.
Grant Opportunities: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is pleased to announce the opening of its fiscal year 2019-20 Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF) grant cycle.
A combined total of $800,000 in grant funding is available for the 2019-20 grant cycle.
$650,000 in funding is available for grants of up to $50,000 for the following types of eligible applicants:
- veterans’ service organizations (VSOs) with 501(c)(19) status under the Internal Revenue Code; and
- non-profit organizations with a mission of serving Pennsylvania veterans granted 501(c)(3) status under the the Internal Revenue Code.
$150,000 in funding is available for the following types of eligible applicants:
- individual eligible counties may receive up to the maximum of $20,000 per grant cycle;
- the State Association of County Directors of Veterans Affairs may receive up to the maximum of $150,000 per grant cycle.
The notice of funding announcement, grant guidelines, and grant application are combined in one document and can be found here.
“In addition to high rates of disability and psychological issues, some vets facing the end of life are confronting long-suppressed memories of the traumas of war.”
“Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times
“When Timothy Hellrung was told he had aggressive cancer this past June and had only days or weeks to live, he knew where he wanted to die.
“Mr. Hellrung, a 73-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War disabled by Agent Orange, spent his last 10 days in hospice care at the community living center of the V.A. Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan. The staff provided him with a roomy suite. A social worker wheeled in a bed for his wife of 44 years, Brenda, and gave her pajamas so she could be comfortable spending every night with him.
“‘The V.A. became family to us,’ Ms. Hellrung said. On his first day in hospice, a roomful of veterans honored Mr. Hellrung by placing a pin on his clothing with the American flag and the words ‘thank you for your service.’”
Click here to continue reading this New York Times article in its entirety.
This Link to Aging and Disability Resources partner agency, the South Central Veteran Community Partnership, is “a coalition of VA facilities; Community health providers, organizations and agencies; and Veterans and their caregivers.”
Many Link partner agencies are also Veteran Community Partnership agencies.
History of Veterans Day
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
“There are more than 11 million adults aged 60 and older alive today who have served in the military, representing over 15% of the 60+ population. It is important to learn more about this population to identify how they are faring during retirement and to identify their needs. To pursue this goal, the National Council on Aging and the Leading Age LTSS Center @ Umass Boston analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to learn about the health and economic characteristics of the older veteran population.”
Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers, providing social and psychological services including professional readjustment counseling to eligible Veterans and active duty service members, to include members of the National Guard and Reserve components and their families.
Vet Centers also play a significant role in VA’s Emergency Response mission to assist communities. MVCs and Vet Center staff deploy in response to shootings and support emergency response efforts to natural disasters and wild fires.
Who is eligible?
Veterans and active duty service members who:
* Have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility;
* Experienced a military sexual trauma (MST)
* Provided direct emergent medical care or mortuary services to the casualties of war, while serving on active duty, or
* Served as a member of an unmanned aerial vehicle crew that provided direct support to operations in a combat zone or area of hostility
* Vietnam Era Veterans who accessed care at a Vet Center prior to January 1, 2004.
Vet Center services are also provided to family members or loved ones of Veterans and service members for military-related issues when it is found to aid in the readjustment of those that served, or to help cope with the deployment of the service member. This includes marriage and family counseling and bereavement counseling for families who experience an active duty death.
What makes Vet Centers unique?
Non-traditional hours (including evenings and weekends), services without time limitation and at no charge. Individuals do not need to be enrolled in VA Healthcare Services, do not need a disability rating or service connection and can access Vet Center services regardless of discharge character.
What makes Vet Centers different than VA’s Mental Health?
While Vet Centers are not a part Mental Health in the VAMCs, they are connected through coordination and bi-directional referral. Vet Center staff are licensed professionals who offer a non-medical approach to counseling and do not provide medication management.
How do Vet Centers reach Veterans and service members?
Outreach specialists and counselors participate in a myriad of outreach events in local communities and host various events in order to create face to face connections and get eligible individuals connected to Vet Center Services.
80 Mobile Vet Centers are on the road or out in the community, extending the reach of Vet Centers through focused outreach, direct service provision and referral. Many of these communities are distant from existing services and are considered rural or highly rural.
How can I refer someone to a Vet Center for services?
If you think someone may benefit from Vet Center services, please call your nearest Vet Center or encourage the Veteran or service member to call or stop in.
“is a problem widely recognized but poorly understood. Elected officials and Pentagon leaders have tended to focus on the thousands of women who have been preyed upon while in uniform. But over the years, more of the victims have been men.
“On average, about 10,000 men are sexually assaulted in the American military each year, according to Pentagon statistics. Overwhelmingly, the victims are young and low-ranking. Many struggle afterward, are kicked out of the military and have trouble finding their footing in civilian life.
“For decades, the fallout from the vast majority of male sexual assaults in uniform was silence: Silence of victims too humiliated to report the crime, silence of authorities unequipped to pursue it, silence of commands that believed no problem existed, and silence of families too ashamed to protest.”