IRS Marks National Military Appreciation Month

Source: IRS  |  2016-05-26

May is National Military Appreciation Month, and the Internal Revenue Service wants members of the military and their families to know about the many tax benefits available to them.

Each year, the IRS publishes Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide, a free booklet packed with valuable information and tips designed to help service members and their families take advantage of all tax benefits allowed by law. This year’s edition is posted on www.IRS.gov.

Available tax benefits include:

  • Combat pay is partly or fully tax-free.

  • Reservists whose reserve-related duties take them more than 100 miles from home can deduct their unreimbursed travel expenses on Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ, even if they don’t itemize their deductions.

  • Eligible unreimbursed moving expenses are deductible on Form 3903.

  • Low-and moderate-income service members often qualify for such family-friendly tax benefits as the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a special computation method is available for those who receive combat pay.

  • Low-and moderate-income service members who contribute to an IRA or 401(k)-type retirement plan, such as the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, can often claim the saver’s credit, also known as the retirement savings contributions credit, on Form 8880.

  • Service members stationed abroad have extra time, until June 15, to file a federal income tax return. Those serving in a combat zone have even longer, typically until 180 days after they leave the combat zone.

  • Service members may qualify to delay payment of income tax due before or during their period of service. See Publication 3 for details including how to request relief.

Service members who prepare their own return qualify to electronically file their federal return for free using IRS Free File. In addition, the IRS partners with the military through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to provide free tax preparation to service members and their families at bases in the United States and around the world.

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Rancho Cordova Honors Merchant Mariners at Mather VA

Source: City of Rancho Cordova  |  2016-05-25

It wasn’t until the late 1980s when Merchant Mariners who served in World War II were classified veterans by the U.S. Government. 
--Photo courtesy City of Rancho Cordova

“In Peace and War Remembering our Veterans and Honoring the United States Merchant Mariners” will be the theme at Rancho Cordova's 10th annual Memorial Day Ceremony. The event will be held on Monday, May 30 at Sacramento VA Medical Center Memorial Plaza, 10535 Hospital Way, Mather.

Pre-program entertainment will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will feature the Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band followed by the commemoration program at 10 a.m.

During World War II, it is estimated 243,000 men served in the Merchant Marine. Mariners died at a rate of 1 in 26, which was the highest rate of casualties of any service. Yet few veterans’ organizations accepted them, they received no veteran’s benefits, and they were not considered veterans

It wasn’t until the late 1980s when Merchant Mariners who served in World War II were classified veterans by the U.S. Government. Those who served after and who serve now still aren’t considered veterans. Rancho Cordova wants to change this by honoring Merchant Mariners to celebrate their accomplishments and help them mourn and honor the dead who served alongside them.

Keynote speaker will be Thomas A. Cropper, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.), President of the California Maritime Academy. Also on the program will be Congressman Ami Bera; California State Assemblyman Ken Cooley; Mr. David Stockwell, Director of the VA Northern California Health Care System; Rancho Cordova Mayor David M. Sander; Council Member Robert J. McGarvey; and Dr. Todd Irby, Deputy Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Cordova High School, United States Air Force Junior ROTC will present and retire the colors. The Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Phelps Hobart of the Pacific Merchant Marine Council. The invocation and benediction will be led by Deacon Walter J. Little of St. John Vianney Parish of Rancho Cordova.

The newest commemorative bricks dedicated to local men and women of the armed services will be acknowledged by Dr. Dawn B. Erckenbrack, LTC, USA (Ret.), Associate Director of VA Northern California Health Care System. Brick donors will be escorted by the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets and Cordova High School, United States Air Force Junior ROTC.

For additional information, please contact Stacy Delaney at the City of Rancho Cordova at 916-851-8878 or Tara Ricks at the VA NCHCS at 916-843-9247.

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A ‘Welcome Home’ Event Celebrates Vietnam Veterans

By Patrick Groves  |  2016-04-18

The City of Rancho Cordova honored about 100 Vietnam veterans at the April 4th city council meeting. Photo courtesy City of Rancho Cordova

The war in Vietnam was a nightmare for most, but its memory brought together veterans in the Rancho Cordova City Hall where they finally received the “welcome home” not extended to them during the conflict.

The City of Rancho Cordova honored about 100 Vietnam veterans at the April 4th city council meeting. The city became partners of the United States Vietnam War Commemoration program launched in 2008 by an act of Congress. The Commemoration has honored Vietnam veterans since 2012 and will continue until Veterans Day 2025. The Commemoration and its partners honor veterans who served between 1955 to 1975, the timeframe of the Vietnam War.

“It brought back a lot of emotions and I had a hard time keeping it together up there,” said Jerry Hayes, a United States Air Force veteran who served between 1969 and 1973.

Hayes, 64, said public sentiment toward veterans has changed greatly since his tour of duty. While he remained stateside during his service, he had run-ins with people against the war. Once during a seven hour flight layover he considered changing out of his uniform into civilian clothes to prevent being targeted.

“I couldn’t believe how people were jeering at us as we got off the plane,” he said.

He said his favorite memories from the war were his down time, like watching the sunset from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Wash, while he was stationed at McCord Field Air Force base.

“The pressure cooker of the war was enough to drive anyone insane,” he said.

The city currently has a two year partnership with the Commemoration, from 2015 to 2017. The partnership entails two events per year must be dedicated to Vietnam War veterans, said Stacy Delaney, an Air Force veteran in the city manager’s office.

“When Vietnam veterans returned from the war — in California or elsewhere — I think they did not receive the recognition they deserved,” Delaney said. “What we were hoping for with this event is to say ‘welcome home.’ ”

A little more than 3,000 Vietnam veterans live in Rancho Cordova, according to U.S. Census estimates. In Sacramento County there are a total of about 90,000 veterans including those who served during Vietnam, according to CalVet.

City Councilman Robert McGarvey, a former Vietnam serviceman himself, presented each veteran with a lapel pin designed by the Commemoration. The pin features an eagle representing courage, honor and dedicated service and other recognizable symbols on the front and the message “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You” on the back.

“I think the generation who didn’t really honor veterans and called them ‘baby killers’ kind of grew up,” McGarvey said. “I think when we had the Gulf War in ’91 people started paying more attention to veterans.”

McGarvey said he makes a point to represent the needs of veterans living in Rancho Cordova through his position on the city council. He served in the Air Force between 1965 and 1967.

“It takes a while to get these things done, but it’s worth it,” he said.

Marilyn “Sue” Mellow, 70, was another Air Force veteran honored at the meeting. Mellow said the ceremony made her proud to be a member of the Rancho Cordova community, where she has lived for the past 30 years.

“I thought it was an extremely nice gesture,” she said. “I’m very proud of that pin and on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and other special occasions I’ll be wearing it.”

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Rancho Cordova Recognizes Vietnam Veterans

Source: City of Rancho Cordova  |  2016-03-22

Did you serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces from November 1, 1955 to May 15th, 1975? If your answer is yes, then the City of Rancho Cordova wants to hear from you!

The City will be recognizing veterans who served during the Vietnam War at the Rancho Cordova City Council Meeting on Monday, April 4th. Each Veteran will receive a special Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin from the Rancho Cordova City Council as part of The U.S.A. Vietnam War Commemoration, of which the City is a proud partner.

Nine million Americans served during the Vietnam War period and 7.2 million are still living. Due to its military history, Rancho Cordova wanted to be a part of honoring these veterans in our community.

“This recognition should have been done a long time ago,” said Council Member Robert J. McGarvey who is leading the effort. “We want to let Vietnam veterans and their families know that we appreciate their service and sacrifice to our nation.”

If you would like to be recognized or have questions, please contact Delisa Verdun in the City Manager’s Office at (916) 851-8809 by Friday, April 1st.

Community members are invited to the ceremony on Monday, April 4th at 5:30 p.m. at Rancho Cordova City Hall, 2729 Prospect Park Drive.

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Veterans Healing by Writing War Stories

Story and photos by Steve Liddick  |  2016-03-18

Veteran writing program Co-Director Indigo Moor works with Emtt Hawkins, an Air Force veteran of the Korean War, to express his feelings about his experiences.

A character in John Steinbeck’s classic novel “East of Eden” had suffered unimaginable pain and loss in his life. He was asked how he could live with those memories. He said, “I forget by remembering.”

That concept is being applied to a small Sacramento area group of veterans of America’s wars. A writing workshop doubles as a support group to help each to offset the trauma of battle by giving them a way to confront the demons they continue to carry with them.

Rancho Cordova Library Branch Supervisor Jill Stockinger coordinates the writing program that is funded by a four-year state and federal grant. She said veterans returning from war are an “underserved population,” and those who still suffer the effects of war can benefit by writing. Therapeutic, of course, but the hope is that it will be enjoyable, as well. “Self-expression is a positive experience,” she said. “We encourage veterans to express themselves to help them adjust to civilian life.”

Seated around a table in a quiet room in the library, five veterans gathered to write of their experiences among others who will understand what they have gone through.

Local writer, poet, and CSUS and Sacramento City College English professor Bob Stanley is co-director of the group in the first of what will be four Wednesday evening sessions at the library. The remaining three sessions are: March 30th, April 20th, and May 18th. Veterans of all branches and all eras are welcome, even if they were not able to attend the first session.

“The main focus of the group will be to get words down on paper,” Bob Stanley said. Any subject, any form. No rules or pressure came with the exercise. Each was encouraged to express what they feel and put it in words.

Co-Director Indigo Moor is a poet, screenwriter, and author as well as a U.S. Navy veteran of Desert Storm. Moor read from the published works of several war veterans who had poured out their feelings as free verse poetry. One of those works was a poignant retelling of the poet’s visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Judging from the reaction of those present, the words were resonating with them as well.

Another author wrote obscurely of things he heard, saw, and felt on a night patrol in Vietnam, but which each of the veterans present easily interpreted as a soldier waiting for the enemy to come at him from the darkness. Not knowing was as damaging to the psyche as combat itself.

At one point Moor asked those present to close their eyes and envision that “one moment that defines the [war] experience” for them. He urged the men to use the sights and sounds of their experiences in the writing exercise, “use the senses that keep us interested,” he said. Rather than a blow-by-blow account of what happened, he asked that they call upon their feelings and condense them onto paper.

Some who attended are still burdened by what happened to them in their war. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Daniel Gomez served four tours in Vietnam. Gomez was wounded twice and continues to suffer the health effects of the injuries, exposure to Agent Orange defoliant, and malaria. When asked why he was attending the workshop, he said, “To figure out why the hell I’m still here.” His war may have ended four decades ago, but it is still as fresh in his mind as yesterday.

The five men who attended the gathering represented different branches of the service: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, as well as different wars: Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.

Carmichael resident Bob Pacholik is an author of some renown. He was a U.S. Army combat photographer in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. His book “Night Flares: Six Tales of the Vietnam War,” chronicles the war and honors the men and women who served in it.

Most of those present were there for the therapeutic value writing might offer. Some of the men said they hoped to continue to write beyond the program. Emmett Hawkins served in the U.S. Air Force in Korea. Among other subjects he is interested in religion and history.

For each of the veterans who took part in the Rancho Cordova writing workshop, the object was to reduce their experience down to its essence to help them to better understand what happened to them.

Poetry: a large idea, written small.

For additional information about the veterans writing project, check out www.saclibrary.org and click on “events.” Also, the library information line number is (916) 264-2920.

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Veterans Seek Alternative Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress

Brandpoint  |  2016-03-01

(BPT) - Most people can’t imagine being terrified by the sound of a fork falling and hitting the ground. They don’t understand how someone cannot sleep because the fear of recurring nightmares keeps them awake. They’ve never experienced anxiety that turns everyday tasks into impossible chores.

But for thousands of American veterans, these are just a few symptoms that can make their lives unbearable. And while millions are aware of the condition they suffer from - post-traumatic stress or PTS - few are able to grasp the severity of the condition, and medical science is a long way from understanding the neurological causes of PTS.

In the news, stories of PTS tend to focus on bureaucratic mishandling, ineffective medications that have severe side effects and the general tragedy of those who are afflicted. However, there is also a side of the story that has to do with hope, strength and love. While a single cure has not yet been discovered for PTS, there are many instances of veterans finding peace and a path to recovery through some non-conventional - and often controversial - means.

Equine therapy

The greatest challenge for many who suffer from PTS is to rebuild relationships with other people. Many have found that a powerful way to lessen the anger and hypersensitivity that often prevents them from enjoying normal relationships is through caring for horses. Grooming, feeding, cleaning the pen and riding the animals helps those who suffer from PTS to return to the trusting and nurturing emotions they learned to suppress due to the stress of combat.

Acupuncture

This ancient Chinese practice of pushing pins into specific points on a patient’s body has gained widespread acceptance for a variety of medical and psychological purposes. The idea behind the practice is to heal and restore balance between various systems of the body. Though there is no conclusive evidence that acupuncture can help in all situations, several studies and many veterans report long term benefits in recovering mental stability.

Bariatric oxygen treatment

This treatment involves a patient entering a pressurized oxygen chamber for about 90 minutes, during which time they can read, watch TV or even take a nap. The theory is by increasing the oxygen levels in the body’s tissues and red blood cells, it will speed the body's natural healing capabilities and repair neurological damage. Though the treatment is still experimental, many have claimed this treatment is a miracle, and several studies have confirmed its benefits. The Purple Heart Foundation has invested money to make this therapy more readily available to veterans.

Medical marijuana

Perhaps the most controversial therapy on the list, there is a fine line between PTS patients being treated with marijuana and abusing marijuana. Nonetheless, as veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, more tales of the benefits of medical marijuana began to emerge, leading many advocates in both state and federal governments to push for more research and availability.

Meditation

Meditation comes in many different forms, but the idea is the same: to create a quiet space in your mind through focusing on something as simple as your breath. Achieving the deep level of relaxation allows many veterans to begin to sort out their traumatic experiences. By no means is it a cure, but results from countless veterans and studies show meditation to be an important part of the healing process.

Because PTS is such a complicated condition that arises from experiences that are unique to each veteran, there may be no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cure. What this means is that each person needs to be treated as an individual, and have a range of treatment options available.

The Purple Heart Foundation is dedicated to doing just that. Through investing in research for therapies such as bariatric oxygen treatment, as well as supporting state-of-the-art programs like the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Fort Hood, the organization is helping veterans live a full and rich life in the country they fought for.

To learn more about how your donation to the Purple Heart Foundation can help veterans with PTS, visit www.purpleheartfoundation.org.

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Entrepreneurs Find Opportunity After the Military in Key Cities

Brandpoint  |  2016-02-10

(BPT) - John Lentini carefully considered his career options after leaving the Navy. He decided to leverage the leadership skills fostered in the military by starting a business in Asheville, North Carolina, specializing in search-engine optimization.

“I had the infrastructure to do it, and there wasn’t a lot of competition,” says Lentini, owner of AshevilleSEO.org. “In Asheville, people like to support local things.”

Lentini’s example supports the findings in a recent list that named Asheville as the best place in the United States for veteran entrepreneurs.

Military transition experts with USAA and an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation called Hiring Our Heroes commissioned the list. They worked with researchers from Sperling’s BestPlaces and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University to come up with a list of 10 metro areas with a strong veteran-owned and small business environment.

They analyzed more than 400 metropolitan areas by criteria such as veteran-owned businesses per capita, small businesses per capita and overall economic stability. Cities in Florida and North Carolina dominated the list.

“This list identifies the top places for those veterans who want to use their discipline and determination to start and grow a small business,” says Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes.

Geographic location choices are very important for service members entering the civilian workforce, especially those wanting to start their own business, Eversole says.

That’s certainly the case for Brian McCarthy, CEO of Always Home, a real estate company specializing in concierge services for landlords and absentee homeowners. Always Home is based in Sarasota, Florida, which ranks No. 2 on the list of Best Places for Veteran Entrepreneurs.

“We have about 70,000 veterans in Sarasota County and surrounding areas, including 14,000 military officers,” says McCarthy, who served in the Navy. “It’s very veteran friendly with lots of activities for veterans. When you have that type of support, it makes it easy.”

This list provides a snapshot of places where starting a small business could make sense. For instance, it excludes areas with a median cost of living of more than 20 percent above the national average.

It also aligns with the post-separation help service members learn about through the military transition assistance program from the U.S. Department of Defense. USAA also offers the military separation assessment tool to help give veterans a starting point from which to plan their next steps.

Lentini, the Asheville business owner, gives simple advice whenever he meets with others transitioning away from military life.

“Use whatever resources you can get your hands on,” Lentini says. “And don’t be shy about telling customers you’re a veteran. It helps.”

The full entrepreneurship list includes:

  1. Asheville, North Carolina
  2. Sarasota, Florida
  3. West Palm Beach, Florida
  4. Staunton, Virginia
  5. Prescott, Arizona
  6. Wilmington, North Carolina
  7. Missoula, Montana
  8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  9. Oklahoma City
  10. Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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