Category Archives: Uncategorized

Resource Spotlight: Veterans Business Assistance Center – An Outreach Program of WBCNA

The Women’s Business Center of North Alabama (WBCNA) is an organization that helps women and men start and grow a business and generate economic growth for the region. This is accomplished by serving as the premier source for information and access to resources; facilitating their self-discovery and personal development; and providing a mentoring process to support, nurture and advocate the development of their business.

WBCNA also has an outreach program called Veterans Business Assistance Center (VBAC) that specializes in assisting Veterans in becoming entrepreneurs. The VBAC provides critical training and resources to Veterans in our region who are starting or growing small businesses that contribute to our community’s economic growth and job creation.

WBCNA VBAC logo

“We are coaching more and more Veterans who want to own their own business,” says Joanne Randolph, President and CEO of WBCNA. “We have already reached out to Veterans who are successful business owners and they have generously offered their support in helping other Veterans get started and to grow.” Business coaches who have already offered their services are:

  • Larry Anderson, President of ALATEC, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business
  • Joe Fitzgerald, President of Decision Sciences Company and Founder of Honor Flight
  • Rob Kuehn, President & CEO of Silver Eagle Consulting, a Veteran Owned Small Business
  • Kris McGuire, CEO of Victory Solutions, Inc., a Service Disabled Veteran and Woman Owned Small Business

The following services are being offered to all U.S. Military Veterans, Service-Disabled Veterans, Reservists, National Guard Members, and Active Duty business owners and start-up entrepreneurs in North Alabama:

  • One-on-one business coaching by successful Veteran business owners
  • Networking opportunities and business matchmaking
  • Website resources for Veterans
  • Comprehensive Entrepreneurial Training

Most of these services are free and only minimal fees are charged for training. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 256-535-2038 Mon-Fri from 8am-5pm. For more information you can email info@wbcna.org. Their facilities are conveniently located at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce at 225 Church Street.

View the VBAC website, VABAC online resources, and WBCNA scheduled events.

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Wives & Warriors

Poem by Valerie Moore for S/SGT Lawrence H. Moore, USMC

I could not have loved you
more if you had been that
perfect returning warrior.

In fact, I might have loved
you less if our days & nights
had been filled with the
ordinariness of life.

And ours were not ordinary
times; for our moments were
filled with apprehension, and the
shock of intruding memory
on our days mercifully
surrendered its own past for our
here & now.

I could not have loved you
more because our shared
grief birthed compassion
when we forgave the
unforgivable in each other
while we wives & warriors held on for even more.

Resource Spotlight: Free Tax Preparation Assistance

Taxes

Tax season is here! We are all aware of how complicated filing your taxes can be and to ensure you get back everything you deserve, having a little help doesn’t hurt. Unfortunately, many places require a fee for their service – but there is free help out there. Below are a few organizations that will help you file your taxes at no charge.

First off, here is a list of some items you will need to bring (some requirements may vary):

  • Proof of identification – Picture ID
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

It is extremely important that each person use the correct Social Security Number. The most accurate information is usually located on your original Social Security card. If you do not have an SSN for you or a dependent, you should complete Form SS-5, Social Security Number Application. This form should be submitted to the nearest Social Security Administration Office.

If you or your dependent is not eligible to get a Social Security Number, you may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Below are the different programs and organizations that you may be able to take advantage of:

Find a VITA Site Near YouVITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) – Help for Low Income Individuals/Families
The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $52,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations.

There are thousands of VITA sites located across the country. You may find a site near you between January and April using the VITA Locator Tool or call 1-800-906-9887.

TCE (Tax Counseling For The Elderly)
The TCE Program offers free tax help for all with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

Find a TCE or AARP Tax-Aide Site Near You
A majority of the TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide Program. To locate the nearest TCE site or AARP Tax-Aide site between January and April use the AARP Site Locator Tool or call 888-227-7669.

Self-Help Tax Preparation – For Simple Returns or Those No Computer Access
In addition to traditional face-to-face tax preparation, the IRS is offering a self-assistance service at many VITA and TCE locations. If individuals have a simple tax return and need a little help or do not have access to a computer, they can visit one of the participating tax preparation sites and an IRS-certified volunteer will guide them through the process.

Local Tax Support for Low Income Families

UAHuntsville, along with United Way of Madison County, will be offering free tax preparation and fast electronic filing for households earning less than $52,000 per year with one or more children or $20,000 per year without children. The free tax preparations begin mid-January. For appointments call: 1-888-99-TAX-AL (1-888-99-829-25).

There will be two locations: Optimist Recreation Center (703 Oakwood Ave, Hsv, AL 35811) and United Way of Madison County (701 Andrew Jackson Way, Hsv, AL 35801)

Local Tax Support for Military Families

The Office of the Staff Judge Advocate offers free tax assistance and electronic filing for state and federal taxes to Military Family Members.

You can call 256-840-1040 to make a reservation or ask a tax question.

Blinded Veterans Association Scholarship Available

bvacirlogoThe Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) will award 7 scholarships for the 2014‑2015 academic year.  There will be six (6) scholarships for $2,000 each available through the Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program and one (1) for $1,000 offered through the Thomas H. Miller Scholarship Program.  The Scholarship Committee will choose seven 7 recipients and three alternates.  This is the 31st year of the program.

Dependent children, grandchildren, and spouses of blinded veterans to include Active Duty blinded service members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible for the scholarships.  The veteran must be legally blind; the blindness may either be service‑connected or non‑service connected.  The veteran need not be a member of the Blinded Veterans Association.  Additional­ly, to be eligible for the scholarship, an applicant must have been accepted for admission, or already be enrolled, as a full-time student in an accredited institution of higher education, or business, secretarial or vocational training school.

The scholarships are intended to be used to defray a student’s educational expenses, including tuition, books and other academic fees.  Scholarship payments will be made by the BVA directly to the educational institution.

Applications for the scholarship may be obtained from our website: www.bva.org/services.html. Requests can also be made by email to:temanuel@bva.org or by mailing your request to:  Blinded Veterans Association, 477 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC  20001-2694.

Completed applications and supporting materials must be returned to the BVA by no later than Friday, April 18, 2014 to qualify for the 2014‑2015 academic year scholarship program.  Due to time constraints related to processing the applications for the Scholarship Committee’s review, applications arriving subsequent to the aforementioned deadline WILL NOT be accepted.

Scholarships will be awarded on a “most-highly-qualified” basis utilizing the following criteria: answers to questions in the application form; transcripts of high school and/or college records; three letters of reference; and a 300-word essay on the applicant’s post-education, lifetime career goals and aspirations.

Each scholarship is awarded for one year only.  Applicants are advised that the number of scholarships a recipient may receive under each program will be limited to four (4).

The Blinded Veterans Association is a national non‑profit organization concerned with the welfare of blinded veterans.  Founded in 1945 by a group of veterans who were blinded in World War II, the BVA is chartered by the U. S. Congress and serves as the official representative of blinded veterans throughout the United States.  The Blinded Veterans Association has been providing service to blinded veterans for over 68 years.

View/Download Application Instructions

View/Download Application

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First Job Fair in Opelika was a Success

ImageYesterday our team in Opelika held their first job fair. A local news station came down to talk to the team and capture the action. Here is what they had to say:

(WTVM) http://goo.gl/p5ZfoP

A non-profit organization called Still Serving Veterans, created to empower and help veterans, held its first job fair in Opelika, Ala. today, Jan. 23. Retired warriors in Alabama and Georgia attended the event in hopes of finding jobs, enhancing their resumes, and network with various companies looking for workers.

Still Serving Veterans began in Huntsville, Ala. in 2006. The organization was originally created to serve severely wounded veterans. However, Bill Koch, the Director of Still Serving Veterans, explained that the mission changed for the better. Now, the organization serves all healthy and wounded veterans of all era.

The organization came to Opelika in May of 2013. About 30 veterans attended the first job fair, and Still Serving Veterans members were confident that they would see bigger number next time.

“We moved to Opelika and opened an office here, because of the city’s proximity to Fort Benning,” Bill Koch said. “Veterans do not have to search and wonder about who and what groups are out there to help them. Veterans can just come to us, and we will take care of them.”

All Still Serving Veterans services are free to veterans.

Image

Jerry Martin is a veteran who worked for the National Guard for 34 years.

“This is my very first job fair ever,” Martin said. “I still want to work for another 10 to 20 years. I would love to score a job here. However, I know this is a building block for me. I’ll probably see some of these same individuals again in different job fairs. I’ll learn skills today that I will be able to use in the near future as well. “

Another veteran, 38 year old Jeremy Ellis, landed his first civilian job as work force development associate for the Opelika office of Still Serving Veterans. Ellis was medically retired after 20 years of serving in the US Army infantry.

“I joined the Army infantry when I was 17, right out of high school,” Ellis. “I retired at 37. This is my first civilian job, and it is so different from being a soldier.”

Ellis said he enjoys the new job he started August of 2013. He likes that his job focuses on helping other veterans find jobs.

“Taking care of a brother, sister and fellow combat or veteran and those who served their time is such an honor,” Ellis said. “To help warriors transition and find jobs is amazing. When some of these guys call me and thank me to say, ‘I got a new career, money is in my account, food is on the table, bills are paid.’ That’s the biggest thing.”

Interested veterans in the Chattahoochee Valley can visit Still Serving Veterans website at: http://www.stillservingveterans.org

Veterans can make appointments to discuss health care, benefits, jobs and more.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Helpful Hints from Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

Guard and Reserve Families: Get Connected!

When National Guard and Reserve members receive orders to deploy, there often isn’t much time to prepare. Knowing about all of the available resources, services, and benefits in advance will help you and your family face deployment more readily.

Have you heard of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program? Managed by the Department of Defense and the Services, Yellow Ribbon connects you with the information and support you may need throughout each stage of the deployment cycle. The program hosts hundreds of free nationwide events specifically tailored for each Service. By attending a local Yellow Ribbon event, you will receive assistance in navigating the challenges of deployment and reintegration.

Experts who understand the deployment experience lead breakout sessions on financial management, legal planning, healthcare, benefits, employment, relationships, and family well-being. Many events also offer special youth programs and free childcare. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with fellow Guard and Reserve families who understand the issues you may be facing.

Your family doesn’t have to deal with the difficulties of deployment in isolation. Reach out to Yellow Ribbon today! Register for an event in your region at www.yellowribbonevents.org.

Marie Balocki is the Director of the Office for Reintegration Programs at the Department of Defense. In addition to being an Army spouse for more than 30 years, she has served military families around the globe as a volunteer and Federal civilian for 18 years.

Support Guard and Reserve Members in Your Community! 

In towns and communities across the country, National Guard and Reserve members are living double lives. Forget what you’ve seen in spy movies! These men and women are not only maintaining civilian lifestyles, but they also can be called to military service at any time. Guard and Reserve members regularly drill and train in preparation for national emergencies, like disaster relief, international missions, or combat overseas.

In recent years, the nation has increasingly called on the Guard and Reserve more frequently and for longer deployments. Last year, Service members averaged more than 130 Active Duty days. This trend is expected to continue.

What does that mean to those of us in the community? You probably know someone in the Guard and Reserve or someone with a family member who serves. The stress of multiple deployments weighs heavily on those Service members and their loved ones. They need the ongoing support of their friends, neighbors and local resource providers.

For the last five years, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program has also stepped in to share the information and resources that help Service members and their families navigate the challenges of deployment. Yellow Ribbon offers free events nationwide, specifically tailored for each Service and stage of the deployment cycle. Experts lead breakout sessions on financial management, legal planning, health care, benefits, employment, relationships, and family well-being. Participants also have the opportunity to connect with fellow Guard and Reserve families who understand the issues you may be facing. Many events also offer special youth programs and free childcare.

Help us spread the word to Service members and their families in your community. Learn more about Yellow Ribbon at www.yellowribbon.mil or find an event in your region at www.yellowribbonevents.org.

Marie Balocki is the Director of the Office for Reintegration Programs at the Department of Defense. In addition to being an Army spouse for more than 30 years, she has served military families around the globe as a volunteer and Federal civilian for 18 years.

Guard and Reserve Members: Deployment Checklist

When you receive military orders, time to prepare is often limited. This quick checklist is designed to help you ensure your affairs are in order and your family is ready, no matter how long the mission.

  • Update important documents, including Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), ID cards, living will, beneficiaries on financial accounts and Powers of Attorney.
  • Create a spending plan that includes your income and expenses (both planned and emergency).
  • Designate a trusted person to monitor your finances during deployment and be sure he or she has access to all account numbers and passwords.
  • Double check that your will is up to date and accurately captures your wishes regarding property, assets and the guardianship of any minor children.
  • Develop a family communication plan to help you set and manage each other’s expectations during deployment. Define the methods that work best (email, letters, instant message, Skype).

For more intensive preparation, attend a free Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event in your region. Yellow Ribbon events are tailored to every Service and deployment stage, offering information for military members and their loved ones. Led by deployment experts, the events include free sessions on financial management, legal planning, health care, benefits, employment, relationships, and family well-being. Participants also have the opportunity to build support networks with fellow Guard and Reserve families.

Get connected today! Find and register for a free event in your community at www.yellowribbonevents.org.

Travis Bartholomew is the Director of Outreach Services for the Office for Reintegration Programs at the Department of Defense. He has 16 years of experience serving in the Army Reserve, including deployments, and  13 years of experience serving military families as a Federal civilian.