Guest Blog: Tips for Veterans to Become Entrepreneurs


Contributed by:
Amy Ridgway
Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program

Traditionally, the first step an entrepreneur would take is to conduct extensive research and build a concrete business plan complete with all the details of running a business. Although this method teaches a comprehensive way to help entrepreneurs envision issues and a concrete method for developing the business plan for investors, the fact remains that at least 9 out of 10 startups will fail.

Continue reading “Guest Blog: Tips for Veterans to Become Entrepreneurs”

Guest Blog: Supporting Veterans with Mental Health Issues

Contributor: Helios Warriors, Marsha Bennett, Executive Director & Gulf War Veteran

The statistics concerning veterans with mental health issues are startling. According to the National Center for PTSD, between 11 and 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and nearly 20% of soldiers involved in these wars have experienced a traumatic brain injury. These issues are certainly not new to those who have served in the armed forces. Veterans from every conflict throughout history have suffered from symptoms ranging from sleep disturbances, apathy, exaggerated startle response and personality changes to extreme anger and suicidal thoughts. An alarming 22 veterans commit suicide every day, according to a 2011 VA statistic. Continue reading “Guest Blog: Supporting Veterans with Mental Health Issues”

Signs of PTSD and What to Do Next

“Stay busy, stay focused on what’s up ahead.
Keep going.
No matter what, don’t think.
Don’t talk about it.
Can’t sleep.
Brain is a spinning top that turns and jumps, try to quiet it and the invisible hand hits the reset button, round and round we go again.
Drink. Drugs. Anything to numb it out.
Can’t deal with your BS right now.
Avoid That! No point going there.
No, pull back.
Push those guys away. Nobody needs me in their lives, I’m too messed up. The world is better off without me.
I can’t turn my brain off.
Can’t sleep.
Push them away…” Continue reading “Signs of PTSD and What to Do Next”

Guest Blog: HERL Trains Vets in Manufacturing


Dr. Rory Cooper (left), Director of HERL, talking with a veteran in his program.

We at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) – a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh and VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System – take great pride in our work with Veterans. Our efforts are aimed at improving every aspect of their lives and the lives of their families, whether through programs to assist with the transition from the military to enrollment in STEM-related fields of study, or research that will improve their level of satisfaction and participation in everyday life activities. Continue reading “Guest Blog: HERL Trains Vets in Manufacturing”

Guest Blog: Vets Explore Self-Expression Through Art

By: Kristen Hughes
Director of Arts in Healing
The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Support from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has enabled Arts in Healing to provide 10-12 hours per week of visual art, music, creative writing, drama and dance to veterans served through the Robley Rex VA Medical Center and to test-drive the concept for a veteran/civilian cooperative called “Warrior’s Heart Community.”

A community member viewing artwork created by veterans in Warriors’ Heart Community pilot project

Warrior’s Heart Community recently completed a highly successful 9 week pilot project, based on steps outlined in The Warrior’s Return, by Dr. Ed Tick of Soldier’s Heart. The process involved veterans sharing stories about their combat experiences and ensuing struggles with civilians who listened non-judgmentally and without attempting to fix or offer advice, serving as Sacred Witnesses to the wounding, and creating a space for healing. In this atmosphere of trust, respect, and empathy, participants explored how all of humanity is affected by war. It was a powerful and profound experience for all.  Over 75% of participants have signed on to help refine the process over the winter so that the community can grow by engaging a new group of veterans and civilian “witnesses” in Spring 2016.

In November, Arts in Healing also partnered with Robley Rex VA Medical Center to present local veteran art at an opening of the From War to Home national photo exhibit.  At the event, art was displayed from Arts in Healing groups in the Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program, the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, Athena’s Sisters-a female veterans’ sisterhood, Heroes Create-a Peer Support dialogue group, and Warriors’ Heart Community.

Nathan Sims, Peer Support Specialist of Heroes Create! sharing artwork created by veterans in the group.










For Many Vets, Misconduct Discharges A Sentence to Homelessness

It’s no secret that veterans often find themselves at a disadvantage when exiting the military. Financial difficulty, family stress, and uncertainty about job prospects can often be a formula for disaster for these veterans, and many wind up homeless.

But then there are other veterans who become victims of their own irresponsibility, and are branded as such for years to come.

According to the L09WA-D14 Photo6A Times, a study among Post-9/11 VA patients from 2001 to 2011 showed that around 5.6 percent were discharged from the military for misconduct. However, that small percentage accounted for over 28 percent of veterans who became homeless in their first year after leaving the military.

Note that this does not include service members with a “dishonorable” discharge, as they are not eligible for VA services. The group surveyed here was discharged for misconduct – usually drug, alcohol, or unauthorized absence offenses – and are usually given an “other than honorable” or “general” label on their DD-214, which still qualifies for some VA services.

The percentage of veterans discharged honorably who became homeless within the first year was roughly 1 percent.

But the question is: is being discharged from the military without an “honorable” status an indictment on the person’s true character? Or is the code assigned to their discharge symptomatic of a preexisting issue?

There’s no universal truth to either question. But for these service members who are tagged with chronic misconduct, I believe that this is only a microcosm of what is more likely to happen in their future.

More often than not, economically disadvantaged people are much more prone to substance abuse than their counterparts. This sets up veterans in this category negatively after their military service, especially since an unexpected discharge from the military is the same as a loss of employment.

Even service members who are preparing for life after the military often struggle in the transition, so it certainly makes sense that those who are dismissed for misconduct will be even more likely to become homeless.

Without arguing the merits of one’s discharge, how can the VA and DoD work to combat this trend among troubled service members?

There is no simple answer to this question, but if we really want to end veteran homelessness, we need to be more proactive than reactive. A plan to combat these issues needs to be formulated so that we don’t add to the 50,000 veterans without a home.

Guest Blog: Vets Rehabilitate in the Great Outdoors

By: Sandra Budak
Executive Director
Honoring Our Veterans

Honoring Our Veterans is committed to helping our nation’s veterans heal. We are very fortunate to have the Disabled Veterans National Foundation partner with us in t20150618_081152his endeavor. We truly believe we are making a difference in these warriors’ lives.

This June, seven combat wounded veterans from across the country enjoyed water sports recreation in stunning Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Without the Foundation’s generous support, we would not be able to offer these rehabilitative therapy programs.

With beautiful lakes at the base of the spectacular Teton Range and a nationally designated scenic river, Jackson Hole is the ideal location for water sports recreation. The activities we offer wounded veterans during this session strengthen physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. We offer these programs to wounded veterans at no charge; airfare, transportation, lodging, activities, equipment and meals are all paid for with the help of the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.



We were fortunate enough to witness first-hand just how impactful our recreational therapy can be. For one of our participants, the session marked the first time in ten years that he had left his room for something other than a medical appointment. Since returning home, we are overjoyed to hear that he is starting to get outside again, spending the Fourth of July with friends.

Here is what some of our wounded veteran participants have to say:

“Not once since I have been here have I thought about suicide.” 

“I was comfortable for the first time in years.” 

“I was able to express my feelings without being ashamed of myself.” 

“I was able to feel normal and to actually laugh and feel happy again.” 

“Coming out here to Jackson Hole, Wyoming is an experience I will never forget. After spending 31 years wearing a military uniform, I now understand what I was fighting for. What HOV has put together in what I have come to call “God’s Country” is absolutely spectacular.” 20150623_114929

“I found something that I could say I “Love” once again.” 

“I had good sound sleep that I haven’t had in ten years.” 

Thanks again, Disabled Veterans National Foundation, for making our programs possible!

Guest Blog: 3 Booming Tech Careers for Disabled Veterans

By Rick Kuehn, CEO at GruntRoll; exited the Marines  in 2010 as a Corporal.

One of the many challenges facing disabled Veterans is finding suitable employment. Veterans suffering from PTSD often find difficulty in working in tight-quartered, high-energy environments like the standard American workplace. As a result, some Veterans are turning towards work-from-home professions to overcome the incompatibility some face with a traditional office environment. The youngest generation of combat Veterans are blessed with the distinct advantage of having grown up with technology, and possess a natural affinity to it. These fields are so in-demand that many of the positions aren’t being filled. In a generation of unemployed college graduates, you can find a lucrative career working from home without stepping foot into a classroom.

1) Software Developer

The Software Developer is currently the number one most in-demand profession in the United States, according to Forbes. In fact, this job is so incredibly in-demand you can often start at $25/hour with basic knowledge. Those with several years of experience will regularly find themselves earning much higher rates, especially as contractors. The exact role is a Software Developer varies from job-to-job, and project-to-project. In February, you could be contributing to a new system designed to cache search queries, but in March you could be programming an iPhone app that finds military discounts.

To get started in this profession, you’re going to need a passion for technology and the ability to think critically. If you’re the kind of person who recreationally enjoys problem-solving, there’s a good chance you’ll not only make an excellent Software Developer–but you’ll be happy doing it.

2) Web Developer

So wait, we just talked about Software Developers; isn’t a Web Developer the same thing? Websites are just software that run on web servers, aren’t they?

Yes, basically. However, in practice these are two totally different professions. Those who prefer a more graphical (and less technical) aspect in their work will receive more gratification from a career in Web Development. The beauty of a career in Web Development is that you could literally build hundreds of websites for hundreds of customers without ever having to understand software. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with popular front-end graphical languages (HTML and CSS).

Successful Web Developers will utilize their choice of “Content Management System”, and gain expertise learning to build functional websites for clients by freelancing their skills. Although this field is more saturated than Software Development, there’s still a significant demand for Americans who can create websites. American businesses are becoming more hesitant to offload their needs overseas despite the obvious cost difference. Americans produce the best work, and the overseas development fad is all but come to an end for those serious about a high-quality result.

2.5) Web Software Developer

Did I just invent this job title? Not exactly. Keep in mind, we aren’t in the military and civilians don’t use numbers to identify the position they’re responsible for; civilian life can be much more complicated. A person who enjoys a mix of writing logical code and designing graphic elements will find their passion rests in deep technical understanding of web technology such as JavaScript, PHP, and C#. Web Software Developers will use the same logic as Software Developers, but produce a product which can be visible to others. Software Developers will typically spend their days creating a product which may never be visible to an end-user.

3) SEO (Search Engine Optimizer)

Imagine you’re going to Google to search the healthiest dog food for your Golden Retriever. You enter your search, and some results appear. 85% of clicks will go into the first three results. 1900 people search “healthy dog food” every month, and many of them are potentially buyers for dog food. Out of those first three results, odds are good all three of those results will give you the answer you’re looking for–and maybe even sell you some food for your dog. If you owned an online pet store, how can you get your website into those first three results?

For many companies, the solution is hiring a Search Engine Optimizer.

This field became popular within the last decade since the emergence of Google. Google accounts for 80% of search traffic around the world. This blatantly contradicts my anecdotal evidence which would be more like 99.9% (because I’m pretty saw I caught my elderly relatives using Bing once).

Google uses over 200 factors which plug into a top-secret ranking algorithm they’ll absolutely never share with the public. However, the two proven most significant factors include relevant content and links from other websites. Becoming an SEO doesn’t involve a great deal of technical ability, though you’ll have to learn some technical jargon. Instead, those who possess a natural creative ability to communicate with others will find the greatest success in Search Engine Optimization.

Despite all these terrific career opportunities to work for yourself, it’s like the news is a broken album stuck on the same track: “you need a degree to get a job”. Yet, the same track is repeating the unemployment rates for college graduates. The answer to this is simple: find a career that’s in demand, and isn’t easily attainable for others. No one advising against college. Any of these fields would be greatly supplemented by a degree. Instead, focus on finding a skill that’s in-demand–and become awesome at it.