TIP Strategies is a privately held Austin-based economic development consulting firm committed to providing quality solutions for public and private‑sector clients.
This blog is dedicated to exploring new data and trends in economic development.
By: Frank Newport
Via: Gallup Politics
PRINCETON, NJ — On this Veterans Day 2012, about 13% of U.S. adults overall are veterans, including 24% of men and 2% of women. Veteran status among men is highly related to age, moving above the majority level for those aged 65 and older. By contrast, 12% of men aged 25 to 34 are veterans.
These data are based on more than 293,000 interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from January through October of this year.
The impact of the military draft is evident in the trends across age groups among men. The percentage of men who have served in the military jumps from about 20% among 45- to 59-year-olds to 39% among those aged 60 to 64, and then exceeds the 50% level among men who are older. The highest percentage of veterans (80%) occurs among men now 85 to 89, who would have been just entering their late teens during World War II and its immediate aftermath. The draft effectively ended for men in the early 1970s, helping explain the rapid dropoff in veteran status among those who are now aged 55 and younger.
Veteran status is very low across all age groups of women, but, unlike the case with men, it is slightly higher among women aged 25 to 54 than it is among older women. This no doubt reflects the changing gender composition of the nation’s military forces.
Veterans Fairly Evenly Distributed Across Regions of the Country
Veterans are spread out across the country in a way that is roughly proportionate to the overall adult population.
A slightly higher percentage of those living in the Southeast and in the Rocky Mountain regions report being veterans, with slightly lower percentages in New England, the Middle Atlantic, and the East Central/Great Lakes regions.
Veteran status in the U.S. is highly related to both gender and age, reflecting historical patterns relating to mandatory military service, and the continuing highly male skew of service members. The significant majority of American men aged 75 and older are veterans, compared with no more than 12% of those younger than age 35. Younger women are slightly more likely than older women to be veterans, but veteran status does not rise much above 3% in any female age group.
These demographic facts indicate that today’s veteran population, estimated at about 13% overall and 24% among men, will gradually decline in the years ahead as older cohorts of men die off.
GE, Manufacturing Institute, Alcoa Inc., Boeing And Lockheed Martin Launch Coalition To Train U.S. Veterans For Jobs In Advanced Manufacturing
GE Press Release
Via: Business Wire
Goal is to Train and Match 100,000 Veterans by 2015
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–GE (NYSE: GE) joined with business, digital, academic and not-for-profit partners today to launch a new coalition that aims to train military veterans for jobs in advanced manufacturing, bolster the talent pipeline and enhance American competitiveness.
The Get Skills to Work coalition will focus on: accelerating skills training for U.S. veterans; helping veterans and employers translate military skills to advanced manufacturing jobs; and empowering employers with tools to recruit, onboard and mentor veterans.
Get Skills to Work will be managed by the Manufacturing Institute and supported through financial and in-kind commitments from GE, Alcoa Inc., Boeing and Lockheed Martin. These initial investments will help 15,000 veterans translate military experience to corresponding advanced manufacturing opportunities and gain the technical skills needed to qualify for careers in this growing sector. The coalition is seeking additional partners to meet its goal of reaching 100,000 veterans by 2015. Companies and veterans interested in joining this effort or learning more can visit www.GetSkillstoWork.org.
“A strong manufacturing industry is central to the long-term health and success of our economy,” said Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE. “But as technology advances, skillsets must be upgraded to ensure companies like GE have the talent to continue to fuel innovation. Today, many veterans are out of work, despite the nation’s growing industrial sector and increased demand for skilled workers. Through this initiative, we have an opportunity to help veterans with extraordinary leadership capabilities better compete for good paying jobs with a long-term future.”
Reportedly 600,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs remain open in the U.S. and more than 82 percent of manufacturers report they cannot find people to fill their skilled production jobs. Meanwhile, one million veterans are expected to exit the armed forces over the next four years and will be transitioning to civilian careers.
The coalition commissioned an online survey of more than 1,000 veterans and active duty military members preparing to transition to the private sector. The survey found that while 76 percent of respondents are confident they will be as successful in their careers as they were in the military, one-third do not feel equipped to overcome the challenges of the transition to civilian life; the percentage rises to nearly half (48 percent) when surveying active duty military who are scheduled to transition in two years or less.
Paula Davis, president, Alcoa Foundation, said, “Veterans offer the technical, leadership and critical thinking skills that advanced manufacturing demands. Forming the Get Skills to Work coalition and coordinating with nonprofits to train, recruit and develop veterans is an exciting model that has the potential to change lives and produce a significant competitive advantage for U.S. manufacturers. Alcoa is proud to invest in this worthwhile endeavor.”
Rick Stephens, Boeing senior vice president of human resources and administration, and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said, “Based on our experience recruiting and training veterans to work at Boeing, we believe the Get Skills to Work initiative could have a major impact on the hiring of veterans nationwide. Using many of the same tactics and tools, such as a website for transitioning veterans that includes a military-to-civilian skills translator, we have hired and trained nearly 3,000 veterans in the past 21 months for jobs at Boeing. It’s a proven approach for matching the skills of those who have served our country to the hiring needs of American businesses. We’re honored to be part of Get Skills to Work, and look forward to integrating our efforts with the coalition.”
Bob Stevens, Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO, said, “America’s veterans want and deserve the opportunity to contribute to our society and provide for their families. At Lockheed Martin, we believe it is our duty to give them that opportunity. There is no greater way to say ‘thanks’ for all their service and sacrifice, which enable all of us to live safe and secure lives, and pursue our dreams every day. The investment this coalition makes in training will provide them this opportunity, and strengthen tomorrow’s workforce.”
Today, the four founding companies employ approximately 64,000 U.S. military veterans.
The program will consist of three elements:
To help prepare veterans whose military service experience doesn’t immediately qualify them for available manufacturing jobs, coalition partners will work with local community and technical colleges to establish the Manufacturing Institute’s “Right Skills Now” program, which fast-tracks industry-recognized certifications and offers training in core manufacturing technical skill areas. Partners will engage their regional supply base to ensure the certifications being offered meet the immediate skill needs of local employers, and will work with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as local military transition offices and bases, to recruit veteran participants.
The first class of veterans will be enrolled in January 2013 near GE Aviation’s manufacturing hub in Cincinnati, Ohio at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Additional training sites will open throughout 2013, servicing: Ft. Worth and Houston, Texas; Schenectady, New York; Greenville, South Carolina; Durham, North Carolina; greater Los Angeles, California; and Evansville, Indiana. Boeing will continue to train its workers in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, Charleston, South Carolina, St. Louis, Missouri and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania through existing partnerships with Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center, readySC, a division of the South Carolina Technical College System, St. Louis Community College and Delaware County Community College.
“The Manufacturing Institute is proud to be partnering with GE and other committed employers to make their investments in veterans and manufacturing workforce training have a real impact in communities across the country,” said Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute. “Working with our partners, we will help create real opportunities for veterans to get the skills they need to access in-demand manufacturing jobs.”
Many veterans and employers have difficulty recognizing and translating the skills gained through military training and experience into civilian workforce skill sets. The Manufacturing Institute, working with Futures Inc., has created a digital badge system to help translate applicable Military Occupational Specialty codes (MOS), the U.S. military’s system for identifying jobs, to civilian positions in advanced manufacturing. Skills matching and badge distribution will be supported by the US Manufacturing Pipeline, a centralized online hub that connects manufacturing employers with veterans and transitioning military personnel. Get Skills to Work will also leverage LinkedIn to enable veterans to build their professional profiles and relevant skills on LinkedIn. To boost the number of job opportunities available to credentialed veterans, GE will sponsor an advanced manufacturing “job-posting drive” on the LinkedIn platform. Military veteran participants and employers can access these platforms at www.GetSkillstoWork.org.
GE and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) will develop and deploy a toolkit for employers focused on creating meaningful, lasting career opportunities for veterans in the advanced manufacturing sector. The toolkit will leverage work begun by the IVMF, with support from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Robin Hood, New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization. It will share research and proven best practices from more than 40 businesses to deliver processes, resources and programs that will enable more employers to effectively recruit, on-board, support and mentor veterans in the civilian workforce. The toolkit will be available to employers participating in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative and the 100,000 Jobs Mission, as well as the broader business community. For more information please visit www.GetSkillstoWork.org.
Education and promotion: To help drive further industry participation, the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan organization that promotes constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs, will lead efforts to educate and engage potential corporate partners. On a parallel track, GE has partnered with the Gary Sinise Foundation to help raise awareness among military communities and drive veteran recruitment into the training program. Founded by award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, the Gary Sinise Foundation is dedicated to supporting veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.
Sinese said, “After the events of September 11th, I just felt compelled to serve the needs of men and women in uniform and people that are serving our country. Through this work, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with veterans who are returning home from combat without a clear path for how they will succeed in civilian life. This program will give them an opportunity to begin laying a foundation for satisfying, long-term careers as they transition back to the civilian workforce.”
Advisory Council: A Get Skills to Work Advisory Council comprising active and retired military leaders will be engaged to ensure coalition partners understand the unique needs of veterans and transitioning military personnel, and that the program effectively delivers solutions to help close the manufacturing skills gap and bolster the talent pipeline.
Get Skills to Work Advisory Council member and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said, “As our nation’s heroes transition back into civilian life, I applaud these employers for finding effective ways to hire them, while ensuring these extraordinary young men and women, disciplined and eager to make a difference, get the job training and career counseling they need to succeed. Our veterans have sacrificed much for us and we must do all we can to support while seeking to repay the debt we owe them as a country as they start new and successful careers.”
Hands-on Experience: To provide veterans with opportunities for hands-on experience with the technology found in advanced manufacturing, GE is developing, with TechShop, training tracks for veterans in Detroit, Michigan; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Jose, California; Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C. and New York.
Mark Hatch, CEO, TechShop said, “Many people have an outdated view of the skills required for jobs in today’s advanced manufacturing environment. Once they have a chance to discover modern prototyping and manufacturing processes and participate in a hands-on workshop they see the possibilities for channeling their creativity and interest in making things into a career.”
GE is honored to have over 10,000 U.S. military veterans continue their careers with the company and recently set a goal of hiring 1,000 veterans each year for the next five years. Through its partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, GE has hired over 800 veterans in 2012 and has supported over thirty Hiring Our Heroes transition workshops, coaching over 2,000 veterans. GE is also an active member of and donor to several leading national military and veteran support organizations, such as Disabled American Veterans, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Medal of Honor Foundation, among others.
GE (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter. The best people and the best technologies taking on the toughest challenges. Finding solutions in energy, health and home, transportation and finance. Building, powering, moving and curing the world. Not just imagining. Doing. GE works. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.ge.com.
By: Mali R. Schantz-Feld
Via: Area Development Online
The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard have each committed to deploy one gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.
Going “green” in the military means more than just multi-colored camouflage. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a Multiple-Award Task Order (MATOC) Request for Proposal (RFP) for $7 billion to procure reliable, locally generated, renewable and alternative energy through power purchase agreements. The Corps plans to award the delivery contracts for approximately 30 years for renewable energy plants that are constructed and operated by contractors using private-sector financing.
The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard have each committed to deploy one gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025. Army Secretary John McHugh noted that the Federal Renewable and Alternative Energy contract is expected to provide the Army with the means to achieve its goals.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior noted, “Renewable energy, when combined with advanced micro-grid and storage technologies, can significantly enhance the energy security and reduce the energy costs of DoD installations.” Tonju Butler, the procurement contracting officer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, explained, “It is the intent of the government only to purchase the energy that is produced, and not to acquire any generation assets. The contractors will finance, design, build, operate, own, and maintain the energy plants…Project locations may be on any federal property located within the U.S. including Alaska, Hawaii, territories, provinces, or other property under the control of the U.S. government for the duration of contract performance.”
The new developments can consist of many different types of energy generation. The memorandum noted, “Offshore wind is an abundant renewable energy resource available to most DoD coastal installations on the Atlantic Coast, on the Pacific Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Hawaii.” Another bright green energy spot is in the solar sector. Solar panel producer Suntech Power Holdings, Co. Ltd., recently supplied 3.4 megawatts (MW) of solar panels for a solar installation at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, with more than 12,000 solar panels manufactured at Suntech’s facility in Goodyear, Arizona. The installation was designed, financed, and installed by Borrego Solar, solar solutions provider, at no upfront cost to Edwards Air Force Base. Mike Hall, CEO of Borrego Solar said, “Looking ahead, we are excited to work with more military and federal facility managers to help them take full advantage of the financial benefits that come from using solar to generate clean sustainable energy and local jobs.”
In September, California-based SolarCity received a conditional commitment for a partial guarantee of a $344 million loan to help secure financing for its SolarStrong™ project that, in part, partners with military housing-privatization developers to install, own, and operate rooftop solar installations on as many as 124 military housing developments across 33 states. The first eligible project is already under way at Hickam Communities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
Pike Research estimates that the DoD currently spends approximately $20 billion per year on energy — 75 percent for fuel and 25 percent for facilities and infrastructure, and green energy is an important change. “The DoD is positioned to become the single most important driver of the cleantech revolution in the United States,” says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock in a company statement. “In particular, military investment in renewable energy and related technologies can help bridge the ‘valley of death’ that lies between research and development and full commercialization of these technologies.”
By: Tanya Abrams
Via: The New York Times
If you’ve served in the military but have dreams of one day earning your college degree, we’ve gathered some admissions intel that may prove helpful to you.
As part of our continuing coverage of the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling this week in Denver, we sat in on a session called, “Recruiting and Serving Veteran Populations Using Chapter 33 Military Benefits.”
Although the session was primarily for college representatives and guidance counselors, we found some take-aways for college-bound veterans, too.
Here are some college admissions tips for military veterans.
Apply for Your Benefits
Military veterans who qualify for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill (also known as Chapter 33 benefits) may have the full cost of their tuition and fees paid directly to their public, in-state college or university. They may also receive a monthly housing allowance and stipends for books and school supplies.
Veterans who are interested in attending a private or out-of-state public school might consider the Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program.
There are other programs to help veterans finance their education, too, all listed on the Web site of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department offers an online “Road Map” to help veterans find the benefits plan that best fits their circumstances.
“They are fully funded and supported for all four years,” George Walls, the director of undergraduate recruiting and admissions at Capitol College, told a crowd of admission officers and college counselors. “Funding for college is often one of the biggest challenges in the recruitment and enrollment management process, so having someone who’s going to be fully funded allows us to focus on things like fit, and services, and making sure that they’re successful.”
Of course, all of these benefits are null if veterans don’t apply. Michael Perry, a fellow audience member and the director of undergraduate admission at Florida Institute of Technology, told me after the panel that the sooner the veterans finish this basic step, the better.
“You’d be surprised how daunting of a task that is for some young soldiers. Nobody’s taking them to the V.A. Web site and saying, ‘Here’s the application for your V.A. benefits. You are now eligible for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill,” said Mr. Perry, who is also a battalion commander.
“It does seem basic, but it takes time. It takes the V.A. anywhere from two to six months to process these benefits because they’re backlogged. So apply early. Get that stuff going.”
Begin Your College Search Early
Veterans will have to undergo the same college admissions process as high school seniors: finding the right college fit, visiting campuses, submitting test scores and transcripts, writing essays, and, of course, navigating their unique financial aid process.
Soon-to-be veterans should start their college search as soon as they get back from deployment, Mr. Perry said.
Look for Schools With Veteran Support
Find colleges and universities with veterans centers and counseling services. Mark Sifford, a co-panelist with Mr. Walls and the project director of the concurrent admissions program for Servicemembers Opportunities Colleges, encouraged college representatives to make these resources available for veterans so that they can connect with other veterans and transition to civilian life.
But beware the unscrupulous for-profit colleges and universities that claim to be “military friendly,” accept your military benefits as payment, and have a low graduation rate, or leave too many veterans in debt, Mr. Walls said.
One way to find genuinely “military-centric” or “military-inclusive” schools – as Mr. Sifford prefers to call them – is to search for Yellow Ribbon colleges and universities. The V.A. Web site has an interactive map that allows veterans to search for institutions that participate in the Yellow Ribbon program.
Talk to other veterans who attended a college or university that interests you. They’ll be able to give you an uncensored account of their experience from the perspective of a fellow veteran.
Check Out the Dorms
“Veterans don’t want to live in dorms,” Mr. Sifford told college admissions officers. “The 18-year-old thing happened while they were in the barracks, by and large. They’re coming back to you as 25- and 26-year-olds, they’re there because they want to go back to school, they don’t want to live around a bunch of 18-year-olds and explain to them what it’s like.”
Of course, as one attendee pointed out, living on campus may actually be an appealing part of the college experience. It’s best to find out what residential options are available — graduate housing, traditional dorms, or apartments for families — and see if any of those options fit your needs.
Get Credit for Your Military Experience
Veterans may face academic and financial challenges during the admission process, Mr. Walls said, some of which may have led to their decision to join the military in the first place. But when they return home and want to go to college, they’re bringing with them the same grades and test scores that they earned in high school years ago.
What isn’t always accounted for — but should be — is a veteran’s military experience, Mr. Walls said. Sometimes it’s a matter of having a box to check on the college application.
To get credit for your military experience, veterans should complete the DD-214 form, a military service record that outlines the experiences and accomplishments of your military career.
Those experiences could earn you college credit. The American Council on Education offers transcripts of the experience and training that personnel receive. Those transcripts, the A.C.E. reports, are recognized by more than 2,300 colleges and universities.
Student applicants could also use their essay and resumes as opportunities to highlight what they’ve learned from the military, especially if their college applications and test scores aren’t strong indicators of their abilities, the panelists said. Veterans often have undergone rigorous training and gained strong leadership skills, but admission officers may not realize those attributes in the application, Mr. Walls said.
There are many ways to get support through the college admission process, but veterans need to seek out these resources. Panelists recommend that you talk to an education services officer (your E.S.O.) early about your higher education goals. Visit the military education center. Explore the V.A. Web site.
When you are talking to college admissions officers, get the facts. Panelists suggest that veterans ask prospective colleges the same basic questions during their search: Are you military friendly? Do you accept military benefits? Are you a Yellow Ribbon school?
If the attendance at this session is any indication, there are many colleges and universities that eagerly await you.
By: Jimmy Settle
Via: The 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 Marla Rye, city-county Economic Development Council President James Chavez, and TIP Strategies Senior Consultant Karen Beard.
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Military downsizing means more soldiers and dependents potentially enter the Clarksville-Montgomery County civilian labor force at an accelerated rate.
Matching those from Fort Campbell who separate from service with sustainable jobs, and keeping them living here after their military separation, are the key challenges of this distinctive local economic trend.
This is among the key findings of a new Clarksville-area labor force analysis conducted independently by Austin, Texas-based TIP Strategies for the Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council. Privately commissioned to the tune of about $50,000 by the EDC’s Aspire Foundation Steering Committee, a summary of the report was presented Friday to an audience of the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce at the Riverview Inn.
Tom Stellman, president and CEO of TIP Strategies, offered up the findings. He gives the local economy high marks overall, while noting a few things to work on. Montgomery County’s current unemployment rate of 8 percent indicates that there is still room for improvement here, although there are higher jobless rates in some other regional and U.S. metropolitan areas.
“I think this area has some amazing assets when it comes to the workforce, so just keep at it,” Stellman told the audience.
Mike Evans, executive director of the city-county Industrial Development Board, said the report gives the EDC verified detail on what the current Montgomery County workforce looks like. “The other thing is that, we can put that true, independently-gathered information in front of our unbiased industrial prospects. This is a tool that we use in business recruitment,” Evans said.
Evans said that, while he wasn’t terribly surprised by any of the findings, an observation worth closer examination is the local economic impact of military downsizing. “I think our out-processing of soldiers today is different than it was seven years ago,” he said.
“What I mean by that is, the Army is downsizing, so there are people leaving the Army who might not leave under normal circumstances. Along with this, a challenge for us is trying to best-translate all of the military-world skill sets into our local civilian workforce. It’s just something we’ll need to take a closer look at,” Evans said.
Looking nationally, upwards of 20 million people are currently jobless, who would like to be working right now. That estimate doesn’t include the number of Americans who are under-employed.
Last year, the jobless rate among post-2001 military veterans averaged out at 12.1 percent. “These separated soldiers are coming back to an economy where job creation is just not there. Here in Montgomery County, you have a unique opportunity,” Stellman said.
The labor analysis area that TIP Strategies zeroed in on had Montgomery County as its nucleus, but it also included neighboring Stewart, Houston, Dickson, Robertson and Cheatham counties in Tennessee, as well as Metro Nashville-Davidson County, plus Trigg, Christian, Todd and Logan counties in Kentucky – all counties that are closely connected as a trade area.
Commuting patterns are a big part of these counties’ connectivity. Stellman’s findings from surveys with a large cross-section of local public and private employers show that 63 percent of people who hold down Montgomery County jobs actually live in Montgomery County. Other Clarksville jobs are held by commuters from neighboring counties, with the highest number coming here from Stewart County.
In turn, a significant number of Montgomery County residents continue to commute to other counties for work, with the highest outbound concentration heading down Interstate 24 daily to Nashville.
In this county, the federal government – Fort Campbell – is easily the largest employer, accounting for 33,969 jobs. While those Fort Campbell federal jobs are actually recorded in Christian County, Stellman factors them into the Montgomery County employment mix as logic dictates.
A distant second-largest employment sector in Montgomery County is retail (12,727 jobs), while health care is third with 10,758.
The EDC has identified target industries it wants to attract with aggressive recruiting strategies. They include automotive, distribution and logistics, business back-office operations and alternative energy. Stellman said the EDC is looking in great detail at what this community’s strengths and deficiencies are, in matching the local labor force with jobs in these desired sectors.
He said skilled labor, engineering and supervisory experience are in demand here, and some military skills are not always transferrable to civilian jobs, while others have valuable similarity.
“The expansion of post-secondary training in your community offers a unique opportunity for you, and quality-of-place assets remain important in attracting and retaining talent – things like the quality of your housing, and the school system,” Stellman said.
Among the military segment, close to half of the military veterans here have a high school education based on surveying, and about 38 percent of them have some college education. “We asked in a survey of military residents, ‘Are you staying in this community after your separation from the Army?’ and 19 percent said ‘Yes’,” Stellman said.
But, when asked if they would stay if more desirable employment options were attainable here, the number rose to 44 percent.
“With these things in mind,” Stellman said, “we recommend that your community do more to:
• Promote veteran employment programs among area employers
• Help connect veterans and military spouses with entrepreneurship resources
• Continue to work closely with Fort Campbell personnel to help ensure a smooth transition into the civilian workforce
• Maintain support for Citizens for Fort Campbell
“We also recommend that you expand and market your education and training assets,” Stellman said.
By: Susan Seliger
Via: The New York Times
As veterans age, many are unfamiliar with a benefit that can help pay for care at home or in assisted living or a nursing home.
Here’s a riddle: When is a government benefit that pays for caregivers, assisted living and a nursing home not a benefit? When hardly any people know they’re entitled to it.
That seems to be the story with a Department of Veterans Affairs benefit called the Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension benefit, known as A&A, which can cover the costs of caregivers in the home (including sons and daughters who are paid to be caregivers, though not spouses) or be used for assisted living or a nursing home.
The benefit is not insignificant: up to $2,019 monthly for a veteran and spouse, and up to $1,094 for the widow of a veteran.
Surprised that you’ve never heard of it? You’re not alone.
“It’s probably one of the lesser-known benefits,” said Randal Noller, a Veterans Affairs spokesman in Washington. Of the 1.7 million World War II veterans alive as of 2011, who were in need of caregiving assistance and thus eligible, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses were granted the A&A benefit that year, according to Mr. Noller.
Mr. Noller is not the first to acknowledge A&A is a well-kept secret. Jim Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in a December 2006 news release that “not everyone is aware of his or her potential eligibility” for the program, which he called an “underused” benefit.
Not much has changed. A search of the Veterans Affairs Web site for evidence of public information efforts in the six years since came up blank.
“The sad thing is, it’s been an entitlement for 61 years, but it’s sat idle — the V.A. employees just haven’t been educated about it,” said Debbie Burak of Midlothian, Va. She said she repeatedly called department offices on behalf of her father, a World War II veteran, and her mother, who became homeless after their house caught fire and their injuries required extensive care. She was told there were no benefits they were entitled to. (Indeed, when I called two Baltimore-area Veterans Affairs offices for my father, a World War II veteran, no one had heard of this benefit or any benefit that paid for caregivers or assisted living or nursing homes.)
“My parents’ end of life was so difficult. They lost everything, were living in a terrible hotel, ran up every credit card we had,” Ms. Burak said. “My mother begged us not to cremate her, but there was no money for a burial; we had no choice.”
It was only after her father died that Ms. Burak discovered her parents would have been entitled to as much as $160,000 over the last decade through the Aid and Attendance benefit. She applied, but no money arrived before her mother died.
Mr. Noller said the program’s low visibility might be an effect of the size of the department. “The V.A. is the second-largest agency in the federal government, and you can’t expect everybody to know everything,” he said, referring to the agency’s work force.
To bridge the information gap, Ms. Burak introduced VeteranAid.org, a Web site and a 501(c)(3) charity, in 2005, to provide information about A&A eligibility and how to apply.
To qualify, a veteran need not have suffered a service-related injury. He or she only had to have clocked at least one day of his or her 90-day minimum military service during a time of war and need caregiving for activities of daily living.
Applying can be confusing and arduous. If you know the program’s name and search the Veterans Affairs Web site for Aid and Attendance, the first page states, among other things, that you are not eligible for A&A unless you already qualify for a basic Veterans Affairs pension — for which you have to be “totally disabled.”
That’s more than a little misleading.
“What people don’t know is that when wartime veterans turn 65, the V.A. automatically classifies them as ‘totally disabled,’ ” Ms. Burak said. And if they meet income and asset criteria, they are eligible for a basic pension.
The A&A benefit can be more than 50 percent higher than the basic veteran’s pension ($24,239 annually for a veteran and spouse with A&A, versus $16,051 for a basic pension). The income and asset cutoffs are also higher than for A&A benefits.
Karen McCarty, of Fort Worth, is one of the lucky ones who applied for A&A — and got it. She heard about it when the assisted living facility where her father-in-law, Robert McCarty, 92, was living, held a seminar on it.
Ms. McCarty, a former certified public accountant, started researching the application process at the Veterans Affairs site, but, she said, “the VeteranAid.org site was much clearer.” She found all the forms she needed, and her father-in-law received the first check in record time — six months.
Not all Veterans Affairs officers are in the dark about A&A.
After Annette Cadena’s parents were in a car accident and moved to a nursing home in their tiny hometown, Fossil, Ore., it was the local Veterans Affairs officer, Paul Conroy (now retired), who saw her on the street and mentioned that her parents might qualify.
“I was skeptical, to be honest,” said Ms. Cadena. “My husband did two tours in Iraq and has worked 30 years for the Washington State Army National Guard coordinating with the V.A. to help veterans, and he had never heard of it.”
Still, she applied in August 2009, and nine months later her parents started receiving the maximum $2,019 per month.
The benefit was a lifesaver. That is, until her father, Clinton Ray, died on Aug. 5. The payments to her mother, Bessie Ray, stopped, even though widows of veterans are also entitled to this benefit.
“They cut her off cold,” Ms. Cadena said, and told her she would have to apply all over again as a widow, which could take 9 to 18 months. “My mother said, ‘Oh, my God, are they going to kick me out of the home?’” Ms. Cadena recalled.
Still, when the benefit comes through, it can make a real difference.
Marcia Hruska’s mother, 85, had run through all her savings after seven years of worsening Alzheimer’s and round-the-clock care in her apartment in Coconut Creek, Fla. Assisted living was the next step, but Ms. Hruska didn’t know how they would pay for it, with Social Security her only income.
“One of the assisted living facilities we visited asked if my dad had been in the service,” and mentioned A&A, Ms. Hruska recalled. So she filled out the 26-page Veterans Affairs application — which used to be only four pages — and on Sept. 1, six months after applying, she received the first monthly check for $1,019. “This relieves a lot of tension,” Ms. Hruska said.
One warning note: Scams abound. The department forbids anyone to charge to help veterans fill out these challenging forms, yet a growing number of companies — many of which, on a Web search for “Aid and Attendance,” pop up with waving flags and red-white-and-blue banners — offer to “help” veterans fill out the forms free, then charge thousands of dollars for financial consultation.
And, Ms. Burak warns: “Financial planners at assisted living facilities are putting on seminars about the A&A benefit — but it isn’t out of the goodness of their hearts. They are trolling for residents who have too much money to qualify, to get them to move assets into annuity products that don’t count as income or assets and yield big commissions.” (This is possible because, unlike Medicaid, with its five-year lookback, Veterans Affairs has no lookback on asset transfers.)
The department does not reveal maximum allowable assets. But $80,000 (the house and a car are exempt from this total) seems to be in the ballpark, though someone with more assets could still qualify if expenses were very high, according to Ms. Burak.
Income limits are not set in stone either. But the maximum is around $20,000 to $23,000 after deducting costs for medical expenses, caregivers, assisted living or nursing home fees.
Some people are taking advantage of A&A to protect assets for their heirs, Ms. McCarty said. Still, she said,”it’s a wonderful benefit.