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Jul 8

New Website Assists Veterans with Federal Benefit Processes

A nationwide law firm represents veterans as they apply for federal disability benefits that can provide vital support for men and women who sustained injuries during military service. The firm represents veterans struggling with both physical and psychiatric conditions. Thousands of individuals are eligible to apply for benefits, but the process can often prove overwhelming. To aid in the process, the firm recently launched InjuredVeterans.com, which allows people to learn about the firm’s staff and gain a more comprehensive view of the application and appeals process.

The firm takes a personalized approach to each veteran’s case. Apart from attorneys and paralegals, the Injured Veteran team includes Joshua Stone, an accredited non-attorney claims representative/agent for veterans’ benefits from the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Administration. Mr. Stone served as a hospital corpsman for eight years in the U.S. Navy and was also deployed as a U.S. Marine Corps combat medic. Both he and the firm’s head attorney Adam Werner belong to the National Organization of Veterans Advocates.

The Cedars of Marin Offers Multiple Volunteer Opportunities

The Cedars of Marin maintains various day programs and residential services for adults with developmental disabilities. Several different volunteer opportunities exist within the organization to bridge the gap between the people it serves and residents of Marin County, California. The organization regularly organizes outings to museums, sporting events, amusement parks, and other attractions. Volunteers are needed to serve as client buddies or oversee small groups of clients. Additionally, The Cedars of Marin has several regular events, such as bowling and bingo. During bowling events, volunteers ensure that clients remain organized and positively reinforce their accomplishments. At bingo, volunteers help clients keep track of their numbers.

On an annual basis, The Cedars of Marin organizes its Marin Human Race, one of the largest fundraiser events in Marin County. Volunteers are needed to raise money before the event and walk with clients during the race.

Individuals who want to work behind the scenes can perform in various administrative roles or put their individual skills to work maintaining and repairing program buildings and client houses.

Therapy Dogs and the Treatment of PTSD among Veterans

While scientists have not conducted enough research to draw strong conclusions on the benefits of dog ownership for people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), studies have long shown that having a dog can boost overall mood and relieve stress. In addition, dogs provide companionship and encourage individuals to leave the house more frequently than they otherwise might do. Dogs provide an excellent way to meet new people and develop new relationships. Further, some professionals suggest that well-trained dogs that take orders can offer a degree of comfort and familiarity for veterans used to a structured military way of life.

Researchers are now looking at the possibility of canine disability services for persons with PTSD. In particular, Veterans Affairs has undertaken efforts to determine if such services would qualify the companion pet as a service dog. While these studies will require several years to complete, veterans could receive a number of benefits as a result, including assistance with the veterinary bills involved in dog ownership.

Jun 3

Illinois, Passes Important Puppy Mill Legislation

The Cook County Council in Illinois has passed an ordinance that will place major restrictions on the sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits produced by large-scale commercial breeders, frequently known as puppy mills. The ban will take effect in fall 2014. The decision reflects a growing commitment to end animal overpopulation and stop the inhumane treatment of animals in puppy mills. The ordinance encourages individuals to adopt new pets from shelters and other organizations and thereby provide a home to an animal in need rather than support the commercial exploitation of animals. Notably, the ordinance also supports small, responsible breeding operations that meet set standards of animal care.

The Cook County ordinance reflects a similar ban that was passed last March in Chicago. The legislation points to a growing national concern for both the welfare of animals harmed in inhumane, large-scale breeding operations and for those who must be euthanized because rescue organizations cannot find supportive homes for them.

Legislation to End Horse Soring Advances in Congress

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation recently approved the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which protects horses against cruel and abusive acts of soring, the infliction of severe pain to force them into an unnatural gait. With this approval, the PAST Act will soon see the Senate floor. Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Warner of Virginia introduced the act, which amends the federal Horse Protection Act. The new measures outlaw “action devices,” chains and stacked shoes that increase the pain felt by sored horses. In addition, the PAST Act improves the inspection process at the Tennessee Walking Horse shows and increases penalties for soring.

Another bill recently came before Congress that purports to prevent horse soring. Under this other bill, however, soring merely becomes institutionalized; the bill does not take into account horse welfare. The PAST Act has more than 50 co-sponsors in the Senate and more than 260 in the House. Individuals can help the bill to pass by contacting their Congressional representatives about the important measures it supports.

May 7

The American Humane Association’s “No Animals Were Harmed” Program

As the president of The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., Lois Pope has expressed support for animal welfare charities such as the American Humane Association, which recently partnered with Mrs. Pope to host the “Be Humane” conversation series. The American Humane Association currently stands as one of the most prominent animal welfare charities in the country and sponsors programs such as the “No Animals Were Harmed” initiative.

The initiative aims to ensure animal safety on the sets of television shows and movies. In order to accomplish its mission, program leaders created the first-of-its-kind Scientific Advisory Committee, which consistently reviews the “Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media.” The committee includes experts from across the animal welfare sector. The individuals draw on their diverse professional backgrounds to protect animal actors in every way possible. As part of the initiative, licensed veterinarians were hired to serve as on-site safety representatives, particularly in high-demand areas such as New York, Louisiana, and New Mexico.

Three Easy Ways to Support American Veterans

When it comes to supporting American veterans of foreign wars, no gesture is too small to make a meaningful difference. Following are three easy ways to support American veterans:

1. Provide transportation. For many veterans, especially those who live in remote rural areas, simply showing up at medical appointments can be a major logistical hurdle. Organizations such as Disabled American Veterans offer free transportation to VA medical facilities and welcome the assistance of volunteer drivers.

2. Volunteer with homelessness campaigns. In order to combat the issue of chronic homelessness among American veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs organizes “Stand Down” events for veterans throughout the country. Stand Downs, which typically occur over a one- to three-day period, include health screenings, food, and shelter.

3. Donate frequent flier miles. Organizations such as the Fisher House Foundation use donated frequent flier miles to reunite injured veterans with their families. Fisher House Foundation also organizes accommodations for visiting family members, often in houses on the grounds of VA hospitals.

Apr 8

Fully Disabled Veterans to Benefit from New Social Security Policy

At the end of February 2014, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced plans to streamline the claims process for veterans who have received a 100 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The change, which will go into effect in mid-March, will place these veterans into a high-priority group that receives expedited service. At present, even veterans deemed fully disabled can wait months to obtain their benefits from the SSA, so the announcement comes as welcome news for servicemen and women across the country. Over time, the agency expects that tens of thousands of veterans will benefit from this expedited process.

Veterans’ services advocates have applauded both the SSA’s decision to ease the process for fully disabled veterans and its existing policy to expedite services for active-duty troops wounded in combat. However, they also point out that hundreds of thousands of partially disabled veterans are still forced to wait excruciatingly long periods for their benefits to be processed. Across the country, some veterans have had to wait years for the Department of Veterans Affairs to review their claims, make a decision on disability, and then pass their applications on to the SSA for further review. Once the SSA receives a disability claim, it takes an average of three months for it to make an initial determination and approximately a year to complete an appeal.

The Love of an Animal Can Help a Troubled Teen

Sometimes a dog - or a cat, horse, or other animal - can be a teen’s best friend. This is especially true in the case of young adults with eating disorders, addictions, and other emotional challenges. An animal can be a patient listener. Plus, animals do not judge, notice what a young person looks like, or care how “cool” he or she may be. An animal just gives love.

According to the organizers of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, adolescents working to end unhealthy patterns of behavior can benefit greatly from interaction with animals. The group supports the use of emotional service animals in therapy for teens coping with anorexia, bulimia, and similar conditions.

A teen who bonds with an animal companion is more likely to respond constructively to counseling and to be open to acknowledging that a problem exists. Additionally, focusing attention on the needs of another living creature can reduce a teen’s preoccupation with their weight and personal appearance, as well as assist them to become more active.
Furthermore, young men and women who are experiencing a range of behavioral issues, including substance abuse, have been helped by equine therapy. Counseling professionals report that teens who were unresponsive to other methods began to share their feelings directly with the horses they came to know in therapeutic riding programs.

Travel Wisely With Your Older Dog

If your dog is accustomed to being your travel companion, this can continue as he or she ages if you take some sensible precautions. However, first think carefully about whether you actually want to take your older canine companion on your trip. A senior dog might be safer and happier with a friend or in a boarding facility while you are away.
However, if you decide to go ahead, the easiest way for your dog to travel is by car. Traveling in a crate enhances your pet’s safety, as well as yours, but remember to allow adequate time to stop for bathroom breaks. In terms of plane trips, smaller dog may meet airline regulations for in-cabin flights. If not, you should think twice before keeping your dog in cargo. This can be extremely stressful, particularly for older animals. Select your hotel and other venues with your dog uppermost in your mind.

It is especially important to bring along an older dog’s health and vaccination records, including information about regular medications, just as you would for senior citizens. Bring reminders of home, such as a favorite toy or an item with your scent on it. Finally, you will both be happier in the long run if you stay alert to your dog’s behavioral cues and listen to what he or she is trying to tell you, whether it fits your predetermined schedule or not.