AMVETS Highlights: Town Hall, Job Fair, New VA Secretary

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie,  (Photo courtesy of VA Blog)

Here’s a chance for veterans in the Orlando region to speak up and share their perspectives on veterans’ health care.

A “listening session” – sponsored by the American Veterans (AMVETS) – is planned Tuesday, August 7, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. as part of the organization’s 74th annual convention.

Medical experts, both national and Orlando-area veterans will address current issues in health care include critical gaps. The town hall is open to the public.

Other AMVETS convention highlights:

The AMVETS convention is Aug. 6-10 at the Caribe Royale Convention Center, 8101 World Center Drive, Orlando.

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.

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.

Hundreds Welcome Home Wounded Soldier

By Bobbie O’Brien

TAMPA – Marines and mothers, AMVETS and members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club were among the 200 people to welcome home Kevin Kammerdiener at Tampa International Airport Tuesday evening.

A crowd of about 200 welcomed home injured soldier Kevin Kammerdiner.

While his mother knew about the surprise, the 22-year-old wounded soldier did not.  But, he adapted quickly after rolling his wheelchair out of the airside tram. To the delight of the crowd which responded with vigorous applause and cheers, Kammerdiener locked the wheels of his chair, stood up and began hugging well wishers and shaking hands.

He wore a ball cap, jeans and a black T-shirt identifying him as an Afghanistan Vet with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

His aunt, Kim Piraino, was one of the first to get a hug. PIraino visited and helped care for Kammerdiener while he was being treated for burns at the VA hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Kammerdiener’s recovery is ongoing. He suffered a crushed skull and severe burns when a suicide bomber attacked his Humvee in Afghanistan more than two years ago.

He’s had to re-learn to walk and talk. But he has not lost his sense of humor or mischief according to his aunt.

Kim Piraino, wears a t-shirt honoring her nephew, Kammerdiener.

“He woke up from that coma doing it, you know, the rabbit ears behind the head,” Piraino said. “I was rubbing burn cream on him one day and he’s yelling, ‘it hurts’ and I’m like ‘Oh my God’ and then he’s laughing at me.”

His mother Leslie Kammerdiener calls her sons recovery a miracle because his injuries were so extensive he wasn’t expected to live. She writes a blog, Mended Wings. Her son still requires fulltime care, which she provides, as he continues to receive treatment at James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa.

Kammerdiener and the family have gotten help from the nonprofit Operation American Pride. Michael Whitt founded the organization to help wounded warriors.

Michael Whitt, founder of Operation American Pride, organized the homecoming event.

Whitt had promised Leslie Kammerdiener a big welcoming. And he thanked the crowd for coming out.

After a presentation of gifts to Kammerdiener, Whitt organized the crowd into two lines from the tram to the elevators to give Kammerdiener free passage. The airborne soldier walked the entire length.

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