Monthly Archives: December 2012

New Counseling Schedule

In order to maximize the number of Clients we can serve and minimize the wait time for our Clients – in terms of both available appointments and office wait time – we have decided to take on a new Counseling schedule effective January 2, 2013.

Below are schedules for both VA Counseling and Workforce Development Counseling followed by an FAQ regarding the changes. If your question is not answered here please call our office at (256) 883-7035.

VA Counseling Schedule

VA schedule


Workforce Development Counseling Schedule

WFD schedule

FAQs

  • Both VA Claims and Workforce Development will have Walk-ins from 8-11:30am Mon-Thurs?

Yes and no. VA Claims will have walk-ins Mon-Thurs 8-11:30am and Workforce will have walk-ins Mon-Fri 8-11:30am. Unlike VA Claims, Workforce will also accept walk-ins on Friday.

 

  • Friday will be by appointment only for both VA Claims and Workforce Development?

No. Workforce will take walk-ins every day. The Veteran will first see Tom who will conduct intake and assessments before the Veteran sees Mitch. This way the intake process can be streamlined and more efficient.

 

  • Who do I speak to in order to schedule an appointment for VA Claims?

Rick and Laura. They will do their own pre-appointment screenings so that they may determine the length of appointment needed in order to fully serve the Client.

 

  • Who do I speak to in order to schedule an appointment for Workforce Development?

Tom. He will do all initial interviews for Workforce. Tom will also set appointments for Mitch after he has met with the Veteran and performed the necessary intake procedures.

 

  • How will the current appointments that are already set be handled?

    • How will SSV handle clients calling for appointments if the counselors have clients in their office?

    • Will they work from phone messages daily?

Already scheduled appointments will be honored. Future appointments will be set by the specified counselors. Those answering the phones will tell the Veteran or family member that a counselor will call back for an intake interview within 48 hours –basic information like name and phone number will be noted and then given to the appropriate counselor. The counselors are charged with returning phone calls daily (it is built into their schedules) and will then give the receptionist a list of appointments so that she may conduct appointment confirmation calls 24 hours before the scheduled appointment.

 

  • What do I need to bring to walk-ins?

Please bring your DD214. If you are coming for VA benefits counseling also bring any medical records. If you are coming for Workforce Development you should bring any certifications you may have acquired during your service, a military resume, and – if applicable – a civilian resume.

 

We hope this answers all of your questions and that this new scheduling system expands our reach to Veterans and their families. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further questions:

(256) 883-7035

Advertisements

SSV’s Fabiani Duarte Gets Noticed!

On December 14, 2012 one of our AmeriCorps VISTA members got some national attention through an article in ServiceCorps News in which his service with us and future plans are highlighted. Below is the article – Enjoy!!

Fabiani Duarte recently completed his term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to Still Serving Veterans (SSV) in Huntsville, Ala. through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In his assignment as a public relations/special events coordinator, Duarte worked to build the outreach, fundraising and performance management infrastructures to support SSV’s Mentoring and Workforce Development Program (MWDP). Prior to joining the ALA Call to Service Corps, Fabiani held positions in real estate law, youth service and leadership development, student advocacy and organizing at Johnston, Moore & Thompson Attorneys at Law, Optimist International and Vanderbilt University. Duarte holds a bachelor of arts in global communications and politics from Vanderbilt University.

Fabiani Duarte

1.     What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps member?

Upon graduating from college, I returned to my hometown of Huntsville, Ala., and joined a local law firm where I aimed to gain legal experience for a year and then re-launch my education by going to law school. Although I was successful in being accepted to law school, leaving for school became a larger challenge than I had initially anticipated: 1) due to my experience a the law firm, I had become uncertain if law school was actually the right “next-step” on my professional journey, and 2) I had become increasingly involved in a local service organization whose growth and expansion into several local schools would require significant leadership in the year ahead.

Seeking guidance during a few weeks of indecision, I connected with a former high school mentor who now worked at Still Serving Veterans – a locally-based, national non-profit focused on helping our heroes find jobs, obtain counseling and receive the VA benefits they have earned – that I was unfamiliar with at the time. After explaining my situation, she explained that the AmeriCorps VISTA program could potentially help me clarify some uncertainties while also advancing the projects I was passionate about and that I had begun to develop in my hometown. Having known several of my college classmates who had joined the Peace Corps, Teach for America and AmeriCorps, I was familiar with the program and needed little convincing about its legitimacy. After a few days of consideration and prayer, I energetically agreed to apply to one of the VISTA positions that had come available at Still Serving Veterans. And thus, my journey with AmeriCorps VISTA and ALA Call to Service Corps began.

 2.     What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

In addition to being recruited by a former high school mentor who now served in the leadership of Still Serving Veterans, I had begun to seriously consider a future in the military. Although I had been interested in obtaining a law degree since before going to college, I had always harbored a desire to serve our nation in uniform as well. During my year of work at a hometown law firm, I began to discuss the possibility of achieving both goals and became more and more educated about serving as a military lawyer in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. In hopes of acquainting myself in a deeper and more meaningful way with the military culture while also more closely investigating the possibility of becoming a JAG officer, I felt that serving at Still Serving Veterans would assist me on clarifying various questions about my new and very specific professional goal.

3.     Do you feel that you achieved your personal goals as an AmeriCorps member?

Certainly. During my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member I was not only able to contribute to the capacity building and expansion of Still Serving Veterans, but I was also able to determine whether or not I would be able to thrive in a military context as a JAG officer. Beyond discovering that serving as a military lawyer has solidified itself as personal professional goal, I was also able to revive my talents as a collaborator, networker, community leader and volunteer galvanizer that I had developed during my college years at Vanderbilt. During my first year away from my familiar campus environment, structured lifestyle and leadership roles in various organizations I became disoriented and lacked confidence in the skills I had honed during those formative years. AmeriCorps VISTA helped re-cultivate and renew this skillset and allowed me to transfer my former formula of success to a new organization and hometown community.

 4.     Are you particularly proud of any accomplishments from your service year?  If so, can you explain why?

Perhaps my proudest achievement as I look back on this past year of service has been the development of service-learning initiative that I began cultivating ten years ago and began to spearhead again after I returned home from college. Thanks to the support of Still Serving Veterans, I was able to fuse the goals of this service-learning initiative with the employment, volunteerism and mentorship goals of our organization.

In November of 2011, I, along with various veteran advocacy leaders met with the newly installed superintendent of Huntsville City Schools and his Director of Transition – both Army veterans – to discuss a workforce development partnership between the city schools system and Still Serving Veterans. Our goal was to develop a hiring program for unemployed veterans to fill target areas available within Huntsville City Schools (e.g. human resources, finance, transportation, logistics, technology, athletics, allocations, inventory control, IT, security, TV station operations and teaching positions).

Simultaneously, after returning to Huntsville after graduating from college, I had affiliated myself with the local chapter of Optimist International. The Optimist Club was a civic organization like the Kiwanis, Civitan, Lions, or Rotary Clubs present in city across the country that I had been heavily involved with during my middle and high school days. Focused on serving youth of the community, this service organization sought to create Junior Optimist Clubs in schools across the city similar one that I had been able to found and develop when I was in high school. Due to an effort to reinvest the club’s large endowment into local community projects like these junior service clubs, the club asked me to help spearhead the city-wide effort by offering a fully-funded program to schools that expressed a desire to increase their students’ service-learning opportunities.

With the goals of developing both a substantial veteran workforce development program in public schools and expanding service-learning through fully-funded Junior Optimist Clubs, I developed a proposal with the support of the leadership at Still Serving Veterans and new members of our Community Blueprint Network team. The plan outlined a three-way partnership between Huntsville City Schools, Still Serving Veterans and the Optimist Club of Huntsville that would fulfill two principal areas of the Community Blueprint Initiative: Employment and Volunteerism. The plan consisted of funneling resumes of unemployed veteran-clients from Still Serving Veterans to Huntsville City Schools. These veterans, once hired to fill full-time or part-time positions, would serve as mentors to fully-funded youth service clubs established in schools designated by the superintendent. These youth service clubs, or Junior Optimist Clubs, would serve three purposes: 1) combat bullying and boredom in public schools by providing structured service-learning clubs for students in elementary, middle, and high schools where few volunteer opportunities existed, 2) connect local school children to positive veteran mentors, and 3) promote veteran volunteerism by allowing newly hired veterans lead service-learning programs in school settings that additionally would assist with the  veteran transition to civilian life by providing veterans with a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging.

After conducting a series of meetings and leading presentations to various public school principals and city school administrators, the stakeholders all agreed to develop two pilot sites at a public elementary and middle school based on a proposal I had developed.

Finally, in the summer of 2012, the stakeholders re-assembled to review the success of the two pilot sites and discussed specific action-items and commitments from each of the three parties to expand the program. After drafting a formal document outlining specific deliverables, a signing ceremony and luncheon was held on October 11, 2012, to formally launch the partnership between Still Serving Veterans, Huntsville City Schools, and the Optimist Club of Huntsville.

Based on this signed agreement, that last month of my service was been dedicated to meeting with principals from the 16 schools approved to benefit from the program and have worked with SSV’s Workforce Development manager to streamline client resumes to Huntsville City Schools Human Resources and Operations offices.

I am proud to say that I have successfully transitioned this program to my VISTA successor and will continue to be involved in overseeing the success of the partnership during the months ahead before I leave for law school in the fall of 2013.

 5.     What are your future plans after your AmeriCorps service year?

I am currently studying to for my Law School Admission Test (LSAT) exam and plan to apply to law schools over the next several weeks. My goal of becoming a JAG officer is clearer than ever and I am grateful for the opportunity that I had over the past year to examine, evaluate and refocus my interest in obtaining a law degree. It is now with great pride and earnest confidence that I aim to pursue a career as a JAG officer and seek to continue my commitment to service that AmeriCorps VISTA helped me rediscover during the past year.

Veteran Homelessness Rates Drop but Rise Among Younger Vets

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

The latest report card on the Obama Administration’s push to end Veteran homelessness by 2015 arrived Monday: the number of ex-service members sleeping in parks, under bridges or in public spaces declined by 7 percent this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) confirmed.

But other advocates — including a small cadre of soldiers who use their spare time and combat skills to track, clothe and house Veterans forced to live outside on home soil — say they still are seeing an “alarming” rise in younger homeless Veterans, many of whom fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

HUD released Monday afternoon a full 2012 count of homeless Americans, including a fresh tally of homeless Veterans: “On a single night in January 2012, 62,619 veterans were homeless,” the agency said. Veteran homelessness has now been reduced by 17.2 percent since January 2009, the agency said.

Before that report was made public, the head the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) said a fortified federal effort to house more disabled and low-income Veterans is working.

“There’s been a big increase in resources to make sure it does decrease,” said Nan Roman, NAEH’s president. “There’s been a lot of investment in newer strategies around housing — programs that are really solution-oriented.”

One of those approaches, Roman said, is a $60 million initiative by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that offers prompt financial help to ex-military members on the brink of eviction — or those recently turned out of their apartments. In fact, the VA estimates that its Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program will have helped the 42,000 Veteran families by the end of 2012, according to an agency spokesman.

“Sometimes people get laid off, can’t pay their rent, and lose their apartment. It’s a high cliff to get back into an apartment because you have to pay the first and last month’s rent plus deposits,” Roman said. “In most places, that’s $2,000 or $3,000, minimum. If you had $2,000 or $3,000, you probably wouldn’t have gotten evicted in the first place. So this program helps with that sort of thing.

“There’s been a lot of determination at VA to make the homeless Veteran numbers go down,” she added. “I’d be very disappointed if they don’t go down, frankly.”

Veteran Arthur Lute holds his 5-month-old son Evan in his one-bedroom apartment in Chula Vista, Calif. on Oct. 9, 2012. Lute’s arduous journey from his days as a U.S. Marine to his nights sleeping on the streets illustrates the challenge the Obama administration faces to make good on its promise to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

VA spokesman Josh Taylor said the agency already had gauged critical gains as the rate of Veteran homelessness dropped by 12 percent from 2010 to 2011. He cites, in part, SSVF – “our new homeless prevention and rapid re-housing program” which during the 2011 fiscal year helped house more than 35,000 people, including nearly 9,000 children, Taylor said.

A second federal program – one forged through a HUD-VA partnership – gives “eligible Veterans” vouchers to pay for stays “in a residence of their own,” Taylor said, adding that nearly 40,000 Veterans have accessed that program during the past two years.

According to a HUD report issued in December 2011, there were 67,495 homeless Veterans in this country – down from 76,329 one year earlier. The same report projected the homeless Veteran population would shrink to 45,797 during 2012.

In its 2013 budget request, the VA asked for $333 million in additional funding – an increase of 33 percent over 2012 – so that it could provide “specific programs to prevent and reduce homelessness,” the VA said in making the pitch last February. The overall VA budget request for 2013 totaled $140.3 billion.

“We have made good progress, but there is more work to do,” Taylor said in an email to NBC News. “Our homeless initiatives are based on a strategy of rescue and prevention.

“The unprecedented effort under way, and the unprecedented resources being dedicated to it, have played a major part in the reduction of the Veteran homeless population over the past couple of years. That work is ongoing and we expect it will continue to show progress,” Taylor added.

Late last week, during the 2012 National Rural Housing Conference held in Washington, D.C, experts reported Veteran homelessness is growing in many rural areas, in part because young men and women from small-town America are 21.5 percent more likely to join the military than their urban counterparts.

Veterans’ homelessness isn’t going to end unless we work together,” said Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation, a conference sponsor. During the past two years, the Home Depot has donated more than $30 million to Veteran housing issues and homelessness and recently announced it will be contributing another $50 million to those same issues over the next three years.

“We need the government, community-based groups, foundations, and the private sector to take up this challenge. Our Veterans deserve nothing less than a safe place to call home,” Caffarelli said.

 ‘They are coming back messed up’

In Southern California, where Army Veteran Joe Leal routinely leads a handful of active-duty and former service members on personal missions to find and help homeless Veterans living “beneath bridges and in canyons,” Leal said he has encountered thousands of post-9/11 Veterans without homes.

“It’s alarming,” said Leal, an Iraq War Veteran who founded the Vet Hunters Project in 2010. His group, funded by private donations, has worked to place more than 2,600 Veterans in temporary or permanent homes, he said.

“We house more Iraq and Afghanistan and younger Veterans than older Veterans. It used to be where a homeless Vet was typically about 60 years old. Now, they’re 22 years old,” Leal said. “And a lot of them are female Veterans who have witnessed combat. They are coming back messed up. They are coming back homeless.”

Monica Figueroa, 22, was an Army parachute rigger who served from 2009 to 2011, spending time in Germany, performing test jumps out of planes. She has a 17-month-old son and is married to Sgt. Jason Snyder, a 30-year-old Army reservist, who served four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. While Snyder was still overseas, Figueroa couldn’t hold a job and couldn’t find a home for herself or her son. She slept in a car for several weeks near Los Angeles, she said.

“When we met her, she was living in a garage where they repair vehicles,” Leal said. “She was bathing in a sink where they wash car parts. Monica was just overwhelmed. She joined the military when she was young. She got out. She had a child. She was used to the fast pace of military life. And then, in getting out, the transition (preparation she received from the Army) was lacking.

Army Veteran Tara Eid, 50, writes an essay at New Directions women’s house, a long-term transitional program for female Veterans dealing with issues of homelessness, trauma and addiction, in Los Angeles, Calif., on November 18, 2011. Eid has seven children and was homeless many times over a period of 10 years.

“A lot of the active-duty people are getting out even though they don’t have a plan” for post-military life, he added. “They’re so fed-up after five to six deployments. They say, ‘I don’t care what I do when I get out, I’ll just figure it out when I get out, but I know I don’t want to do this any more.’ That’s what I’m running into.”

The Vet Hunters Project helped Figueroa, her son and husband recently move into a furnished temporary apartment in Loma Linda, Calif., and enter a program that provides them financial counseling to prepare for an independent life.

“Before this, my living situation was very unstable, moving from one house to another. Just jumping. Just living anywhere I could, with family members, friends, anybody who could help me for two weeks or so,” Figueroa said. “I had to leave my son with my mother — there was no room for anyone else where they were living. So I stayed in a car that my dad owned.

The thing that made it very rough was I had no idea of the benefits I had. All I knew about was the GI Bill. Otherwise, no one ever explained anything else to me (about post-military benefits). I was not prepared for the transition.”

It’s not uncommon, in fact, for the Vet Hunters to come across Army reservists who are still serving the country but who have no home, Leal said.

“These guys show up for service looking sharp,” Leal said. “Then they leave at the end of the day and go sleep in a Chevy.”

Don’t Forget About Our Troops & Their Sacrifices – PLEASE SHARE

Your cellphone is in your pocket. You’re looking at all the pretty girls. 

He patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists. He’s told he will be held over an extra 2 months.

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight. 

He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

You hug and kiss your girlfriend, like you do everyday.

He holds his letter close and smells his love’s perfume.

You roll your eyes as a baby cries. 

He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they’ll ever meet.

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything. 

He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him. 

He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded.

You see only what the media wants you to see. 

He sees the broken bodies lying around him.

You are asked to do something by your parents. You don’t. 

He does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger.

You stay at home and watch TV. 

He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat.

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable.

He tries to sleep but gets woken by mortars and helicopters all night long.

If you support your troops, send this to 13 people. 

REMEMBER our Troops, and do not forget them LATER
Lest we forget – KEEP THE CHAIN GOING

Prepare for Your Interview: 25 Questions Interviewers are using

Athletes practice before contests. Musicians practice prior to a concert. Actors rehearse prior to their performances. So, why would anyone show up at a job interview without thoughtful preparation?

Candidates that are prepared for an interview increase their chances of winning the job by a wide margin. They not only ask good questions, but they listen more attentively, and converse with greater confidence.

If you are looking for a job or wanting to make a career change, you should prepare like an athlete or performer. How to Practice:

  • Do the research on the company.
  • Study your written resume and make sure that you know the years of your work history, the names of your supervisors, and the skills that you acquired while employed.
  • Prepare answers to the following list of 25 questions included below.
  • Map Quest the office or interview location. A travel practice the day prior is a good idea. This can eliminate stress the day of the interview. Additional stress with directions is a distraction you don’t need and can affect your answers during the interview.

The interviewer will try to ask probing questions to gain as much information and knowledge about you as possible. They will expect you to do 80% of the talking.  Your 80% will come from your answers to their questions. Their questions will take up 20% of the interview time. So…you need to be ready, willing, thoughtful, and prepared.

The interviewer will be listening to your answers to formulate more questions and more conversation to begin to build a relationship with you. The stronger the relationship built during the interview, advantage gained for a second interview or even the job offer.

What would be your answers to the questions listed below?  Practice your answers to these questions. Ask yourself what you think they are saying about you as a person, an employee, and as a team player? You may not like these questions, or you may even think they are stupid questions. And some of them might be stupid, but that is also a necessary part of the practice. Here you go:

  1. Why do you want to work here?
  2. Tell me what you know about our organization
  3. Tell me about your biggest accomplishment
  4. How do you handle stress?
  5. Describe the strengths you would bring to this position
  6. What time is your peak performance time of the day?
  7. Are you a team player
  8. Explain, “Team to me? What does it mean to you?
  9. Define Loyalty, Define Integrity, Define Trust
  10. What color best represents your personality?
  11. If you could be a super hero, who would you be?
  12. Who is your favorite cartoon character?
  13. What is your favorite book?
  14. Describe your favorite meal?
  15. If you could go camping anywhere, where would you place your tent?
  16. Do you enjoy doing puzzles?
  17. What is your purpose in Life?
  18. How well do you take direction?
  19. Do you consider yourself self motivated? Why?
  20. Tell me about the most difficult situation you have faced personally or professionally?
  21. Do you prefer working with others or alone?
  22. How do you work with others?
  23. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
  24. How do you deal with difficult people?
  25. Why should I hire you?

Shop with a Hero

This Christmas season Flint River Baptist Church (FRBC) will be partnering with several local businesses, including Chick-fil-a and Target for a  “Shop with a Hero” event.  “Shop with a Hero” is a program that provides Christmas for disadvantaged children from low-income families that experienced hard ships. FRBC is working with Hazel Green Elementary School in Hazel Green, Alabama. The school faculty and staff are in the process of identifying children who would best benefit from this program.  Each child will be presented a gift card ( in the amount of $100.00) to use as they choose while shopping for their families. Chick-fil-A will provide breakfast for the children and their families.  The children and their parent/guardian will then be bussed to the Target store at 2757 Carl T Jones Drive in (Jones Valley) Huntsville, AL.

This is where the request for military members (the Hero’s) comes in to play. FRBC asks the military members who volunteer for this event to be at the Target store, in a dress uniform, at 09:30, on Saturday, December 8, 2012. Between 09:30 and 10:00 the “Hero’s” will be briefed on what to expect and how to guide the children while shopping (hint: the first gift the children usually want to buy  is for their mothers). At 10:00, we will begin pairing each child with their “Hero” (one of our area military personnel) who will be their host and escort for this shopping event.

FRBC will not know exactly how many military “Hero’s”  they will need until they complete our fundraising events and reach a final  number with Hazel Green school (best guess at this time is about 200). They expect each “shopping event” to take from 40 minutes to 1 hour. If you are willing to volunteer to be a “Hero” for one or more children on December 8, 2012, or want more information, please contact:
Emily Scroggins at emily.scoggins@frbc.org or by phone (256) 828-3692  (09:00 – 16:00).

– OR –
 Tom Mack at tomjanegirls@yahoo.com (any time)  or by phone home (256) 701-5756 (any time)  or (cell) 703-200-7384 (after 17:00 please).

Help the Military Child Education Coalition earn FREE flights!

Your corporate and personal travel can benefit the Military Children Education Coalition (MCEC) just by entering a simple code at checkout. When flying on American and Delta, entering MCEC’s Corporate ID along with your Frequent Flyer information allows the MCEC to earn valuable points towards free and discounted flights.

Immediate benefits allow more military-connected kids, teens and educators to receive valuable training! They have already sent students and trainers across the country using these points. Please remember the MCEC when traveling! Feel free to pass this information along to your coworkers, administrative assistants, travel agents and family members.

Using Delta?

When traveling Delta, book flights on Delta.com and earn SkyBonus points. To use this option, simply enter the MCEC account number: US742889416 in the SkyBonus ID field found right below the space to enter your first, middle and last name.

Using American Airlines?

On American Airlines, MCEC’s corporate Business ExtrAA number is 755517. To maximize the value of your Business ExtrAA® membership, make sure your account number is added to your company’s flight reservations with American Airlines. By taking this simple step, you will receive point credit for all of your eligible travel.