Homefront Help

December 15, 2009

Homefront Help is SIGNAL Connections’ effort to support U.S. service members, veterans and their families. The column highlights programs that offer resources and assistance to the military community ranging from care packages to benefits and everything in between. In that same spirit, Homefront Help presents opportunities for readers to donate time, offer resources and send words of thanks to those who sacrifice for freedom. Programs that provide services are listed in red. Opportunities for the public to reach out to service members are listed in blue. Each program description includes a link to the organization's Web site, when available.

Welcome Back Veterans
Welcome Back Veterans (WBV) aims at inspiring Americans to give back to returning veterans and their families who have sacrificed and served. The organization focuses largely on mental health issues, working to ensure veterans receive the care they need for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by providing treatment and funding research. In partnership with Major League Baseball Charities and the McCormick Foundation, the WBV is creating a network of university hospitals to address the mental needs of veterans and their families. The three core Centers for Veterans Mental Health are located within the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, the University of Michigan Depression Center and the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. They promote civilian-government collaborations and complement services currently provided at government facilities under the umbrella of the U.S. Defense Department. In collaboration, these three centers will create protocols to develop and provide care as well as address gaps in knowledge. To offer access to services across the United States, the three facilities will create partnerships with other university hospitals in diverse geographic regions. The WBV also plans to expand the satellite clinics by capitalizing on existing networks that can facilitate the goal of rapidly and systematically rolling out the clinical protocols developed and implemented by the core three. 

In addition to those far-reaching, big-idea efforts, the WBV provides opportunities for the general public to reach out. People can send letters of thanks or participate in online discussions. The Web site has large amounts of information about PTSD, those afflicted with the disease and how to help. There are links for veterans, parents, friends and loved ones, health care providers, and the general public. Veterans are invited to share their stories and experiences. More information about how to get involved, how to donate, how to invite people to participate, how to spread the word and other resources are posted on the Web site. 

Fumar Cigars
For several years Fumar Cigars has partnered with Blue Star Moms to send boxes of cigars to troops deployed in the Middle East. In collaboration with Oliva Tobacco, the company manufactures cigars with logos for all five branches of the armed forces. Anyone interested can sponsor a box, which will be matched one-for-one. The price to donate to a currently deployed warfighter is $65, and Fumar will cover the cost of shipping. Or, people can choose to donate a box to the five-times-a-year mass shipments for $50. Fumar now is teamed up with Jeff Bolton and SMOKE Magazine in the Sticks For Soldiers program, which also works to send cigars to deployed troops.

Disability Evaluation System Pilot Expands
The U.S. Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs are expanding the Disability Evaluation System (DES) pilot to six additional installations beginning next month and ending in March 2010. The new locations are Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis, Washington; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Virginia. When the expansion is complete, 27 facilities will participate in the pilot.

The program began in November 2007 for cases originating at three major military treatment facilities in the national capital region. The pilot tests a new process design that eliminates the duplicative, time-consuming and confusing elements of the departments’ two current disability processes. Key features of the DES pilot include one medical examination and a single-sourced disability rating. More than 5,431 service members have participated in the pilot. 


The SIGNAL Connections staff encourages readers to take advantage of the programs mentioned in this column and to pass along the information. In addition, if you know of a program that is helping service personnel, please let us know about it. Submit that information to SIGNAL's news editor.

The SIGNAL Connections staff has made every effort to verify the legitimacy of these programs and to include information accurate at the time of publication. Inclusion in this column does not constitute an endorsement by AFCEA International or SIGNAL Connections. 

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