Our Amendment Options to HR 3495

Our Amendment Options to HR 3495

New Amendment Would Create a National Conference for Veteran Suicide Families

With the launch of a National Conference for Veteran Suicide Families, Once a Soldier offers our lawmakers and the VA a solid option for an amendment to HR 3495  – the‘‘Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act’’.

In connection with House of Representative John Rutherford (R-FL), Once a Soldier was asked to offer options that fit this bill. With the crisis of PTSD and suicide rising, the Veterans Administration, members of Congress and the White House have been laboring over this bill for more than 4 months now. We are happy to add ideas that we feel will help those forgotten Veteran famlies after a suicide.

Once a Soldier’s Amendment Recommendations regarding HR 3495

Overview: Once a Soldier exists to help families before and after a Veteran suicide. Families serve just like the soldier and additionally they have endured:

The uncertainty of service during wartime
The emotional burden of their veteran’s PTSD
The emotional and financial burden of their loved one’s suicide
The stigma of suicide
The financial impact of Veteran suicide

Amendment Options:
Uplifting these unsung American heroes would involve these options:

Option 1: Launch an annual national conference for families of Veteran suicide

Goals of the conference would include:

  • Education on PTSD Management and Treatments
  • Networking between Non-Profits, VA Providers and Families-in-Need
  • Establish a Nonprofit Task Force Overseeing Support for Veteran Suicide Families
  • Bonding between Veteran Suicide Families
  • Collecting Research to Improve Best Practice

Growing a local network of support groups that would help with:

  • PTSD treatments
  • Financing a funeral
  • Body transportation
  • VA benefit navigation

Option 2:  Funding for nonprofit organizations that focus on Veteran families for when PTSD prevention fails. These nonprofits would have a history of:

  • Empowering Veteran Families to Stop Soldier Suicide
  • Offering PTSD education/therapies before and after a Veteran Suicide
  • Offering Mental Health education/therapies before and after a Veteran Suicide
  • Providing Veteran suicide survivor information and outreach

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Funeral Home Practices Veteran Families Need to Know – Direct Cremation

Funeral Home Practices Veteran Families Need to Know – Direct Cremation

Ashes to Ashes With Dignity and Common Sense

The Funeral Doesn’t Have To Be Financially Painful

After a Veteran suicide, keeping the option of direct cremation in mind is a good idea. Most family members are still reeling from the shock of the suicide. With the effects of trickle-down PTSD on top of the loss, mistakes are easily made when it comes to final wishes that no one ever talked about. If you’re not interested in getting serious sticker shock from a funeral home, consider the direct cremation option. All funeral homes are required by law to tell you about that service. 1-4 won’t, so you need to ask if you want it.

The Veterans Administration supplies the bare minimum after any Veteran passing: a plot in a national cemetery, an in-ground marker and a 30-minute service. That leaves the majority of the costs up to the families. Direct cremation will keep your honor in tact and your financial scars to a minimum.

Direct Cremation – Right Price and Your Right to Know

Costing between $400 – $1,200, this is the most economical and sensible death care option. The process and decisions needed to make are also family-friendly.

  • Loved one’s body is picked up by the funeral home
  • Death certificate and permits are filed by the funeral home
  • Cremation takes place
  • Family picks up the ashes in a simple urn

You don’t need to be financially distressed to have a direct cremation. You just have to decide if you want to spend $14,000 for a funeral or not. If money is no object, then the money you save on direct cremation could be spent during the wake, or a lavish remembrance reception with your loved one as the guest of honor.  And your protected by the Federal Trade Commission. Direct cremations and their ability to provide one, are your right. The Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America released a survey of 142 representative funeral homes showing that more than one-fifth (23%) fail to tell consumers about their options for simple cremations, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule,” which requires specified price disclosures on a list and verbally. Now you know.

Finding the Best Price

Cremation services offer by your local funeral home could be carried out by a third-party vendor miles and miles away. That’s perfectly fine and legal, and may be unavoidable in most small to mid-sized towns across America. You should Google “funeral home” or “cremation” and find 4-5 numbers to call.  They don’t need to be closest to you since you’re going to pick up the remains.

 Get the All-Inclusive Price 

This is an important phrase and includes the funeral home’s basic service fee, cremation fee, filing all the paperwork and transportation and placing the ashes in an urn for you. This phrase gets included when you cal and ask if they do direct cremations. 

 

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

OAS Advocates on H.R. 3495, Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act

OAS Advocates on H.R. 3495, Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act

Bill Amendments Limits Groups Who Could Help the Most

What started out as good news for Veterans at risk and out of contact with the VA turned bad with an amendment to H.R. 3495. An amendment, penned by Mark Takano, United States Representative for California, turned that all on it’s head now. Groups whose missions call for Veteran suicide prevention rallied up and weighed in, Once a Soldier among them.

Today brings a vote on H.R. 3495, Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act. This bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide financial assistance to eligible entities to provide and coordinate the provision of suicide prevention services for veterans at risk of suicide and veteran families through the award of grants to such entities, and for other purposes.

Financially speaking, the bill would also grant up to $750,000/year one and $1,000,000 year two and beyond to some nonprofits. While not perfect, it’s not the bill that got us involved, but an Amendment to it by Mark Takano, United States Representative for California’s 41st congressional district since 2013.

Interesting side note: This bill has a 2% chance of being enacted, according to Skopos Labs. Update: pass percentage is now 20.

 

 

Our Advocacy Efforts on H.R. 3495

It is argued by Once a Soldier, and our name is signed to a list of name at the end of a letter to  that Rep. Takano’s Amendment would miss some of the “boots on the front line” of the fight to stop soldier suicide. Specifically, our letter included this language:

“While the regional coordination service grants envisioned in the legislation are important, and as a group we support them, they are not enough to adequately engage on veteran suicide prevention. We also need innovative and non-traditional veteran suicide prevention programs which combat veteran isolation and lack of community connection wherever those “communities” may lie.”

Once a Soldier has always been innovative and non-traditional, so we feel that our approach will be validated by this bill.

Our Partners

We have to give all the credit for our involvement in this bill Bob “Shoebob” Carey.,CAPT, USN (Ret), who is the Chief Advocacy Officer for The Independence Fund. His efforts to build a coalition of Veteran and Behavioral Health organization leaders caught us up. His email four days ago asking for our signature on a letter that was forwarded to the right parties was a great opportunity for us. While we don’t enjoy the luxury of a full-time Advocacy Officer, we could see that his position was one we could support. And we did.

Here is the complete text of the letter sent December 4, 2019.

Others that signed the letter: 

 

  • The Independence Fund
  • TREA – The Enlisted Association
  • National Association of American Veterans, Inc.
  • Veterans Healing Farm
  • Travis Manion Foundation
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
  • National Alliance to End Veteran Suicide
  • AMVETS – American Veterans
  • PsychHub
  • SAW – Save a Warrior
  • Once a Soldier
  • Angel Force
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Psych Armor

John Rutherford is our district’s Representative in the House. We have advocated successfully with is office in the past, as seen here and here, and they have been greatly supportive of our cause. This latest effort is no different. But, Rep. Rutherford will not involved in today’s vote, we are working with them for the future should it come before him for a vote.

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

What To Expect After a Veteran Suicide

What To Expect After a Veteran Suicide

The Business of Death is Legally Ruthless

In the last six years alone, over 45,000 veterans and active-duty service members have taken their own lives. This shocking statistic is the unfortunate and devastating reality for so many family members and friends to cope with each day. But in many cases of veteran and soldier suicide, the grief and lingering sadness is compounded by unexpected body transportation fees, ruthless funeral home practices and life insurance snags. Here’s our help in what to expect after a Veteran suicide.

Veteran families of soldier suicide often tells us that, after a suicide, the actual suicide becomes the least of their problems. Money and the business of death become their enemy. To help families and loved ones navigate this difficult time, our team at Once a Soldier has created the following guide to cover basic financial and emotional expectations moving forward.

Financial and Emotional Needs Arise

Transportation

If a family is dealing with the suicide of an active duty service member, the first challenge they will face is that of transportation. Transporting a body from state to state or back to the United States from overseas is expensive and often costs range from a minimum of one thousand and up. We have stories from parents that contradict what we’ve found on airline websites and from funeral directors who’ve handled the details. Like everything associated with veteran suicide, expect the worst and hope for the best.

  • You can’t arrange air transportation for a dead body on your own.
  • Most airlines will transport dead bodies but you’ll have to work with a funeral director or a specialized transport company.
  • The shipper must be designated as a “known shipper” by the TSA.
  • Many funeral homes are approved as known shippers.
  • The fee for forwarding remains to another funeral home usually ranges from $1000.00 to $3000.00.
  • The fee for receiving remains from another funeral home usually ranges from $800.00 to $2500.00.
  • You will likely have to pay both of these fees, in addition to any other funeral home costs, BEFORE THE BODY MOVES FROM THE HOLDING FUNERAL HOME.

Funeral Home Expenses

The average funeral costs at least $15,000 for most families affected by veteran and soldier suicide, the VA doesn’t even offer to contribute 10% of that amount, if they offer anything at all. These minimal contributions are known as ‘VA burial allowances,’ and are essentially cash allowances that are paid to an eligible veteran’s family to help defray burial and funeral costs. The VA will pay a different amount depending on whether the death was considered service-connected or not, or if the veteran was hospitalized by the VA at the time of death. Here’s a breakdown of what the VA will provide depending on the circumstances surrounding the death of a soldier or veteran:

Service-Related Death: The maximum service-connected burial allowance is $2,000. If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, the VA will reimburse some or all of the cost of transporting the remains.

Nonservice-Related Death: The VA will pay a $300 burial allowance and $796 for a plot.

Unfortunately for many veterans and their families, soldier suicides are not always presumed by the VA to be service-connected, meaning that the affected families are given only a few hundred dollars to help cover thousands of dollars in transportation, funeral and burial expenses.

When a soldier or veteran commits suicide, their families are not only left to deal with the financial aftermath, but they must also cope with the large void that has been left in their hearts. Once A Soldier has created a Facebook group dedicated to veteran families of solider suicide. This is an excellent place to find others who share your story and begin the healing process. Please consider joining to show our strength in numbers, even if you feel you may not want to contribute.

Our team at Once A Soldier has worked with numerous families that have been affected by the tragedy of veteran suicide, so we understand that everyone copes with their losses differently. The real truth is, there is no one right or wrong way to deal with this type of grief, and what works for one person may not work for another. While there probably is no “moving on”, there are a number of ways that you can try to move forward and live in the present as well as for the future. Here are some basic tips to help begin healing:

 

Self Help

Take care of yourself: As hard as it may be, give your body the things it needs: sleep, hydration and food.

Write everything down: Many people find that writing a letter to their lost loved one is beneficial because it allows you to express all the things you were not able to say when they lived. Also, writing down your feelings on a daily basis in a journal or diary can serve as a powerful illustration of your healing process over time.

Find resources and get the support you need. Here are ours:

Talk about your grief and feelings with friends and family: the shock and amount of grief after losing a loved one to suicide is undoubtably overwhelming. It can be helpful to understand that there are some things you can handle on your own and some things you simply can’t. Try to communicate with anyone that you trust, whether it’s a family member, friend, chaplain, military counselor, professional, etc., and you might be surprised how much lighter your burden feels.

Ask for help: Do not be afraid or hesitate to ask the people closest to you for the things you need. This could include help preparing meals, lawn care, getting affairs in order, etc. This could also mean simply asking for space from people’s well-meaning but thoughtless comments. Some days you may want someone to talk to and others you want to be left alone. Both of these are okay. People generally mean well, but if they haven’t experienced your grief, their comments might generally not be well thought-out. Statements like, “at least they aren’t in anymore pain,” for example, might not make you feel better right now. They may not be in pain – but you still are.

Finally, you do not have to experience this loss alone. If you do not have a support system close to you, reach out to support groups, faith communities, mental health professionals and the military community.

Quite possibly the hardest part for many families to cope with is the guilt that stems from losing a soldier. “Why didn’t I see the signs?”, “I should have done more, or reached out more,” and all of those other thoughts can easily creep into your mind as you deal with your loss. Remember: you are NOT responsible. Say that out loud, write it down, whatever it takes – but make sure you understand that you are not to blame for this. The important thing is to take things day by day and know that some days you will be okay and other days will be harder than others.

Life Insurance

Even with a generous life insurance policy in place, there will be steps to complete and decisions to make. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind:

The VA or US Gov’t. doesn’t fly Veteran bodies home.

The airline will hold the body until a ticket and

The funeral home will ask/require you to sign over the policy to their third-party holding company.

The funeral home must get paid first or have iron-clad asurance that they will be paid, before you will be allowed to view the body.

ou do not have to experience this loss alone. If you do not have a support system close to you, reach out to support groups, faith communities, mental health professionals and the military community.

Quite possibly the hardest part for many families to cope with is the guilt that stems from losing a soldier. “Why didn’t I see the signs?”, “I should have done more, or reached out more,” and all of those other thoughts can easily creep into your mind as you deal with your loss. Remember: you are NOT responsible. Say that out loud, write it down, whatever it takes – but make sure you understand that you are not to blame for this. The important thing is to take things day by day and know that some days you will be okay and other days will be harder than others.

Suicide within 2 years of the start of the policy will probably void it. 
Most Vets struggle with satisfying employment after coming home from deployment. The jobs don’t offer the same fulfillment they found with their brothers and many commit suicide within 2 years of coming home. 

Lift the Burden of Veteran Suicide

 

Their families live with PTSD, drug addiction and worse for years, only to find the body at the end. Let’s lift them up and lift off their burden.

 

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Bumper Sticker Patriotism Isn’t Helping

Bumper Sticker Patriotism Isn’t Helping

OAS Founder Editorial: Bumper Sticker Patriotism Only Helps the Seller

Lazy patriotism, the kind that thinks that slapping a pro-soldier bumper sticker on your car can substitute for real action, needs to stop. The shiny object strategy that is the whole “Support Our Troops” slogan started under the Bush Administration during Desert Shield/Storm. It has since been the foundation that Sunday morning guests hang their hat on, while at the same time, serving as a pitfall that the American people – and their sons and daughters of soldier suicide and veteran suicide  – fall into like lemmings. The Greatest Generation earned that title through patriotism and the Boomers have trashed it.

During WWII, Americans showed their support for the troops in amazing ways that would never be duplicated today:

  • Housing a returning Veteran
  • Collecting meat fats in metal cans and taking it to your butcher
  • Food and gas rationing
  • Giving blood
  • Buying War Bonds
  • Sharing your car with neighbors
  • The daily/weekly body counts

Can you imagine even one of those things happening today? We have sunk so deep into our couches and Facebook likes that we can’t see how far down our patriotism has fallen. Disagree? Prove me wrong in the comment section below, or better yet, go here and make a difference for our families. 

 

The Cost of Bumper Sticker Patriotism

Forget about the political or economic reason we are sending troops into battle. Forget about the 17 veteran suicides a day that statistics have proven will result. Forget about the 17 veteran families that will be left with a hole in their hearts. Forget about the sub-standard VA care these men and women suffer before they kill themselves. Support our Troops really means support the politicians who – right or wrong – need your vote next election day.

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.