Tag Archives: family

Resource Spotlight: Priority Veteran

Priority Veteran

Priority Veteran provides intensive one-on-one assistance to help veterans locate stable permanent housing and link them to resources to gain the skills and knowledge to help them remain financially stable. Case Managers help veterans create a Housing Stability Plan as well as access medical or mental health services, veteran’s benefits enrollment, job search assistance, financial coaching and more.

In partnership with United Way of Central Alabama, Priority Veteran provides veterans across Alabama with federal, state and local resources; linking veterans to hope. Priority Veteran began offering services to veterans in October 2013 with a $2 million Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

What is Priority Veteran?

It is a service coordination program for homeless veterans and their families to help them secure permanent, sustainable housing and provide access to resources such as medical or mental health services, benefits enrollment, job search assistance, financial coaching, etc.

Who qualifies for Priority Veteran?

  • Veterans and their family members who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
  • Very low income veterans based on area income standards
  • Veterans discharged other than dishonorable
  • Veterans with 24 months of service or with a VA Medical Card

What does ‘homeless’ mean?

The veteran (and family) does not have fixed, regular and adequate nighttime shelter or will lose nighttime shelter within a short period of time.

What are some of the services Veterans can receive from Priority Veteran?

Priority Veteran offers can assist low-income, homeless or at-risk veteran families with:

  • obtaining permanent, stable housing
  • obtaining VA benefits
  • obtaining federal and/or state benefits
  • accessing community-based resources
  • obtaining/completing employment training
  • obtaining employment
  • Advocacy in landlord/tenant disputes
  • Advocacy in rent/utility arrearages
  • Temporary Financial Assistance
    • Deposits
    • Rent assistance
    • Moving costs
    • General housing supplies
    • Utility assistance

Can families get help for a veteran?

Yes, services are for veterans and their families.  Veterans have to voluntarily agree to a Housing Stability Plan.  Families can call Priority Veteran and encourage veterans to enroll.

Can veterans get financial assistance from Priority Veteran?

Priority Veteran can assist with the cost of some service(s) in the Housing Stability Plan if the veteran will be homeless if that service is not provided.  This decision is made on a case-by-case basis.


Find out more about Priority Veteran and how to contact them by visiting their website: http://priorityveteran.org/priorityveteran/


Resource Spotlight: Companion and Service Dogs for Veterans

Article by Emma White

Companion and Service Dogs: A New Way to Help Veterans

Men and women in active service go through a great deal in the course of their work, and the sad fact is, many are permanently altered, either physically or psychologically, by what they experience. For Veterans who return home and resume life outside the military it’s a hard road to travel, and it’s one that can have many obstacles. One of the most profound and the most prevalent is the difficulty of coming to terms with combat experiences, and the feelings of isolation that often result. For some Veterans, their experiences can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, making the adjustment to a “normal” life even more problematic.

The results of a number of major studies show that Veterans have a very high risk of depression and PTSD: 20% of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have either or both of these disorders. For PTSD that’s more than five times the rate at which it occurs in the general population. People with PTSD often have insomnia, experience difficulty concentrating, and are quick to anger. Many live in a state of hyper-vigilance, highly stressed, sensitive to movement and noise, and with a tendency to overreact to even small stimuli. These very distressing symptoms are all things that contribute to the high rates of substance abuse and suicide among Veterans, but they are symptoms that can be treated, with therapy, medication, and the passage of time.

Companion Dogs can Provide Simple but Important Benefits

Service dogs were first trained in the 19th century to help people with visual impairments, and Veterans have been using guide dogs since World War I. Despite the well-documented benefits of dogs as service animals they weren’t trained to help people with other types of disabilities until the 1970s. These days, dogs and other animals are trained to help people with many different physical, neurological, and psychological disabilities, including PTSD. Anyone who has ever owned a pet—particularly one of the warm and furry kind—will already know that that can be an important source of comfort for someone in distress, but dogs can do a great deal more than provide emotional support for Veterans. Small surveys of companion and service dog owners have already shown that they provide many benefits to their owners, not the least of which is an alleviation of the isolation and loneliness that many Veterans feel.

Most organizations that train dogs for Veterans provide either companion dogs, or service dogs, although some supply both. Often they can accommodate preferences in terms of breed and size of the dog someone would prefer, so for someone interested in a companion or service dog, it can be helpful to think about favorite or suitable breeds while making applications.

There are small but significant differences between a companion dog and a service dog—companion dogs are more pets than anything else, although these organizations do pay particular attention to the personalities of the dogs they select for companion animal training. On the other hand, service dogs are specially trained to perform specific tasks, and those tasks depend on the individual needs of their owners. For example, a service dog might be trained to help their owner recover from a panic attack, or remind their owner to take medication. Amazingly, some companion and service dogs can actually detect signs of an impending panic attack, nightmare, or similar crisis in their owners, helping them to prevent the attack or reduce its severity.

Companion and Service Dog Organizations for Veterans

Multiple organizations exist with the specific purpose of locating suitable dogs for Veterans who would like a companion animal, or who would benefit from a service dog. The dogs can provide amazing benefits to Veterans, and because these organizations match applicants with dogs from rescue shelters, the animals themselves receive a wonderful gift too, in the form of a new home and a new life.

K9s for Warriors is located in Ponte Vedra Beach,Florida and trains service dogs for Veterans with PTSD.

Paws for Veterans trains service dogs for Veterans with psychological and physical disabilities.

Pets for Vets is one of the largest organizations providing companion dogs, with more than 20 chapters located all over the country.

Soldier’s Best Friend in Glendale,Arizona trains service and therapeutic dogs for Veterans with PTSD or certain other disabilities.

Service Dogs in the Future

As of 2014 the Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting an ongoing study that looks at how service dogs can help Veterans with PTSD. If the study shows that service dogs provide significant benefits, it’s possible that in the future service dog ownership will be made an allowable Veteran benefit, with subsidies for the costs of ownership and training.



Animal Planet. “Dog Breed Selector.” Accessed May 23, 2014.

Clinical Trials.gov. “Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Research evaluating service dogs.

Congressional Research Service. “A Guide to US Military Casualty Statistics.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Statistics relating to recent military operations.

History.com. “Assistance Dogs: Learning New Tricks for Centuries.” Accessed May 23, 2014. History of service dogs.

Psychguides. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Treatment, and Effects.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Emotional and physical symptoms.

RAND Corporation. “Invisible Wounds of War.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Psychological effects of active service.

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After Korean War Veteran Pilot Dies, Family Donates Belongings to Local Vets in Need

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on May 23, 2014 at 11:22 AM, updated May 25, 2014 at 2:40 PM

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – In 1968, Lt. Col. Andy Andrews was sent to Vietnam.

Lt. Col. Robert Joseph Michael “Andy” Andrews with a P-51 Mustang. Andrews was a U.S. Air Force pilot who flew combat missions in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. (Submitted)

An Air Force fighter pilot since receiving his silver wings in 1945 at age 19, Andrews had just finished training on the F-4 Phantom II fighter jet – the backbone of the U.S. Air Force.

“The Phantom was the love of his life,” recalled Andrews’ son Brian. “He loved that plane.”

The Vietnam War was at its peak, and Andrews was stationed in Thailand with the 8thTactical Fighter Wing. During his tour of duty, he flew 102 missions, providing close air support to ground troops.

The F-4 Phantom is a two-seater jet, with the pilot in front (that was Andrews) and a radar intercept officer behind. Andrews jokingly called whoever was in the plane with him “Gib,” short for “guy in back.”

For the majority of the missions Andrews flew in Vietnam, “Gib” was his buddy Matt Henrikson. The two had a close bond, said Brian Andrews, the unshakeable kind of friendship forged in the thick of combat.

Henrikson, who lives now in Virginia, will make the trip next week to say his last goodbyes to his friend.

On Friday, Andrews will be buried with full military honors at the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

A decorated veteran of both the Vietnam and Korean Wars, Andrews died unexpectedly last summer in Huntsville at the age of 87. His body was cremated, according to his wishes, and his family held services both in Huntsville – where his son and daughter-in-law live – and in Colorado Springs, where he spent the bulk of his retirement after his 31-year career in the Air Force.

Brian and his wife Lisa speak fondly and reverently about Brian’s father, and the life he led. Even though his death was sudden, they worked to find a way to pass on his legacy through the donation of his possessions to local veterans in need through the Huntsville-based Still Serving Veterans organization.

WWII and Korea

Andy Andrews was 17 in 1943 when one of his neighborhood buddies – a few years older – came home on leave during World War II, telling stories about flying fighter planes. Andy knew immediately he wanted to fly them, too.

He went to the local recruiting office to sign up, but the recruiters sent him home because he wasn’t 18. When he did turn 18 in November 1944, they called him back and sent him to basic training.

At 19 he graduated from the Army Air Force pilot training program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in October 1945, just a few months after the war ended.

Every member of Andrews’ graduating class was dismissed from service and sent home…except Andrews. He stayed in the service and was assigned to accompany coffins bearing the remains of servicemen as they were sent home to their families.

In 1949, Andrews was one of the youngest to be sent to jet pilot school. Shortly afterward he was shipped overseas to the Korean War, where he flew an F-86 Sabre jet in 61 missions before contracting malaria and being evacuated from Korea.

At some point soon after he began losing his hair – possibly due to his illness. Being a no-nonsense kind of person, he decided to just shave it all off. He got married, and had a son – Brian Andrews – in the 1950s.

My dad’s the kind of guy who wanted to have all the information that was available because he planned everything to the last detail.

A decorated career

Andrews was sent for a year-long tour to Vietnam from 1968-1969. After he returned, he was assigned to positions with the Air Defense Command and NORAD. He had reached the highest rank he could achieve in the Air Force without a college degree, and retired from the Air Force after serving 31 years.

Among his 30 awards and decorations are three Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight Air Medals, the Bronze Star, a Joint Services Commendation Medal, two Meritorious Service Medals and four Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.

It’s unusual for an Air Force pilot to fly nearly 30 years, said Brian. But Andy Andrews loved flying – so much so that he was flying combat missions in Vietnam at the age of 43.

A lasting legacy

Brian and his wife Lisa moved to Huntsville eight years ago, and spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince Andy to move here so they could better care for him. After decades spent flying, Andrews had lung problems and needed to use an oxygen tank in the thin Colorado air. Eventually, he agreed to come to Huntsville. The couple meticulously planned an apartment for him.

“My dad’s the kind of guy who wanted to have all the information that was available because he planned everything to the last detail,” said Brian. “He used to call the apartment manager frequently, and they got to be really good friends. He was friends with the maintenance supervisor before he moved here.”

Late last summer, Andy moved into his new apartment. The Andrews looked forward to introducing him to the strong military retiree community in Huntsville.

But one day later, tragedy struck. The Andrews came to Andy’s new apartment, bringing his favorite chicken pot pie for dinner. Andy had trouble unlocking the door for them, and fell back, breaking his hip.

He was rushed to the hospital, and underwent hip replacement surgery. A few days after surgery his health began declining as he had difficulty breathing.  He died Aug. 3.

Many friends, family and neighbors came out for his memorial services in Huntsville at the Church of the Nativity, Episcopal and in Colorado Springs.

Afterward, Brian and Lisa Andrews had a brand-new apartment, completely furnished, but empty.

“We could have just had an estate sale, but Lisa had the idea that it would be great if maybe there was a veteran who could use some of my dad’s things,” said Brian. “We wanted them to go to a good home, to someone who would appreciate them.”

The couple talked with a neighbor who worked for Still Serving Veterans, a Huntsville-based nonprofit organization that helps veterans and their families transition to post-military life through services like job coaching, VA claims assistance and connections to community resources.

SSV arranged to help the Andrews donate most of Andy Andrews’ belongings to local veterans in need. Some of his memorabilia was donated to SSV for display in the office.

“I think he would be very pleased,” said Brian of his dad. “He was a strong supporter of the military. Even as an officer, he really identified with the younger airmen who might need help getting their feet off the ground.”

The Andrews waited purposefully for spring to bury Andy. He qualified for burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, but the Andrews chose the Black Hills National Cemetery because Lisa’s father is also buried there, and they have family in the area.

“Dad was a very generous guy,” said Brian Andrews. “I think he would be very pleased with the way this has been wrapped up, and all the people who have benefited from his legacy.”

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East Alabama Office Ribbon Cutting!

Our new East Alabama office is up and running! To celebrate, we are holding a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, May 6th. The office is located at 3601 C Summerville Rd., Phenix City, AL 36867. The ceremony will begin at 2:00pm and refreshments will follow. We’d love to see you there!


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Mazda Military Appreciation-Free Race Admission/Hospitality

Mazdas53NoBackgroundLR.jpgIn honor of National Military Appreciation Month (May), Freedom Autosport has teamed up with Mazda and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to provide FREE general admission to all active military in uniform and veterans with military ID who attend the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, powered by Mazda on Saturday May 3. The day will include opportunities for VIP hot laps, autograph sessions, tech talks, driver meet and greets, and garage tours, and feature a special Military Hospitality Area sponsored by Freedom Autosport and MAZDA Motorsports.

Free lunch will be provided for active military, veterans and families.

Freedom Autosport will also be providing free t-shirts to military families while supplies last

The Monterey Peninsula’s love affair with world-class racing traces its beginnings to the inaugural running of the Pebble Beach Road Races in 1950. Those sports car events quickly outgrew the public roads of the Del Monte Forest yet the popularity of the races and the financial impact on the community had impressed the military authorities at Fort Ord and they wanted to pick up where Pebble Beach left off. In 1957 the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), a group of local businessmen dedicated to keeping sports car racing alive on the Monterey Peninsula, began negotiations with the Army to build a race track on Fort Ord property. Major General W.M. Breckenridge cut the ribbon at the new facility for its first race November 9, 1957.

In addition, there is a 30% military discount on tickets for Friday and Sunday . Please contact the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca ticket office in advance at 800-327-7322 to receive the military discount.  Click HERE for more information about the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, powered by Mazda, May 2-4.


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Resource Spotlight: Free Tax Preparation Assistance


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.

Operation Christmas Bear by NAVFOC

Operation Christmas Bear

The North Alabama Veterans Coalition is holding their 10th Annual Operation Christmas Bear event this weekend! In case you haven’t heard, it is a free event for the families of our deployed, or recently deployed Servicemembers, including all Active duty Guard, Reservists, & Deployed DOD Civilians.

It will be held at the Jaycees Building on Airport on Saturday, Dec. 14 from 1pm to 4pm. There will be food, drinks, and tons of fun! Santa arrives at 1:30 by fire truck and free portraits with Santa will be available!

View their flyer for details and registration info here: Operation Christmas Bear

Learn more about the North Alabama Veterans Coalition here: NAVFOC.org