Category Archives: Reservists

Painkillers Blighting Veterans

By Rick Rogers
Rick Rogers Media

If you use the universal 10-point pain scale to measure concern about the thousands of San Diego County veterans facing addiction to prescribed painkillers, you reach about a seven. That’s the estimate from officials at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

That equates to moderate to severe pain and requires prompt attention, which is why the Veterans Administration in San Diego is taking steps to help veterans manage their pain and their painkillers.

Studies show that a high percentage of veterans are in chronic pain, particularly those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They’re often prescribed opioids, which are effective painkillers, but the drugs can also lead to dependency and addiction.

Last month, the American Academy of Pain Medicine released a study that for the first time found that more than half of the 1 million veterans prescribed painkillers took them for 90 days or longer.

“That’s the challenge,” said Dr. James Michelsen, a primary care physician at the San Diego VA. “Remove the drugs without leaving the veterans in pain.”

Michelsen is the San Diego coordinator of the VA’s new opioid reduction program that went nationwide in late February.

VA officials are trying to dial back opioid use, which has nearly tripled throughout their system in the past decade while more than doubling within the VA San Diego system.

“It’s a substantial problem,” Michelsen said. “No doubt about it.”

The numbers bear him out.

Roughly 13,000 of the 76,000 veterans enrolled at the VA in San Diego are on prescribed painkillers, according to the healthcare system. Nearly 5,000 veterans fill recurring prescriptions for the drugs, putting them at particular risk of becoming hooked on the drugs.

A red flag that these prescription medications were ravaging the U.S. veteran population came in 2011, when researchers found vets dying of narcotic overdoses at more than twice the national average.

That same year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named painkiller abuse a national epidemic. The White House launched a campaign to reverse a trend that saw misuse of prescription drugs, misusage become America’s fastest-growing drug problem.

Meanwhile at the Department of Veterans Affairs, prescriptions for hydrocodone, methadone, morphine and oxycodone — all widely used and highly addictive painkillers, or opioids — had surged 270 percent, while its patient pool had increased just 41 percent in the preceding war-weary decade.

Hearings On VA And Painkillers

Last fall, congressional hearings into the skyrocketing use of doctor-approved opioid analgesics by the VA revealed still more concerns.

A former VA doctor in Virginia testified she was ordered to prescribe the painkillers against her medical judgment and was fired in 2010 when she objected. Four of her colleagues would later tell investigators they felt pressure to prescribe narcotic prescriptions to patients not assigned to them.

Other witnesses told a House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee that the drugs were killing some veterans while turning others into drug addicts.

“Keeping our men and woman doped up to keep them quiet and happy is not treatment. It is cruelty and torture and in too many cases it’s manslaughter,” Heather McDonald told lawmakers.

She is the widow of Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Scott McDonald, who died from an accidental overdose of anti-depressants and pain drugs prescribed him by the VA.

Justin Minyard, a medically retired soldier, added at the hearing, “I started an intense opioid pain medication regimen. The metaphor I think best gives people an idea of what it is like is: Once I started on high-dose, opioid pain pills, once that train left the station, it was going 1,000 miles an hour and wasn’t making any stops.

“At my worst point, I was taking enough opioid pain medication to treat four terminally ill cancer patients. My dependency happened so fast. It felt like I blinked, and then I looked up and my life revolved around getting my fix.”

Compounding the prescription drug problem among veterans, the witnesses testified, is the penchant by VA doctors to dispense large quantities of powerful pain pills with little monitoring, while offering few, if any, alternatives to pain relief.

“VA’s Band-Aid approach to suppressing the symptoms of pain rather than treating the root causes must stop,” Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., said at the October hearing. Benishek chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health and was a doctor at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Michigan.

The VA issued a statement on painkillers that read in part:

“There’s a great national effort now, both within and outside the VA, to draw attention to the concerns that we have about prescription opioid medications. We want to continue to promote access to these medications, but in a way that is safe or at least mitigates risk.

“In addition, VA has uniform guidelines and procedures for providing pain management care in compliance with generally accepted pain management standards of care. These guidelines are currently being reinforced with additional measures to support safe opioid prescribing through further education and training of clinicians, facility leadership and patients.”

Veterans Particularly At Risk

While issues linked to painkillers aren’t confined to former service members, as a group they are particularly vulnerable to dependency and misuse.

More than half the veterans the VA treats complain of pain. Vets also suffering from post traumatic stress or depression are not only more likely to be prescribed narcotic painkillers then their peers but are also more prone to over-medicate with painkillers in sometimes deadly combination with psychotropic drugs, especially benzodiaepines.

Drug withdrawal from these prescriptions is often harsh and accompanied by depression and insomnia that can last for months and spark veterans to turn to substitute drugs or alcohol.

Even when the painkillers are used as directed, the chances of veterans – or anyone – becoming dependent upon them is high after just a few weeks of daily use, according to the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.

On average, veterans are on these addicting medications far longer than a few weeks before seeing a pain specialist.

The alarming degree to which the VA and its veterans have become dependent on painkillers was underscored in September when the Center for Investigative Reporting found that many, if not most VA medical centers, wrote more than 100 opioid prescriptions for every 100 patients. That’s a nearly 300 percent increase in the past 10 years.

It’s a trend that VA medical centers nationwide are struggling to curb, including the one in San Diego, where the painkiller prescription rate is 70.2 for every 100 patients, according to the CIR report.

This is a 210 percent jump in the past decade for a healthcare system that treats about 27,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – the largest population of its kind in the nation.

Pain Treatment Alternatives Tried in San Diego

Jack Lyon, a founder of the Veterans Village of San Diego and a volunteer mentor to troops being treated at San Diego Naval Medical Center, said it’s not surprising that people become addicted to painkillers even after just a few weeks of use.

“What people need to know about this is that it’s not about willpower or character. It’s about your body. There’s not a whole hell of a lot you can do about it,” Lyon said. “The pills don’t care who you are or who you think you are. Everyone in the medical profession knows this. At first you take the drugs and then the drugs take you.”

He said painkiller addiction had become an issue with some of the seriously wounded being treated at the Naval Medical Center. The center now has a policy outlining how the men and women will be weaned off the drugs before they are even prescribed.

“Addiction to painkillers was a real problem until we (as volunteer mentors) sat down with all involved and explained up front to the warriors that they could expect to become addicted,” Lyon said. “But we told them we would be there for them with medical supervision when it was time to detox, and that they wouldn’t have to go cold turkey on their own.”

Michelsen at the VA uses the word “challenging” often to describe the difficulty in convincing veterans, long accustomed to pilling their pain away, that non-drug alternatives work better and are much safer in the long run.

“If you look back 10 to 15 years, pain experts really believed that we were under-treating pain and that patients were being left in pain, and that opiates weren’t being used enough and they really encouraged their use,” Michelsen said.

“With 10 years of experience of using more and more opiates, the pain world has been able to look back and collect data,” Michelsen said. “And what they’ve really found is the use of higher-dose opiates many times causes more harm than good.”

Army veteran Beverly McNeil, 55, knows first-hand the dark path that painkiller abuse can lead someone down. Two overdoses, a crippled marriage, a failed rehab stint and a lost career led her to a treatment program at the Veterans Village of San Diego in November.

“I didn’t feel I could live without the pain pills before I came here,” said McNeil, who had struggled with prescription narcotic addiction for years but hit bottom after getting painkillers last year from the VA for knee pain.

“I’d take five or six pills two or three times a day. I was so high that I couldn’t read a book or have a complete thought,” McNeil said.

Now, she said, after months of therapy, exercise and acupuncture, she’s more pain free than she ever was during her medication days.

“You can’t live the rest of your life on narcotics,” McNeil said. “Prescription pain pills are not the answer, believe me.”

San Diego and other VA medical centers are attempting to counter the perception that opioids are magic bullets for pain, and urging veterans to embrace alternatives, like McNeil has done.

“The misconception is opiates cure pain. They don’t. For most, they will take the edge off of pain, but they are not a cure to pain,” said Melissa L.D. Christopher, a doctor of pharmacy at the VA  in San Diego.

She also runs the VA’s Opiate Safety Initiative for California, Nevada and Hawaii.  The initiative educates doctors and patients about the painkillers.

“When opiates are used, they are not as effective as physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise for specific pain conditions,” Christopher said. “We want our veterans to live life in high definition and not be fogged by opiates. We want them to maintain control over their pain and transition to a better quality of life. That’s the new message we’re delivering to our veterans.”

That message might be slowly taking hold.

“We are starting to turn the tide,” Michelsen said. “This year, for the first time, we’ve seen a downturn in the number of opiate prescriptions.”

He said painkiller prescriptions at San Diego’s VA have dropped slightly – from 18.2 percent to 17.2 percent – in the past year.

“And that is telling, considering that we are seeing more patients then ever,” Christopher said. “There is hope that we can turn this around.”

Veterans Employer Panel, June 28 in San Diego

When: Friday, June 28 from 9am-11am

Where: South Metro Career Center, 4724 Imperial Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113

Questions: (619) 266.4256

Dress for success

Mapquest it

Veterans Employer Panel

Agenda:

  • Introductions: 10 minutes
  • Question and Answer: 55 minutes
  • One-on-One: 55 minutes

 

Scheduled employers include:

  • Bank of America
  • City of San Diego
  • US Customs and Border Protection
  • Volt Workforce Solutions
  • Wal-Mart
  • Westpac Wealth Partners
  • Wicked Coursing

 

Scheduled veteran resources include:

  • Blue Star Mothers
  • California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet)
  • Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR)
  • ITT Technical Institute

Petition: Change Medal’s ‘Order of Precedence’

Do you disagree with the Pentagon’s decision to put a new medal honoring drone pilots above some traditional combat valor medals in the military’s “order of precedence”?

This is your chance to let the White House know how you feel.

petition posted on the White House website Thursday asks the administration to lower the precedence of the Distinguished Warfare Medal.

The medal, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday, will be awarded to pilots of unmanned aircraft, offensive cyberwar experts or others who are directly involved in combat operations, but who are not physically in theater and facing the physical risks that warfare historically entails.

The new medal will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross. It will have precedence over — and be worn on a uniform ahead of — the Bronze Star with Valor device, awarded to troops for specific heroic acts performed under fire in combat.

“Under no circumstance should a medal that is designed to honor a pilot, that is controlling a drone via remote control, thousands of miles away from the theater of operation, rank above a medal that involves a soldier being in the line of fire on the ground,” the petition reads. “This is an injustice to those who have served and risked their lives and this should not be allowed to move forward as planned.”

Petitions on the White House site, “We the People,” will get a response from the government if they reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days, though the White House is not required to respond within a certain time frame. As of midday Friday, the warfare medal petition had 57 signatures. It would need 99,943 more by March 16 to reach the goal.

To see the petition, click here.

Warrior & Family Support News

COMMUNITIES IN ACTION

Operation Warfighter soldier awarded Purple Heart in Surprise Ceremony
DVIDS
Silk began his military career in 1994 and has been in and out of the military ever since fluctuating between Active Duty and Reserve, and most recently joining the Oklahoma National Guard in 2010. Since joining the military, he has been deployed in 

USO Lends a Helping Hand to the ‘Harris Family’ During “Extreme Makeover …
Melodika.net (press release)
Led by team leader Ty Pennington, designers Paige Hemmis, Michael Moloney, Xzibit and Ed Sanders, along with local builder Morgan’s Wonderland and Helping a Hero, military charity the USO and community volunteers, all chipped in to lend a helping hand 

Group, community give wounded veteran, family ‘unbelievable’ reason to move
Amarillo.com
Jose Torrez, left, and Federico Lopez install the ceiling of a house being donated by Operation Finally Home and Permian Homes to Sgt. Ross Cox, a soldier who was injured by an improvised explosive device in 2011 while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

WELLNESS

Vets Views: VA claims mushrooming in number and complexity
Park Rapids Enterprise
You may have read in the media about how the VA is falling behind on processing claims for services and benefits. According to Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Scott Miller, 67 percent of claims are taking more than 125 days and there is a 30 

National initiatives to reduce veteran homelessness
WJXT Jacksonville
Gilman and other advocates point to a number of newer strategies focused around housing, aimed at making sure the homeless have options that work, including a $60 million rapid rehousing initiative by the U.S. Department of Veteransaffairs and a HUD 

Kittery fair reaches out to veterans, wounded warriors
Seacoastonline.com
The fair participants were a mixture of sports-related organizations like the Maine organization, and veterans services such as the U.S. Veterans Administration, the federal veterans‘ health care insurance Tricare Health, and veterans organizations 

EDUCATION

Grateful Nation Montana hats raise scholarship money for fallen soldiers’ children

Missoulian.com

It was after an elk hunt near Helmville that Tom McGann sat down to supper with two Montanans. The conversation born from that dinner-table discussion may ultimately change the way veterans organizations help children who have lost a parent at war…

New Veterans Affairs Center Opens on Campus
BC Hot News
President Karen L. Gould and members of the college community gathered to mark the opening of a new and expandedVeterans Affairs and Counseling Center in James Hall. Located on the building’s main floor, the new space is roughly twice the size of the office’s previous space, located in the basement of the building 

Only 36% of veterans utilizing GI Bill’s free tuition
Omaha World-Herald
Studies show that veterans often leave GI Bill benefits on the table because they don’t see a clear line between moreeducation and a promotion. Additionally, they often don’t want the headache of fighting through what they fear will be bureaucratic 

EMPLOYMENT

Working Toward Economic Prosperity For Our Veterans
Huffington Post
This remarkable Institute has evolved five separate programs for veterans and military spouses, each unique, innovative and effective. The “Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities” focuses on post 9-11 vets with service connected 

Harper Government and Corporate Canada Partnering to Offer Job …
PR Newswire (press release)
The first, the new Veterans Transition Advisory Council, will bring together industry leaders and government with the goal of helping Veterans transition into meaningful jobs in the private sector. “Our Government is proud to work with corporate Canada 

The Veterans Job Bank: How to post an open position
HR.BLR.com
The Veterans Job Bank, powered by the National Resource Directory (NRD.gov), provides veterans with a central source for identifying Veteran-committed employment opportunities and assists contractor/employers in identifying qualified veterans.

Warrior & Family Support News

 

COMMUNITIES IN ACTION

Clarksville labor analysis advises more education, jobs for exiting military
Clarksville Leaf Chronicle
Tom Stellman, center, president and CEO of TIP Strategies, discusses the current labor market on Friday, with, from left, Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board Executive Director Mike Evans, WorkForce Essentials Inc. President 

Veterans rebuild civilian selves
Austin American-Statesman
The group also has set up an emergency response team as a way to use some of the disaster relief skills they learned in the military — and to give veterans a larger purpose they might have been missing since leaving the military. The team, which 

Home from Iraq and Afghanistan, many combat veterans look to serve again …
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Several dozen veterans — some of them from earlier wars — are vying for U.S. House and Senate seats this year. And many others are seeking state and local offices across the country. Men and women, Republicans and Democrats, they range from 

WELLNESS

Suicide among veterans receiving less attention than active-duty deaths
Austin American-Statesman
Obama ordered the VA to fill staff vacancies, reduce wait times and launch a national campaign to educate veterans about mental health services. Kemp said the VA has devoted substantial resources to preventing suicides in recent years, adding a 

Military facing a shortage in mental health treatment ability
OHS Canada
The military ombudsman slammed the Canadian Forces in his latest report, calling for upgrades to its handling of soldiers with mental health needs. In his report, entitled Fortitude Under Fatigue, Canadian Forces ombudsman Pierre Daigle determined that 

VA fails to track cause of veterans deaths
Dayton Daily News
Last month, Veterans Affairs officials in Dayton said multiple deployments, a tough economy and a rise in post-traumatic stress added to an alarming increase in suicides among local service members and veterans. The Dayton VA recorded 19 suicide 

Commander’s regret over Afghanistan proves the case for public silence
Sydney Morning Herald
Part of the journalistic interest in this memoir turned on Cantwell’s PTSD, which he acquired as one of the few Australians who participated on the ground during the first Gulf War of 1990-91. Cantwell was on exchange with the British Army at the time.
EDUCATION

MILITARY: USD offering vets help with education and predatory loan issues
North County Times
A former Camp Pendleton military law judge is spearheading a University of San Diego effort aimed at helping veterans resolve disputes with online colleges who may have targeted them for theirmilitary education benefits. Critics including Iowa U.S. Sen.

Department of Education Awards $14.3 Million for 51 Grants to Boost Veterans …
eNews Park Forest
Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—October 1, 2012. The U.S. Department of Education announced the award of $14,392,377 for 51 Veterans Upward Bound projects, which will help some 6,831 veterans acquire the skills and knowledge they need to succeed 

EMPLOYMENT

Want a job? Look to the energy field
USA TODAY
At Pioneer, field hands and supervisors include everyone from military veterans to former schoolteachers, Hall said. Pipeline technician James Laake took about a $20,000 raise from his old job as a prison guard; the 24-year-old high school graduate 

Veterans job training program growing in popularity
Fort Worth Star Telegram
It requires legwork by the applicant: find a school within program parameters, get the field of study approved, show that you are unemployed, etc., said James Frost, a lead veteran employmentrepresentative with the Texas Veterans Commission. Because 

Using Technology For Your Mental Health

Technology has dramatically changed our world during the past 20 years, including how we approach psychological health care, and mostly for the better. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to find out about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you could either make an appointment with a psychologist or spend countless hours at a library reading books and professional journals. Now, great information is just a click away.

If you have a smartphone for example, you can instantly download freemobile applications such as the PTSD Coach, and learn about PTSD and ways to help you manage its symptoms. There are apps to track your mood during a period of time and give you and your provider information to help diagnose a possible mood or anxiety disorder. Treatment guidelines to help providers manage patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) are even available on a smartphone. There are lots of goodonline assessment tools, and although they don’t give a clinical diagnosis of a disorder, they can get you thinking about your well-being and help start a conversation with a mental health care provider if needed.

When I was seeing patients, it impressed me when someone came to my office with a printout from a website describing a particular problem or topic. It showed me that they cared enough to seek out information and were proactive in their care.

But here are a few points to keep in mind when you’re educating yourself on psychological health concerns:

  • Make sure to get your info from credible sources: DCoEAmerican Psychological Association,afterdeployment.org and Department of Veterans Affairs are great sources for info on TBI, PTSD, depression and other military-related mental health concerns
  • While many sources are good, a few are poor. Be wary of sites that try to sell you something, make outlandish claims or offer quick results. Treatment for mental health conditions works, but it takes time and effort
  • While these resources can educate you and give you things to talk about with your provider, they should not serve as a substitute for professional help

Another example of how technology is improving the way people can access information is being able to connect with someone instantly and at any time. The DCoE Outreach Center is available through online chat and whether you’re a service member, veteran, family member or provider, you can speak to a health resource consultant who can provide guidance and resources 24/7.

Read more here.

Navy & Marine Corps Combat Stress San Diego Conference 2012

Navy and Marine Corps Combat & Operational Stress Control Conference 2012:

“Joining Forces to Strengthen Resilience”.

When: Tuesday – Thursday, 22-24 May 2012

Where: Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle N., San Diego, CA 92108

Host: Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control

Purpose: To bring together individuals and organizations from around the world to discuss updates in doctrine, policy, research, data, programs, interventions, and best practices pertinent to Combat and Operational Stress Control in the Navy, Marine Corps and other services. Attendance and presentations are expected from military services from allied countries, as well as top experts from the VA National Center for PTSD, civilian institutions, and other U.S. military branches.

To submit a proposal for Papers, Posters, Exhibitors, or Award Nominations, please login on the upper left. Once logged in, click on “Submit a Proposal”.  http://cosc.scsubmissions.com/index.aspx

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS:  Dec. 9, 2011

POC: Allison Medina, MS, BSN

Project Development Specialist, USN (ret.) Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control (NCCOSC)

(619) 532-9709

allison.medina@med.navy.mil

http://www.nccosc.navy.mil

99 Marine Reserve Colonels Forced Out Win in Court

By Rick Rogers
DefenseTracker.com

A little case with big implications is back in the Navy’s court thanks to reserve Marine colonel who fought the Navy in court over his involuntary retirement and by extension those of scores other colonels – and won.

In March 2009, Col. Gary E. Lambert was notified he was one of 99 colonels selected for early removal from the Reserve Active Status List (RASL).

A letter informed him that, “Those … considered were colonels having at least 3 years time in grade as of July 2009. Of the 254 officers considered, the board selected 99 for early removal.”

In October 2009 Lambert filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in New Hampshire against the secretary of the Navy alleging his separation violated U.S. law and Navy and Marine Corps regulations.

Lambert asked for immediate reinstatement to his former rank and his old job back as a reserve staff judge advocate officer at the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

Lambert’s argued that the pool of colonels reviewed for separation was much smaller than it should have been. By his estimation, 616 Marine reserve colonels should have been considered, thus lessening his chances of being selected for early retirement.

Lambert claimed his early separation, roughly two years before he might have otherwise faced retirement, cost him about $100,000 in unrealized pay and the loss of health and dental coverage for him and his family.

An assistant U.S. attorney representing the Navy had asked the court to disregard the complaint.

But a federal judge in New Hampshire ruled in late July that the Marine Corps must convene a new panel to reconsider the 2008 selections and that the cases of all 99 reserve colonels axed deserve another look in the context of a broader pool.

In a 22-page decision, U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled in favor of Lambert, a New Hampshire patent, copyright and trademark attorney.

Though Lambert was the only plaintiff in the suit, Barbadoro ordered the Marine Corps redo the entire board; thus, opening the door for possible reinstatement of some of the 99 officers let go.

Carlsbad resident Donald Armento, who is very involved in the legal community in San Diego County, is one of a handful of former reserve colonels living in North County falling under Lambert’s federal suit.

“Yes, I’d go back and serve two more years if they would allow me,” said Armento, who put in 27 ½ years and actively drilled at Camp Pendleton when cut from the service more then two years ago.

“But I don’t hold out much hope. I think that when they hold another board, they are going to view us as older and being out of loop for a few years,” Armento said. “I do think I can still carry the mail and do a good job if I did go back.”

The Marine Corps had convened the board to thin the ranks of 99 reserve colonels. Before the board convened, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, reduced the pool of officers to be considered from more than 600 to 254.

“The secretary’s refusal to correct his illegal action on the special board’s recommendation must be set aside,” Barbadoro wrote.

The judge wrote that Mabus must issue new guidelines requiring the new selection board to consider “all colonels on the RASL” when the original board convened, as of Oct. 17, 2008. That potentially could include colonels who were selected to remain in service or as well as those told to retire.

“If Lambert is not selected by the reconstituted selection board, he is entitled to reinstatement and attendant benefits” allowable under law, the judge wrote.

The ruling stands for Armento and the other 97. It is not known whether the Marine Corps or the Navy would appeal the decision.

Oceanside’s Rocky Chavez Replaced as State Vet Leader

Former Oceanside councilman and retired Marine Rocky Chavez, appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to lead the California Department of Veterans Affairs, was recently replaced by Gov. Jerry Brown. Chavez had championed vets causes and argued when Brown decided to take away the funding increase that Schwarzenegger had promised the historically under-funded CDVA. Chavez had the strong support of many San Diego County vet organizations who urged Brown to keep Chavez on.

Below is a press release on the change. Not sure who wrote this, but there is no mention of Chavez, which either makes this bad journalism or an intentional slight.

Peter James Gravett, 69, of Rolling Hills Estates,  has been appointed secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. Gravett is a retired major general with over 35 years of commissioned service in the California National Guard with service in ten countries. He has been the state chair for the Southern California Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Committee since 2007. He is currently a principal business associate at Traiden Global Solutions, where he has worked since 2008. Previously, Gravett served as president and chief executive officer of Gravett and Associates from 2002 to 2008. Before retiring from the Guard, he served as commander of the 40th Infantry Division from 1999, when he was promoted to major general, to 2002, becoming the first African-American division commander in the 225-year history of the United States National Guard. In this role, Gravett served a dual assignment in Kiev, Ukraine with the Partnership for Peace program. Previously, Gravett served as assistant division commander-support from 1996, when he was promoted to brigadier general, to 1999. In 1990, Gravett was promoted to colonel, and he served as commander of an armor brigade from 1993 to 1996, and division chief of staff from 1990 to 1993. He served as division provost marshal, military police battalion commander, armor battalion commander, division civil-military operations officer and armor brigade executive officer after he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1981. As a major, from 1976 to 1980 Gravett served as an assistant division logistics officer and a division transportation officer. From 1974 to 1975 he served as a logistics officer, intelligence officer and acting operations officer. Gravett also served as an armored cavalry troop commander from 1971 to 1974. He began his commissioned service as a military police platoon leader and an armored cavalry troop platoon leader in 1968. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $175,000. Gravett is a Republican.

Tackling Homelessness Among Veterans

On a visit to a Vermont homeless shelter for veterans, Maj. L. Tammy Duckworth met a man who lived there with his wife and two young children. She asked if he was looking for a job.

No, he told her. He was a member of the Vermont National Guard, and he was getting ready to deploy. And he was excited, she said: His family could stay in the shelter while he was deployed and save up his pay so they could have a home when he got back.

“We are all dishonored when a veteran sleeps on the same streets that he or she has defended,”Duckworth, the assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in Hartford Monday. “We are all dishonored when a veteran’s family has to live in a shelter while he or she is out fighting for us. We need to fix that.”

There are 76,000 homeless veterans in the U.S., including an estimated 462 in Connecticut, and Duckworth is part of an effort to get the number to zero by 2015. It’s part of a larger federal plan, calledOpening Doors, that also has goals of ending chronic homelessness by 2015 and homelessness among families, youth and children by 2020.

“I know it is ambitious,” she said. “But when we started, we had 131,000 veterans on the streets of this nation. A year ago, we were at 107,000 homeless veterans on the streets of this nation. And as of April, we are now at 76,000 homeless veterans on the streets of this nation.”

Read more here.