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The nerd-in-residence

The Department of Veterans Affairs has named me a "nerd-in-residence." You can find more under VA team bios > Craig Newmark.

I really am a nerd, old-school, wore a plastic pocket protector, and glasses taped together, in the early sixties. I can now simulate social behavior for an hour, two hours tops, but then I start getting cranky. nerd-4

Far as my team's concerned, this makes me the biggest nerd in the USA…

maybe the world.

(As you see, I'm comfortable being a nerd, and also, I might have a sense of humor. I don't seem to be too concerned with dignity.)

On the other hand, I'm a customer service rep for craigslist, have been for more than eighteen years, and that changes humans. The stuff I do, I can see we help people put food on the table, and that matters.

The job also reminds me that crap rolls downhill, aimed at people with jobs that can be grinding and thankless. For example, I've first-hand seen that thousands of frontline VA people are doing everything in their power to do right by Vets, but government employees are being demonized or neglected.

(Dilbert is an excellent reference work regarding this. I've always resisted despair, that's Wally; I'm Dilbert.)

Ever since connecting with the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America I've been getting more and more involved with military family and veterans' efforts.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing some really good stuff for vets that no one hears about, catching up since 2009. I've helped, in a very minor way for several years, now I gotta do more, for VA, military families, and vets.

Anyway, a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

Military Spouse Unemployment Backgrounder: Defining the Problem

Hey, I was talking with Blue Star Families (BSF) last month, and one of our big topics of conversation was the crises of military spouse unemployment. This is a really big deal, and something that Blue Star Families' identified through their annual survey.

Like lots of American families, lots of military families need two earners for financial stability and to achieve their families goals.  The crises of spouse unemployment really undermines our population, especially when they're most vulnerable – during transition, if a service member wants to go back to school, in case of injury or PTSD, etc.  BSF really has their feet on the ground working hard to craft solutions, and they've outlined some of the main concerns below.

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Unemployment rate for military spouses is many times higher than US average.

  • Our country should be proud of the robust programs and public-private partnerships that have successfully lowered the veteran unemployment rate in recent years; however, joblessness among the spouses of active duty service members has remained alarmingly high and largely unnoticed: 3-4 times the rate of most vets and of the general public.
  • Through over a decade of war military spouses have sacrificed and supported the service member and our country, now it’s time to help them find jobs.
    The Blue Star Families 2013 survey showed that more than half of the spouses who are not working want to be working now.

Military spouses want and need unemployment but can’t find it.

  • Addressing the military spouse unemployment problem isn’t just the right thing to do for military spouses who have also sacrificed during 12 years of war—it’s also the smart thing to do.  RAND research has found military spouse employment to be an essential source of income for most military families.
  • 91,000 or 1 in 4 military spouses who are actively looking for work are unable to find it—that translates into a 26% unemployment rate among military spouses.

Military spouses experience the same career challenges as their civilian counterparts; however, they also face additional obstacles to pursuing employment that are specific to the military lifestyle.

  • Military families move every 2-4 years and will reside in 8-12 different locations during a typical 20 year career.
  • Many military bases are located in remote locations, removed from many opportunities for traditional career employment.

When military spouses are able to find a job, they work fewer hours and for less pay than individuals with similar educations, experience, and marital status.

  • Military spouses earn 25% less than comparable individuals not married to service members.
  • Implications Include National Security and Stalled Demobilization/Reintegration Efforts.

Military spouse unemployment threatens the financial well-being and quality of life of military families, thus impacting national military retention and readiness.

  • Spouse employment is correlated with satisfaction with a military lifestyle and research suggests that spousal satisfaction is the most significant determinant in whether a service member will continue a military career.
  • The current US draw-down means over 100,000 military members will have made a transition out of the military within a few years.  Employed spouses facilitate the successful transition of service members to civilian life by providing a steady source of income while veteran is searching for a civilian job.

As in the civilian world, one (military or otherwise) salary alone does not usually sustain families and most military families want to be dual income families.

  • Causes are varied, but predominantly relate to job market alignment and poor employer understanding of the military family lifestyle.

A military family lifestyle means military spouses face additional challenges to employment.

  • Job market alignment challenges arising from frequent geographic re-locations, prolonged family separations and unpredictable work hours represent significant challenges to consistent employment and career growth for military spouses.

Many employers harbor erroneous conceptions or poor understanding of military spouses.

  • Military spouse resumes may have employment gaps or short periods of employment that suggest instability on unreliability; rather, it reflects military spouses’ resiliency, resourcefulness and commitment to supporting their active duty spouse and the needs of our country.
  • Solutions require broadly increasing awareness of the problem and connecting employers and military spouses to existing nonprofit and government initiatives.

Broader societal and employer awareness.

  • The Hiring our Heroes (HOH) program (sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce) holds military spouse hiring fairs at major US bases throughout the country, bringing corporate employers to military spouse communities.  Blue Star Families is honored to partner with Hiring our Heroes to make spouse hiring fairs a success.  HOH features the spouse’s guide to employment, the Blue Star Spouse Employment Toolkit, which BSF developed to help spouses translate significant volunteer experience into resume-ready information.

Developing quality portable and work-from-home positions for military spouses that enable employment continuity and career advancement.

  • Blue Star Jobs is Blue Star Families solution to remote locations, frequent moves, and heightened care-giving responsibilities.  It offers employers the opportunity to search and hire military spouses for work-at-home positions through a joint initiative with an on-line contract-job platform, oDesk.com.  Through Blue Star Jobs, military spouses can find career-quality contractor work they can do at home, in the hours they want to work, and have their jobs move with them when it is time to change duty stations.

Employment solutions must meet spouses where they are and be built into existing military family life structures rather than asking spouses to fit into or follow conventional/civilian employment advice.

Blue Star Networks enable spouses to establish professional networks in the most common military spouse professions, to find local information about the job market in an upcoming duty station, and obtain advice and tips about complying with new state licensing requirements. Blue Star Networks are run via Facebook in order to provide the dynamic and easily accessible delivery platform that makes it easy for military spouses to stay current on changing employment information and professional resources.

In addition, Blue Star Families has a number of education related programs to help get military spouses career-ready.

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To get more involved, folks, you can visit the Blue Star Family website, follow them on Twitter, or chat with them on Facebook.

A letter to Men Who Trust Women

Hey, Your support for Men Who Trust Women is really important.

Reproductive health's now center stage in political debates and legislation.

Men really can, should, and do play an important role in all of this.  Unfortunately, there are bad actors out there who oppose choice, and they often speak up to dominate the national conversation about women's health. I feel that we should treat everyone like we want to be treated, and that means everyone gets a break.

Men Who Trust Women is really making a difference though.  A new national initiative of the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women, Men Who Trust Women is the real deal. They're a vibrant and growing national network that really has their feet on the ground. They provide a unique opportunity for prominent men to play a visible, supportive, and influential role as allies for women's rights to make decisions about their health.

Your support for this Initiative's critical. In the US, the Declaration of Independence tells us that we're all equal under law, and I'm talking about following through with that.

The majority of the US public strongly supports the right to reproductive health care, including access to affordable contraception and legal abortion.  This is something that's really important.  But, here's the deal, opponents in state legislatures and in Congress continue to aggressively legislate away access to basic reproductive health care, with real consequences for our health and our democracy. States have passed laws banning abortion after only 6 weeks. Our Peace Corps members do not have access to coverage for abortion, and the military folks are only covered in rare, exceptional cases.

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Please join us as a Member of Men Who Trust Women, along with other prominent supporters, including Chip Conley (founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and author), Howard Dean MD (former Governor and presidential candidate), and Vinod Khosla (respected Venture Capitalist). We know that reproductive rights and democracy are essential to our own lives as family members, friends, colleagues, and we welcome this opportunity to speak out as leaders and express our views. It's just the right thing to do; and a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

If you're able, please take the opportunity to contribute your financial support. It's important to take a public stand for reproductive rights. You can donate online at Men Who Trust Women – Donate

Joe Brenner, National Coordinator of Men Who Trust Women, will contact you to discuss the Initiative's strategic program. We really appreciate all your support. It's not altruism, it just feels right.

Thanks!
Craig Newmark

VA gives vets up to a year of retroactive benefits for using FDCs to help reduce the backlog

VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs is reducing the backlog in disability claims with approaches including Fully Developed Claims, FDCs.

FDC processing is expedited, and can reduce the time and effort it takes for VA workers to get 'em done… which means they can focus on more difficult cases.The deal with an FDC is that a vet provides all supporting evidence they can find when they submit the claim. It's often easier for the vet to do that, since otherwise VA has to get it from the Department of Defense, which can take longer. (VA's working on this, more on that later.)

Vets can use eBenefits to file, simply log in and select "Apply for Benefits." Vets can also get help from Vets Service Orgs, who can do the same thing through their own online tools.

In turn, VA gives vets an incentive to file FDCs for disability compensation — by giving up to a year of awarded benefits if they use one. The incentive is part of the "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012."

Check details: only Veterans who are submitting their very first compensation claim as an FDC are potentially eligible for up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits under the newly implemented law.

For more: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2464

WiFi to help out with HIV/AIDS on Mfangano Island

Hey, I help out The Organic Health Response on Mfangano Island, and gave them some money a few months ago to help upgrade their wifi. You'll see them on the Teching Across the Globe map. They've been using IT and environmental sustainability on Mfangano Island in Western Kenya to work against HIV/AIDS across Lake Victoria. And I've been helping them over the years.

teching across the globe

Well recently, they provided me with a 2013 update about how the money I donated has helped them out:

"The Organic Health Response on Mfangano Island has recently upgraded its record-breaking WiFi link to provide expanded Internet access for rural users on this remote island.

Thanks to support from the craigconnects and craigslist Charitable Fund, OHR worked with SF-based Inveneo to implement new noise buffering dishes that strengthen their 90-km wireless link from the mainland to OHR's wind-powered tower on Mfangano. From this unique tower, they are also now able to provide access to commercial users at sites throughout the island.Their first client is the Ministry of Health who now receives 1MBS speeds for clinicians at a rural HIV/AIDS clinic in Sena village.

Through local innovation, hard work, strong global relationships, OHR, Inveneo, craigconnects, and craigslist Charitable Fund continue to move forward towards establishing East Africa's first Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) on Lake Victoria."

wifi efforts

This is real important stuff, and can help a lot of people out. More to come. I'd like to say that the sun never sets on the Nerdish Empire…