New, Free App Aids Military Families

MML in handMilitary families shouldn’t have to struggle to find information they need.

MyMilitaryLife, an app by the National Military Family Association, eliminates the stressful search by connecting families with credible and tailored information. With the new Military Spouses Advice feature, spouses can recommend resources and share their expertise.

Users have unique access to advice from fellow military family members. Spouses can also rate resources and provide reviews on programs and services they’ve used. MyMilitaryLife is free for both iPhone and Android devices.

Features include:

  • Customized to-do lists
  • Tailored suggestions based on branch of Service, location, and needs
  • User rating system for resources
  • Advice from fellow military spouses
  • Due date reminders
  • Notices of new programs
  • Emergency phone numbers specific to military family needs
  • Social networking features to share information

Please note: If you download this app from a smart phone, it’ll take you to the app store or Google Play (depending on the device). If you click from a computer, you’ll be redirected to the online version of the app. The only downside to the computer version is that it hasn’t been updated with the new feature above.

Regardless if you’re in the app or online, you can enter as a guest. As a guest, you can view content, but you’ve gotta create an account to add content.

Folks, it looks like a good attempt to provide milfams with the resources they need, but we need military spouses and family members to enter info on programs and add reviews for this to be effective.

Why I Support Vets

Photo Credit: U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs
Photo Credit: U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs

Bottom line: if someone volunteers to risk taking a bullet to protect me, I should stand up and help out.

This might date back to my mid-teens, towards the end of the Vietnam war. I saw returning vets getting treated without respect. At that time, I knew that was wrong, but couldn’t articulate it.

Maybe seven years ago, I was at a lunch, sitting next to a guy from the Iraq & Afghanistan Vets of America, IAVA.org. Finally, it clicked in, that this was the right way to support regular people who gave up a lot to protect us, and that includes their families.

Now, I’m on the board of IAVA, and am involved with a lot of vets and military families groups, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (I’m their official nerd-in-residence).

What are some reasons you support vets and military families?

5 Reasons We Need Social Change

Folks, I started this craigconnects thing because I really want to use tech to give a real voice to the voiceless, and real power to the powerless. Ever justicesince starting craigconnects, I’ve created a list of issues areas that I’m really focusing on. It’s important that we work together, as a community, and collaborate to create real social change. You can’t change the world from the top down.

Here are just 5 (of many) reasons we need social change:

  1. We seem to throw money into food and housing, yet a lot of folks are still in need, so something isn’t working right. This includes military families and veterans. We need to do it better.
  2. We need to improve the reentry experience of war veterans into the American economy and society. Less than 1% of Americans currently serve in the military, so this is a really important conversation to have. The conversation has already been started, we just need to keep collaborating and working toward our goals.
  3. Journalism Ethics. We need to ensure that journalism fulfills its role as the heart of democracy and its mission of seeking truth and building trust. The press should be the immune system of democracy. Turns out that what we have now are a lot of ethics codes and policies, but very little accountability. This is something I often discuss when I talk about trustworthy journalism in a fact-checking-free world. And this is also why I joined the board of Poynter, and work with the Columbia Journalism Review, Center for Public Integrity, and Sunlight Foundation.
  4. There are some real bad actors out there trying to implement laws to stop eligible people, including women, the elderly, and disenfranchised communities, from voting. What I learned in high school civics class is that an attack on voting rights is virtually the same as an attack on the country. We need to step up and remind folks that the Founders of the US tell us that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, meaning that citizens have the right to vote. And we need to protect that right.
  5. Today, women represent 12% of all computer science graduates. In 1984, they represented 37%. This number should be increasing, and we can change that. It’s important that we encourage girls and women to get involved in tech. Here’s more on the importance of girls in tech.

Personally, I’m a nerd, and feel that life should be fair, that everyone gets a chance to be heard, and maybe to help run things. Sure, life isn’t fair, but that won’t slow me down. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Note to self: JUST LISTEN. That is, don’t ALWAYS attempt to solve the problem, SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO LISTEN. (Courtesy of  “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen.)

5 Things You Should Know About the Military Consumer Campaign

Folks, “today’s service members and their families must be extra vigilant in guarding against scams and predatory lending practices. With separation from family and friends, frequent relocations, the stresses of deployment and a steady paycheck, scam artists are often quick to target [these communities].” Cmdr. Peter Hoegel says this over on the Department of Defense’s website in his article, 5 things you should know about the Military Consumer Campaign.

Photo illustration courtesy of the Office of Military Community and Family Policy
Photo illustration courtesy of the Office of Military Community and Family Policy

This has to do with bad actors ripping off service members and their families.

Cmdr. Hoegel, Deputy Director, Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth, continues his article by saying:

As members of the military community, we understand the importance of being mission-ready.  It’s worth taking a minute to remember that the financial readiness of service members and families is a key contributor to mission readiness.   Especially for deployed service members, knowing that finances are secure and that the families back at home are financially stable gives them peace of mind and allows them to focus on the important tasks at hand.

What is the Military Consumer Campaign?

The Military Consumer Campaign is designed to empower our military community by offering tips and tools to becoming informed consumers.  This is the second year the Federal Trade Commission is sponsoring the campaign.  As part of DoD’s larger, year-round financial readiness campaign, the Military Consumer Campaign strives to educate the military community to help service members and their families make informed decisions when it comes to financial products and services.  In addition, the campaign will shed light on common scams that target the military community.

Who is involved in the Military Consumer Campaign?

The Department of Defense has teamed up with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Service member Affairs, and the Consumer Federation of America.  All of us at these organizations are committed to supporting service members and their families through financial education, as well as aggressively addressing scams and fraud directed at the military community.  Collectively, these organizations provide considerable knowledge and expertise at no cost to our military community.

Why is the Military Consumer Campaign important?

Educating our military community on financial topics is key to helping service members and their families steer clear of scams. In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 72,900 consumer complaints from our military community with identity theft continuing to top the list with more than 22,000 of those complaints.  Other top complaint categories for the military community include debt collection, imposter scams, banks and lenders, credit bureaus, information furnishers and report users; and auto-related complaints.  The Military Consumer Campaign is designed to use this information and better educate our community to prevent these types of scams in the future.

When does the campaign kick off?

As a lead up to the Military Consumer Protection Day, the Federal Trade Commission is sponsoring:

  • The official kick-off of the Federal Trade Commission’s Military Consumer Campaign, includes but not limited to, A Twitter “Town Hall” chat that starts at 2 p.m. EDT on July 16, 2014.  Follow the Twitter chat with hashtag #MCPD2014.

Other events currently scheduled are:

  • Wright-Patterson AFB and their local Federal Trade Commission field office are planning an informational fair on July 16, 2014.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union is sponsoring “Shred Days” in Norfolk and New London, and the Federal Trade Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Better Business Bureau San Antonio are joining with others to host a fair at Joint Base San Antonio on Sept. 23, 2014.

Consumer protection is important year-round, and the department is pleased to support the Military Consumer Campaign as we support the Consumer Federation of America’s Military Saves Campaign. Check with your Personal Financial Management Program for information on local kickoff events, and watch Military Consumer website for ongoing information.

Where can I find more information on the Military Consumer Campaign?

The Military Consumer website offers a whole host of resources for the military community, materials for service providers, and a blog that addresses timely issues as well as tips. Their resources come from more than 30 federal, state and municipal agencies, consumer advocates and military support organizations.

The Know-How page looks at purchases and divides them into topics, including vehicles, banking, saving and investing, and more. A brief look through their auto purchasing section provides users with information on Lemon Laws, car-buying tips and odometer fraud, just to name a few. The Military Consumer website is a valuable tool for all of the military community, offering new tips for some and solid reminders for others.

There is great freedom in living within our means, and financial education is just one of the tools to help you improve your financial picture.  Get involved in Military Consumer Protection Day events this year and take advantage of the beneficial resources this campaign has to offer.  If there aren’t any events near you, visit the Military Consumer website or your local Personal Financial Management Program for more information.

And remember that Military OneSource financial counselors are available for counseling at no cost year-round by visiting the website or calling 800-342-9647.  Take a look, contact us and don’t forget to share the information with other in our military community.

 

What Are Real Ways To Help Veterans Out?

Hey, I was involved in the virtual roundtable on Reinventing How Veterans Transition into Society in the Reinvent America series with a few really smart people, who are doing good work with vets issues.

The focus of the roundtable was, How do we improve the reentry experience of war veterans into the American economy and society? Since less than 1% of Americans currently serve in the military, it’s a really important conversation to have. We need to talk about how to help our vets and service members reintegrate into society, including economically.

I talked a little about translating the skills that servicemen and women have into the language of the workplace so that recruiters and human resource folks can better understand how to leverage their assets. I figure if a person’s going to maybe go out there and risk taking a bullet protecting me, I could do something, like help them get a job.

You can watch a 10 minute recap of the roundtable here, or you can click through to watch the full 90-minute discussion.

 

Big News: Over $345K Raised for America’s Heroes

Hey, big news just in time for Independence Day! We just raised $346,438 for America’s Heroes during the Veterans Charity Challenge 2. The organizations raised $296,438 online. Another $5,265 was raised offline, and I gave $50,000 to support these Veterans, Military Families, Police, and Firefighter organizations.

final

winners

A total of 94 teams signed up. All of ’em were the real deal. Folks, I can’t thank you enough for all the good work you’re doing.

  • The grand prize winner of $20K is Warrior Canine Connection (WCC), which raised $74,687 for training therapeutic service dogs. WCC utilizes clinically based Canine Connection Therapy to empower returning combat Veterans who have sustained physical and psychological wounds while in service to our country. This is WCC’s second time coming in first place.
  • 2nd place winner of $10K is Dogs on Deployment, which raised $32,800 to give military members peace of mind concerning their pets during their service commitments by providing them with the ability to find people and resources able to help them.
  • 3rd place winner of $5K is Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), which raised $26,528 for their innovative educational debt relief scholarship, community service, employment training, and job placement programs. LNVB invests in heroes who have honorably served our nation and seek to continue their service as productive citizens in their communities. Last year LNVB came in 2nd place.

It was really close in the end, and an exciting finish. Our team was able to call and chat with (or leave messages for) each of the big winners, and really thank them for all they’re doing for our service members and their families. I figure if someone’s willing to risk their life for me, this is the least I can do to give back…

Over the course of the Challenge, there were 6 Bonus Challenges, and we had 13 teams win.

  • Bonus Challenge #5,  get the greatest number of individual donors this week: Warrior Canine Connection won $2500.
  • Bonus Challenge #6, the first 5 charities to get 5 donations this week: Things We Read won $2K.

I’ll be interviewing some of the winners in the coming weeks…more to come…

If you didn’t give during the Challenge, you can still give now. And it’s a great way to honor our heroes for Independence Day, and really, every day.

Did you participate in the Veterans Charity Challenge 2? I’d like to hear your feedback. And again, congrats to all those orgs who really have their boots on the ground making a difference for our heroes.

Just a few more days to help out America’s heroes

Hey, there are just a few days left in Veterans Charity Challenge 2 and we’re raising money to help out folks who are risking their lives for us, and their families. We need your help. I figure, the least we can do is give back. These charities do some really innovative work to support vets, and other American heroes.

If you want to help these orgs out that’re supporting veterans, police officers, military families, and firefighters, now’s your chance to give to the nonprofit of your choice. Over $225,700 has already been raised for causes that are the real deal, but with the important work they’re doing, they can use as much help as we’re able to give.

so far

Folks, a few reasons you should support this Challenge:

  • All money raised goes directly to organizations supporting veterans, military families, police, and firefighters.
  • The participating nonprofits are doing good work, for example:
    • Some orgs are helping to take care of military member’s pets,
    • Others provide educational and employment services to vets who face economic hardship,
    • A few are raising the money to provide scholarships to kids of milfams,
    • Others train service dogs for returning veterans,
    • Some of the money raised will go toward providing mentors to women vets looking for jobs,
    • And a few orgs are providing books overseas. There’s so many more causes you can give to over on CrowdRise, too.
  • With your support, these organizations will have the opportunity to win the prize money awarded to first ($20k), second ($10k), and third place ($5k). But, hey, please remember that even if the org you support doesn’t end up coming in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, they’ll still keep all the money they raise.

Email CrowdRise with all questions and they’ll be ready with great customer service.

How your charity can raise $50K+ for Vets and Heroes

Hey, we’re launching the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 to raise money for good causes.

Last year I sponsored the first Veterans Charity Challenge to raise money for nonprofits that support veterans and their families. The challenge was so successful that we decided to host the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 this year, but include more folks who really have their boots on the ground. I’m giving $50k to support orgs who are doing good work.

cc challenge

This challenge is for all nonprofits that support veterans, military families, police, and firefighters. It starts in just a few weeks, over on CrowdRise, and there’s still time for you to get involved. Here are some reasons why your org should sign up:

    • Last year’s Veterans Charity Challenge raised over $445,000 for causes like yours
    • This year’s Veterans Charity Challenge 2 goes from May 22nd at 12pm ET and runs through July 3rd at 11:59:59am ET
    • The charity team that raises the most during the Challenge gets $20k, second place get $10k and third place gets $5k
    • Plus, there’ll be another $15k given away in cash and prizes throughout the Challenge
    • Even if you don’t win a grand prize, you get to keep the money you raised

Getting involved is easy, folks. Just Go Here and click the Start a Fundraiser button.

Okay…now that you know how to sign up for the Veterans Charity Challenge 2, check out the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 Toolkit. It’s a reference guide to help you raise more money than you thought possible for your cause. The Toolkit has really important stuff, including sample calendars and tips.

And, as an extra bonus, if you browse the Veterans Charity Challenge 2 Toolkit and find the hidden movie quote, Email CrowdRise with the name of the movie it’s from and you’ll be entered to win a pizza party for your org on launch day (May 22nd).

Please share this challenge with all the orgs you know that support vets, milfams, police, and firefighters. These folks do a lot for our country, and it’s important to give back. Email CrowdRise with any clarifying questions, they’re the real deal.

This isn’t altruism, it just feels right.

5 veterans who are taking the startup world by storm

Folks, my team and I have been highlighting a lot of important startups and vets recently, and we thought it’d be a good idea to merge the two. We reached out to the community on Facebook and Twitter, and compiled a list of 5 veteran-founded startups who really have their boots on the ground.

Vets are effective entrepreneurs, and many of the skills veterans have overlap with those needed to found a startup. As this article says, “Tech startups to veterans: We love you, we want some more of ya.”

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5 Veterans Who Are Taking the Startup World by Storm (in no particular order):

  1. Kristina Carmen, Founder of TurboPup.
    (TurboPup isn’t on Twitter, but you can find them on Facebook.)
    TurboPup was founded to create a sustainable and socially conscious business, and give back to causes in support of our four legged best friends and our country’s heroes: Veterans.
  2. Jacob Wood & William McNulty, Co-founders of Team Rubicon.

    Team Rubicon is a group of military veterans and medical professionals irrevocably committed to changing veteran reintegration and disaster response.
  3. Blake Hall and Matt Thompson, Co-founders of ID.me.

    ID.me is a secure digital ID card that allows individuals to prove their identity online. Using ID.me, online shoppers can attach attributes of their identity, such as military service or student status, to a Single Sign On so they can quickly verify to any third party that they are who they say they are. The site offers exclusive benefits and discounts for military folks and vets all in one place. ID.me was founded by 2 Army Rangers who made a long-term commitment to the military and veteran community. 
  4. Chris Hulls and Alex Haro, Co-founders of Life360.

    Life360 is a free smartphone app that helps keep families and close friends connected stay in sync throughout their busy day. With Life360, you can see where your family and friends are on a private map, stay in touch with group and one-on-one messaging, and get help in an emergency.
  5. Dawn Halfaker, Founder of Halfaker and Associates, and President of Wounded Warrior Project.
    // Halfaker and Associates 
    provides professional services and technology solutions to the federal government. According to HuffPo, this “allows Halfaker to fight on two fronts: She helps equip on-the-ground troops to fight missions and helps U.S. veterans fight unemployment.”

If you’re able, please support and follow these vets and their startups. And, I’d love to hear what veterans should make version 2.0 of this list. Please leave comments below.

Hey, this isn’t altruism, it just feels right.

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