VA Opens Applications For Standardized Veteran ID Card

The veterans group AMVETS distributed this early prototype of the VA’s new veterans ID card in October. The VA has not released a final design, and it’s not clear if the Office Depot logo will appear on the final card.
AMVETS

It might seem a bit surprising – but there is no standardized Identification Card for veterans. Military retirees with 20 years or more service have their own ID card. And veterans who use VA health services have another. But there was no ID card for all veterans – until now.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL-R) of Sarasota sponsored the 2015 law that created the Veterans Identification Card to make it easier to officially prove one’s military service. But after more than two years, the VA only just opened the application process this week.

“In my mind and my experience, I think it’s unacceptable that it’s taken two years to do this,” said Carl Hunsinger, chairman of the Manatee Veterans Council and a retired Air Force Retired command chief master sergeant.

Several years ago, Hunsinger saw the need for a standardized veteran ID card after watching a homeless vet pull out his tattered discharge form (DD-214) to prove he qualified for services.

“This sheet of paper cannot only become illegible over a period of time and damaged but also can be easily forged,” Hunsinger said.

So, he took the problem and some suggested solutions to his congressman, Buchanan. It took about a year to pass the law that was signed by President Obama in July 2015.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the VA announced it was officially accepting applications for the Veteran Identification Card. But according to the Military Times, the final design of the ID has not been decided and it could take up to two months before delivery.

Veterans can apply for the ID card online go to the bottom of the page and look for Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card.

The new standardized card, however, will not be accepted as proof for VA disability and medical benefits and there’s no guarantee that businesses will accept it as proof for veteran discounts.

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Texas A&M Cadets To Join Tampa Pearl Harbor Day Cruise

The American Victory Ship cruising in the channel with the Tampa Convention Center and downtown skyline in the background.

The United States will mark the 76th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the country’s official entry into World War II on Dec. 7, 2017. And Tampa’s own World War II American Victory Ship plans to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day with a cruise Saturday, Dec. 2nd.

On board, there will be infantry re-enactors, big band music, “bomber girls” and other entertainment.

The American Victory Ship started its service in the Merchant Marine in June 1945 carrying troops and supplies to the war front. The vessel served in Korea and Vietnam before being turned into a floating museum and memorial on Tampa’s waterfront.

The cruise, from noon to 4:30 p.m., also pays tribute to WWII veterans and will include a ceremony commemorating Pearl Harbor Day. The ship is docked behind the Florida Aquarium, 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Ticket information is available on the AMVIC website.

Military Retirees – Valued State Assets

afd scott neil points to glass wall separating distillery from restaurant

Retired Green Beret and co-founder of the American Freedom Distillery, Scott Neil, points to the framework that will become a glass wall separating the distillery from the restaurant.

States are competitive whether they’re vying to keep their military bases or to attract new corporate headquarters. And now, there’s a new tug of war over military retirees who come with pensions, health care and are a proven workforce.

Florida, already a retirement haven, is adding veteran specific programs to entice even more military retirees to the Sunshine State.

putnam_TV_coverage

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speaking at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation conference in 2016 on the military and veterans economy.

“It means that if you are processing out of the military and you want to build your business here in Florida – we’re going to waive the application fees on almost every occupational license that’s out there,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at a business conference last year. “It means if you’re applying for a concealed weapons license, you’re going to go to the front of the line and it’s going to be expedited in less than two weeks.”

Florida officials like to brag that they’re the most veteran friendly state in the nation. So, there’s no ambivalence – if you’re retiring military – Florida Wants You!

That message was not lost on Hillsborough County Judge Daryl Manning when he retired after 30 years of service in the Army and Reserves. He settled in Tampa, his final post, over other places he’d served like Fort Bragg, Fort Hood and Norfolk.

“Of course, it’s the beautiful weather. It’s also the military climate that’s here. Not only for active duty military but for retirees, the community is so welcoming that it was hard not to be a part of it,” Manning said.

Ed-Drohan

In Afghanistan, Ed Drohan worked as a civilian contractor with the Department of Defense after retiring from the military, but he eventually settled on Tampa as his final home.

In Florida, there’s no state income tax, so no tax on military pensions.  And because the state has 20 military installations, retirees have easy access to on-base amenities like golf courses, health clubs, and tax-free shopping.

More than a dozen other states have passed laws exempting military pensions from state taxes – as they too try to lure retired service members.

“Just the idea there’s a steady income. They know there’s that pension coming in,” said Air Force retiree Ed Drohan who came to Tampa to work at James A. Haley VA. “They’re more likely to be self-supporting, self-sufficient and able to support the local economy as well.”

Not only are military retirees often more self-sufficient – they’re often younger.

“I think a lot of people don’t know or don’t realize that the average officer is only 45 years old upon retirement from service So many times they have to go back into the civilian workforce,” said Jill Gonzalez is an analyst with the personal finance website, WalletHub. She wrote a study on the best places for service members to retire which ranked Florida at the top in 2017.

afd looking into distillery

The interior of a St. Petersburg warehouse, under construction, that’s being converted into the American Freedom Distillery and restaurant.

And Florida has made it a priority to help military retirees and veterans find a second career. Lawmakers created a grant program that reimburses businesses for half of their training costs for every veteran hired up to $8,000 per employee. And the state also started an entrepreneurship program just for veterans.

The Veterans Florida entrepreneurship program is one reason that persuaded former Green Beret Scott Neil, a recent retiree, to resettle in his native Florida.

“I was one of the first into Afghanistan, then to Iraq and then Africa. So I’ve been around the world,” Neil said. “And luckily for me, the headquarters of Special Operations is in Tampa when I decided where I should retire to, I chose my last assignment as Tampa, Florida MacDill Air Force Base so it naturally fit.”

afd exterior party deck side

The exterior, including a concrete party deck, of the American Freedom Distillery which is co-founded by Green Beret veterans in St. Petersburg, FL.

Another natural fit for Neil was starting his own business with some of his Green Beret buddies. They’re getting ready to open the American Freedom Distillery in St. Petersburg where construction is almost complete. Neil completed Florida’s entrepreneurship program which he says built a sense of community with other Florida vets.

“All the alumni, we continue to get together and talk about how far are you with your great idea and we motivate each other,” Neil said.

A Department of Defense report from last year shows more than 198,000 military retirees live in Florida – that’s second only to Texas. That means more than $5 billion in military pensions are coming into the Sunshine State every year.

 

10 Ways To Honor Veterans

If you can’t make it to a Veterans Day parade or ceremony, there are other ways to show your appreciation for the men and women who have served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces. Here are a few suggestions you can practice year-round:

A bonus suggestion: if you live with a veteran like I do, hug them and make their favorite meal for dinner. Or visit this Military Avenue link 101 Ways to Thank a Veteran for more inspiration.

2017 Tampa Bay Veterans Day Events

The James A. Haley VA Medical Center 2016 Veterans Day Parade.

You can find Veterans Day events celebrated in the nationwide at the Department of Veterans Affairs website. And you can find a listing of dates and times for the ceremonies at National Cemeteries for all the states here.

Listed below are special ceremonies throughout the Tampa Bay region, Florida and the nation that will recognize the sacrifices of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who are currently active-duty.

Friday, Nov. 10, 2017

PASCO COUNTY SCHOOLS – 9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. – A 4th annual district wide Veterans Day Ceremony with patriotic songs, flag demonstrations and featuring Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corely will honor veterans and encourage students to participate in the Vote in Honor of a Veteran program. The event is at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge,11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. Supervisor of Elections Outreach Ambassadors also will conduct voter registration drives at all high schools once the Veterans Day Ceremony concludes.

TAMPA JAMES A. HALEY VA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The 10th Annual Veterans Day ceremony and parade will commemorate the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, which is celebrating 30 years. A brief ceremony is set at the Fisher House followed by the parade on the medical center grounds, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa.  Free and open to the public . More than 40 veteran and civic groups will march in the parade which includes several Gasparilla Krewes and a Santa Claus Drill Team. A performance by the University of South Florida Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity is planned before the parade.  And afterward, Operation Helping Hand and Lupton’s are sponsoring a cookout.

HILLSBOROUGH COMMUNITY COLLEGE – Dale Mabry Campus – noon – Those who have served will be commemorated during a ceremony scheduled at the campus flag pole in the courtyard.

242nd MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION – 2 p.m. – The Sgt. Walter P. Ryan Detachment of the Marine Corps League invites all area Marines active, retired and former to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the U. S. Marine Corps at American Legion Post 148, 7240 US Highway 301, Riverview. The event begins at 2 p.m. with a reading of the 13th Commandant, General Lejeune’s, birthday message at 6 p.m., the singing of the Marine Corps Hymn and the cutting of the birthday cake.  Call 813-672-1778 for details.

NEW PORT RICHEY FREEDOM FEST – 5 p.m. – The two-day Freedom Fest kicks-off at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St., New Port Richey, with a dinner for invited Veterans and other dignitaries. There will be live entertainment, a kid’s zone, food and beer sales through a variety of vendors that will be open to the public.

Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017

FLORIDA STATE PARKS – Entry into all state parks is free to veterans and the general public as a tribute to Veterans Day. Here’s an interactive map to locate the state parks nearest you: https://www.floridastateparks.org/interactive-map

ST. PETERSBURG VETERANS AWARDS – 8 a.m. – Honored Veterans” is the theme for the fourth annual Veterans Day Celebration in Williams Park, corner of Fourth Street and First Avenue North, St. Petersburg.  Honored veterans for 2017 are Carrie W. Nero and Charles Claybaker. The event is free and open to the public.

OLD GLORY RELAY – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – You can watch the final leg of a journey of one flag that has traveled for 62 days and more than 4,600 miles. It’s the fourth iteration of Team Red, White & Blue’s cross-country run featuring hundreds of veterans from all branches and eras of service. In total, over 70 teams walked, ran and cycled carrying the American Flag from Seattle on September 11th to finish in Tampa on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th. That final Tampa leg starts in Citrus Park, moves south along County Road 576 eventually connecting to the Veterans Memorial Trail and down almost to MacDill AFB before turning onto Bayshore Boulevard, traveling north to downtown Tampa then east along Channelside Drive toward Brandon where the final destination is Westfield Brandon Mall for a retreat and celebration.

SARASOTA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The Sarasota Veterans’ Day Parade, with the theme “We Can Do It!” The phrase, made famous by the fictional icon Rosie the Riveter, represented the contributions of thousands of women both in the military and at home during World War II. This year’s parade and ceremony will honor those women. The parade opens at Main Street and Osprey Avenue and proceeds down Main to J. D. Hamel Park on Gulfstream. A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. after the parade ends.

CLEARWATER VETERANS DAY DEDICATION & CEREMONY – 10:30 a.m. – Hosted by the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, the event features a tribute to Navy SEAL Danny Dietz and the dedication of State Road 60 as a Purple Heart Trail. The ceremony is at Crest Lake Park, 201 S. Glenwood Ave., Clearwater. Former Congressman David Jolly will host the event, which features speaker Cindy Dietz, a Gold Star Mother of Navy SEAL Danny Dietz, who died during a firefight in Afghanistan. Capt. Ward Sandlin, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos will also make remarks. The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to be a symbolic national network of roadways to commemorate and honor all men and women who were wounded or killed in combat while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The ceremony will also include a fly-over by the U.S. Coast Guard, entertainment and food.

AVON PARK VETERANS DAY PROGRAM – 11 a.m. – American Legion Post 69 is holding a Veterans Day ceremony to honor all those who have served in the United States Military. It’s a chance to learn about the history of Veterans Day. Post 69 is situated on almost five acres, 1301 W. Bell St., Avon Park, and sponsors the local police K-8 unit as well as the high school JROTC. Larry Roberts is service officer (850)718-7773.

BAY PINES VA CEREMONY – 11 AM – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System  will host its annual Veterans Day Ceremony in the courtyard of buildings 2 and 37 on the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd, St. Petersburg.  The event is open to all veterans, their families and friends and the general public. Highlights include guest speaker U.S. Navy Rear Adm. (Ret.) John Kirby, who now works as a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, local VA leaders and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (FL-13). Musical performances by the Keswick Christian School Choir; a special parade of colors by local Veteran Service Organizations and the playing of taps. A shuttle service will be available to provide transportation from parking lots to the ceremony area.

BUSHNELL FLORIDA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 11 AM – A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned in the Assembly Area. Seating is limited, so you’re encouraged to bring chairs or blankets. Florida National Cemetery, 6502 SW 102nd Ave., Bushnell, FL.

HILLSBOROUGH VETERANS MEMORIAL CEREMONY  – 11 a.m. – The 53rd Annual Veterans Day of Remembrance ceremony has the theme of “Honoring America’s Veterans,” and feature speakers Col. S. Troy Pananon, Vice Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base; Col. Jim Waurishuk, USAF, Retired; There will be a POW/MIA Missing Man Ceremony, rifle salute, and taps. And JROTC students from several high schools will perform exhibition drills. The event at the Veterans Memorial Park and LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 N. U.S. Highway 301, Tampa. The tribue is free and open to the public. Visitors may bring lawn chairs, enjoy patriotic music, and stay for refreshments following the ceremony.

TEMPLE TERRACE VETERAN EVENT – 11 a.m. – The City of Temple Terrace will observe Veterans Day during the Temple Terrace Arts and Crafts Festival, hosted by the Temple Terrace Arts Council at Newly-Woodmont Park, 407 Woodmont Ave.

SARASOTA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 3 p.m. – A Veterans’ Day ceremony is planned at Patriot Plaza. The service honors the men and women who have served our country and are serving us today. There will be ample seating and parking. Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72 (Clark Road), Sarasota.

VETERANS ART CENTER TAMPA BAY – Noon – 4 p.m. – “The Art of Remembrance”  is an event scheduled to honor veterans and first responders through art, music and community. The VACTB is located at 6798 Crosswinds Drive North, B106, St. Petersburg.

BOK TOWER VETERANS CONCERT – 1 & 3 p.m. – Two Veteran’s Day Carillon Concerts – a musical salute of gratitude by carillonneur Geert D’hollander – is open to the public. It’s free admission for military veterans and active-duty with a valid ID.

NEW PORT RICHEY PARADE & THROW DOWN  – 3 p.m. & 6 p.m. – It’s the first ever Veterans Day Parade for the city of New Port Richey that begins at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St.,  led by a fly-over of veteran aircraft.  Following the parade, the Veterans Alternative’s 3rd Annual Boxing Throw-Down will take place at 6 p.m. The Boxing Throw-Down is a separate, ticketed event, and tickets can be purchased through Veterans Alternative. Vendors, live music, entertainment, and family activities are also planned.

CARROLLWOOD VETERANS CONCERT & MOVIE – 4 p.m. – A Veteran’s Day Concert & Movie in the park, presented by the Carrollwood Village HOAs, starts with a free concert and is followed with festivities and the showing of the movie “Hollywood Canteen” at 6 p.m. at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Rd., Tampa.

BRANDON OLD GLORY PARADE – 5:00-8:00 p.m. – A parade and celebration welcoming Team RWB is planned at the Westfield Brandon Mall, 459 Brandon Town Center Dr., Brandon. Highlights include live entertainment with special MC Roxanne Wilder, Q105 Radio, Military Exhibits, Health & Fitness Demonstrations. Family Crafts & Activities, Food & Beverage Sampling, Interactive Art Display & Photo Opportunities and giveaways.

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Sunday – Nov. 12, 2017

FLORIDA MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ART  – 2 p.m. – “Florida and World War II” is the topic of this Veterans Day Weekend lecture by Gary Mormino, PhD. The FMoPA is located at 400 N. Ashley Drive, Cube 200, Tampa. There will be free admission to all veterans and their families as well as museum members on Saturday and Sunday. Non-members are asked to give a donation.

ST. PETERSBURG CONCERT HONORS VETERANS – 7 p.m. Una Voce, the Gay Men’s Chorus, honors veterans with a performance of the “Testament of Freedom” at the Palladium, 253 5th Ave N, St. Petersburg. Admission is free for veterans and those with military ID for Sunday.  Tickets are available at www.mypalladium.org.

 

Monday – Nov. 13, 2017

BAY PINES VETERANS TOWN HALL – 4-6 p.m. – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) and St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, will host a Veterans town hall meeting in the J.C. Cobb room located on the first floor of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center (building 100) located at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Bay Pines. VA leaders will provide updates. Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to comment publicly about VA programs and services. Click here for driving directions and a campus map.

 

Free Offerings and Discounts for Veterans & Active-Duty Military

RESTAURANTS – From Applebee’s to Village Inn – Military.Com has a full, national listing of restaurants offering free meals or discounts to veterans and active-duty military on Nov. 11, 2017 Veterans Day. A list of Retail Deals and Discounts is available here.

ATTRACTIONS & MUSEUMS – Several museums and local attractions are offering free admission to military personnel from active-duty to retired veterans and discounts for additional guests and family.

 

Outreach Court For Veterans With Minor Legal Problems

Hillsborough County Judge Daryl Manning is also an Army veteran.

Tampa veterans with outstanding traffic tickets or maybe past due court costs are being given a chance to resolve their minor legal issues.

Hillsborough County is holding a one-day, Veterans Outreach Court Nov. 3, 2017 at the James A. Haley Primary Care VA Annex, 13515 Lake Terrace Lane, Tampa.

“We thought it would be a great idea to go ahead and assist veterans with these minor infractions that again don’t go away and often times continue to increase and what was a $75 citation now becomes a $750 citation many years later,” said Hillsborough County Judge Darryl Manning.

He along with Judge Kimberly Vance and Judge Mike Williams will hear the misdemeanor issues like fines, legal fees, court costs, ordinance violations and active misdemeanor warrants.

“So the goal is get the veteran to walk out with their head held high and to know their legal matters have been resolved,” Manning said.

Veterans looking to clear their legal record must pre-register so their veteran status can be verified along with their legal cases. The deadline is October 31, 2017.  Registration is available at the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court website: www.hillsclerk.com. Qualified veterans will be notified by mail and can view their case online at www.hover.hillsclerk.com.

The Veterans Outreach Court is not like the Veterans Treatment Court which handles more serious felony cases. The one-day outreach will not hear felony cases or legal issues like domestic violence and child support.

Marine Corps 242nd Birthday Celebration

USMC logoThe Sgt Walter P Ryan Detachment of the Marine Corps League in Riverview Florida has a 242nd Birthday Bash to honor the US Marine Corps on November 4, 2017.

Colonel Steve Emerson USMC Retired will be the guest speaker. Cocktails will be served beginning at 6 p.m. followed by the ceremony and dinner at 7 p.m. at American Legion Post 148, 7240 US Highway 301, Riverview, FL. 

At the conclusion of the meal the Detachment will announce the selection of their Marine of the Year and Associate of the Year. The cost is $15.00 and reservations may be made by contacting Larry Westcott at 813-817-0381.

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