Veterans’ Service Dogs Receive Full Medical Insurance

January 30, 2014
By: Edie Lau
For The VIN News Service

Service dogs belonging to American military veterans are now covered by comprehensive private health insurance under a new arrangement by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

A contract between the VA and the company Trupanion provides payment for care by licensed veterinarians of working service and guide dogs that have been approved by the VA as medically necessary for VA-enrolled veterans, according to the agency.

Free Vet Care for Service Dogs
For now, that amounts to about 400 dogs, VA spokeswoman Genevieve Billia said by email. “The number will fluctuate as new dogs are enrolled, or as the animals die or retire,” Billia said.

The agreement with the insurer, which took effect Jan. 27, is known as an “Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity” contract, which means the cost of the contract to the government varies depending on the number of dogs being covered. Billia said the maximum allotted by the government for the contract is $5.6 million over two years. Essentially, the government is paying an insurance premium for each enrolled dog, Trupanion spokeswoman Britta Gidican said.

The insurance provides 100 percent payment for all wellness and sick care for eligible dogs. Services and products not covered are: elective surgery; non-prescription medications and other over-the-counter items, including flea control; non-prescription food, including dietary supplements and weight-loss diets; non-sedated teeth cleaning; boarding that is not medically necessary; grooming and nail trimming.

The dogs are eligible as long as they are working. “When the dog reaches an age or condition such that it can no longer provide the services for which it is trained, then the dog is retired from service” and its government-paid coverage is suspended, according to Billia.

Eligible dogs are given identification tags showing their respective policy numbers, and their owners receive identification cards, as well, Gidican said. Veterinarians seeing a covered patient may be paid immediately by calling the insurance company to obtain a credit-card payment. Gidican said Trupanion is making staff available 24 hours a day every day to provide the service.

Veterinarians also may opt to install a computer application in order to be paid electronically, or submit bills by email or fax, which typically would be paid within 48 hours, Gidican said.

The program “empowers and encourages veterinarians to simply do what is absolutely the best for the dog, no matter the cost,” Gidican said. “Veterinarians can always go with Plan A now when treating and caring for veteran-owned service dogs in this program.”

The program involves no restrictions on pricing, such as is common in health insurance for people. “We do not determine the price of the medical care,” Gidican said “We don’t negotiate it; we don’t have benefit-scheduling.”

She added: “We really want veterinarians to know this isn’t a joke. Their bills are really being paid by us, promise.”

Gidican said the company is hopeful no practitioner would attempt to take advantage of the program. “We have to put some things into place to make sure we’re not getting scammed,” she acknowledged. “We’ll work it out. We just haven’t quite thought of that at all.”

She added, “We are predicting an uptick in veterinary visits simply because all of the services will be paid for now.”

While private insurance coverage for veterans’ service dogs is new, government-paid medical coverage for the dogs is not. The VA has paid their veterinary bills since 1961, administering the program in-house, agency spokeswoman Billia said.

The provision of commercial insurance for veterinary care of veterans’ service dogs and guide dogs was written in a federal regulation published in September 2012.

Billia said the VA recognizes guide dogs for blindness and vision impairments; and service dogs for deafness and mobility disorders. The insurance coverage also extends to dogs acquired through a VA Office of Research contract for participation in a study on the use of service dogs by veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The agency does not recognize animals other than dogs as service animals. Pets and comfort or companion animals are not eligible for the insurance program, nor are retired military working dogs.

Trupanion was one of three private insurance companies to compete for the contract, the VA said. The privately held company was founded in Canada in 1999, and expanded to the United States in 2007 with offices in Seattle. Gidicam said the company became licensed to insure in all 50 states in 2012.

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Cesar’s Top 9 Holiday Tips for Dogs

Originally posted on CesarsWay.com

Holiday tips for dog owners
1. Tire your dog out before visiting or receiving holiday guests.
Keep in mind that holiday visits are not typical visits. They may involve more heightened energy than normal, since often we haven’t seen these people in a while, and dog people have a tendency to get excited around others’ pets. Your dog is more likely to behave if it’s just had a nice long walk. If they’re not dog people, your guest may be nervous, insecure, and unsure; a tired dog can help these people relax.

2. Don’t forget rules, boundaries, and limitations just because it’s the holidays!

When it comes to the aromatic holiday food, sweets, and candies lying about the house, there are many temptations for your dog. You have to remind him or her that the rules, boundaries, and limitations are the same. Use the holiday as a chance to intensify good behavior instead of intensifying bad behavior. It’s up to you to take the opportunity to make it a great holiday by working on your leadership skills!

3. Protect your dog from the cold.

Many breeds are not built to handle cold weather. Check out your local pet store for the many ways to handle this. You can buy doggie boots and gear made specifically for cold weather. There are also paw waxes that protect from the cold and aid your dog’s grip on slippery surfaces like ice or snow.

Holiday tips for dog owners

4. Let your dog check the weather.

Dogs don’t have the Weather Channel, so they don’t know why they are being denied a long walk for the day. Allow your dog to step outside and feel for itself that it is too cold or too stormy to go on a long walk. Instinctually, the dog will understand why it is coming back inside where it’s safe. But, be careful not to allow them to do this too often. They can learn to use this open door to manipulate and control you. Also, some dogs, if out in the cold for too long, will develop thicker fur and maintain their fat as a natural protection, so they may not feel the cold as intensely as we humans do. This can be an advantage if you want to continue to take your dog for walks in cold weather. However, please keep in mind that many short-haired breeds do not have this natural resistance to cold weather.

5. Be cautious when around the fireplace!

Animals are instinctual about fire; it is natural for an animal to stay away. However, during this holiday season, many owners like to dress their dogs up. Never use a product which may contain alcohol, such as hairspray, silly string, or entertainment paint, on a dog that will be around fire. Always be cautious near a fire with an animal that is wearing clothing. A stray piece of fabric can quickly cause the entire outfit to light on fire. A screen is a good way to keep a “done-up” pup safe. Also, never leave an animal alone in a room with a lit candle. As a general holiday precaution, test your smoke alarms, and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times!

6. Be aware of dangerous holiday items.

The festive poinsettia causes dogs to vomit. Chocolate is a poisonous treat. And tinsel has sent many a dog to the emergency room, as it can easily cut up intestines. Paper-based tinsel is generally a safer option, but the plastic or metallic-based varities should not be used.

7. Protect your presents and decorations.

Remember that a dog will know if a gift contains something edible, even if you don’t. Ask your guests in advance if there is food inside the presents, and keep them out of your dog’s reach! Keep fragile ornaments toward the top of the Christmas tree; only place sturdy ones near the bottom. Often people use a pen to keep dogs away from their tree. Keep it fun by decorating the pen with ribbons. And, above all, set rules, boundaries, and limitations!

Holiday tips for dog owners
8. I don’t recommend giving a puppy as a holiday gift.

Most often, giving a puppy for emotional reasons turns out badly. Love is never the problem. Who doesn’t love a puppy? But most people don’t know how to keep a puppy balanced, and the puppy is going to suffer the consequences from the first day. In particular, if a person doesn’t know they are getting a puppy, they will be in the wrong state of mind to receive him or her. I highly recommend holding off on affection for a week or, at the very least, until the end of the day when the puppy is quiet, in his kennel, and ready for sleep. This is virtually impossible to do if you just received a puppy as a surprise!

I strongly believe that people need to have some basic knowledge about the commitment and responsibility of pet ownership and how to play a leadership role even though it’s a puppy. The beautiful part about starting with a puppy is that, if you know what to do, you are going to prevent problems. But if you don’t, you are going to create problems. We have to take the same philosophy as adopting a child. You don’t just give a kid away. You have to get the whole family involved. Everyone has to understand the responsibility they are taking on.

9. Live in the moment! Be happy! Laugh! Celebrate!

Want to do something special for your dog for the holidays? Be balanced. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be fearful. Don’t be tense. Don’t think about anything that makes you sad, depressed, or angry. Really live in that moment. Believe it or not, that is one of the biggest gifts we can give to our dog–and ourselves! Everyone, rich or poor, can practice this simple activity. It has more meaning than any gift you can buy.

Live in the now, with your dog right next to you and your family around you. Your dog is going to get the benefit of it, particularly if you don’t have days like this on a regular basis. This special day will linger in his or her memory, and, hopefully, you can learn to practice these days more often, not just during the holiday season.

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On this Veterans Day

Most Americans have never fought in a war, never smelled fear and ammunition in combat, never worried about being blown up by a roadside bomb. This Veterans Day, we as Americans need to remember those who fought for our country while we stayed safe, out of the crossfire.


Please not to let this Veterans Day go past without participating in a way that enriches your sense of duty and country while reminding veterans that they will not be forgotten.

Not just on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, but with a daily Armistice in our hearts.

Vets Helping Heroes (VHH) is a national non profit organization that provides professionally trained dog’s for every veteran who needs, wants and who could benefit from the services that only a guide or service dog can provide. These are no ordinary dogs we’re talking about. They are the equivalent of elite commandos, called on to give their all. Screening a dog for requisite traits like patience, intelligence and confidence, and then training a dog to observe and react to subtle changes in an environment or in an owner’s behavior, is a lengthy and expensive process. The cost ranges between $10,000 – $60,000 per dog which our veterans simply cannot afford.

Vets Helping Heroes provides service dogs at no cost to the veteran. These dogs make the difference between an active life and an isolated one for our nations veterans who gave so much so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

To all of our U.S. veterans, thank you for your service!

Original post date: 11/10/2013
Article written by: Kathy Genovese, Board of Directors, Vets Helping Heroes

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An Ally in Healing

Children and service dogsSome families have spent years living with the nightmares, depression and anger of a veteran’s PTSD, while desperately trying to find ways to cope. Others are just getting started.

“When one person joins, the whole family serves” is a common saying among military personnel. Over two million children in the United States have had a parent deployed to active military duty since the start of the Global War on Terrorism. According to the Department of Defense, there are more than 1.3 million military children that are school age.

Readjustment to civilian life following military service presents a challenge not only to the Veteran, but to the family. Deployed service members return to their children, spouses, and families with visible and invisible injuries, such as combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Military children live with the constant fear of losing a parent, parental separation, moving and making new friends, all while living in a household with one often overloaded parent, holding down the fort. The dynamics of welcoming a returning parent that has been injured physically or mentally is real. The Veterans Administration now estimates that a Veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes. “Secondary PTSD” is a diagnosis that is becoming a reality for many military families. Managing stress as a family needs to be a high priority.

Vets Helping Heroes (VHH) honors the courage of our nation’s heroes and their families, both on the battlefield and at home. VHH is committed to providing professionally trained guide and service dogs to Veterans, active duty and their families.

The dogs we provide are irreplaceable. Beyond helping the Veteran they help the family:

  • Decrease feelings of isolation and increased sense of well-being.
  • Daily structure and healthy habits and motivation to exercise.
  • Increase sense of security and non-judgmental, affectionate companionship.
  • Increased sense of self-esteem and optimism.

The relationship that a dog can offer is unique because it is deep and loving, yet uncomplicated, consistent, and safe from the possibility of rejection. To date, there are volumes of scientific data that suggests that dogs positively influence us on psychological and physiological levels. It is no mystery why dogs are called “man’s best friend”.

Original post date: 11/09/2013
Article written by: Kathy Genovese, Board of Directors, Vets Helping Heroes

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Friday, September 20, 2013 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day

We couldn’t let it go by without honoring two very special people, Irwin Stovroff, WWII, Ex-Pow, Founder and President of Vets Helping Heroes, and LT COL Melvin Pollack, US Air Force (ret.), Ex-POW and member of the Board of Directors. It is truly an honor to have you lead the VHH organization and thank you for your sacrifice and service.

Get ready to wag.

On this day many Americans pause to remember our nations service men and women who were prisoners of war (POW), as well as those who are missing in action (MIA), and their families. All military installations fly the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag, which symbolizes the nation’s remembrance of those who were imprisoned while serving in conflicts and those who remain missing.

Currently there are more than 83,000 Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing In Action (MIA) who are either unaccounted for or still missing. 1,741 American personnel are listed by the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Office as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. About 90 percent of the 1,741 people still missing were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control, according to the National League of Families website (cited in the United States Army website).

The POW/MIA flag was designed by Newt Heisley and features a silhouette of a young man who was medically discharged from the military. As Mr. Heisley looked at his returning son’s gaunt features, he imagined what life was for those behind barbed wire fences on foreign shores. The emblem features a white disk bearing in black silhouette the bust of a man (Jeffery Heisley), watch tower with a guard on patrol, and a strand of barbed wire; above the disk are the white letters POW and MIA framing a white 5-pointed star; below the disk is a black and white wreath above the white motto: “You are not Forgotten.” The National POW/MIA Day is recognized on the 3rd Friday of September.

The National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag symbolizes the United States’ resolve to never forget POWs or those who served their country in conflicts and are still missing. We will never forget you!

Original post date: 09/19/2013
Article written by: Kathy Genovese, Board of Directors, Vets Helping Heroes
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September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month

The calls come in from all over the country at all hours of the day. They come from active-duty vets in the field, and from vets trying to transition back into civilian life, Tell me how to get unstuck before I pull the trigger.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a reminder that mental health does not have to be a battle waged on your own.

As you can tell this is going to be a lengthy but informative post. We cannot be afraid to talk about the suicides of our troops and their families. We must not only talk about it-we must SHOUT about it-and do more than post on blogs.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans and the second leading cause of death in the military. The rate of suicide in the military was 22 per day in February of this year. The statistics are shocking, but research shows that public awareness, education and treatment are crucial in the prevention of suicide.

Service Dogs go a long way to squelch suicidal thoughts

Most of us have seen news reports about brave servicemen and women living with grave injuries, both physical and psychological. We’ve also seen the dire consequences when the psychological effects of war are not treated. The majority of U.S. soldiers who served in the war on terror were exposed to some kind of traumatic, combat-related situation, such as being attacked or ambushed (92%), seeking dead bodies (94.5%), being shot at (95%), and/or knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed (86.5%). Recent findings now document the secondary consequences of being exposed to traumatic events of your comrades, even if you never served overseas. The suicide rate of the National Guard and Reserves has more than doubled.

How can we expect men and women to return to civilian society unmarked by their experiences, by what they’ve seen and been a part of? And more, how can we help them heal?

The American people owe so much to these individuals. Now is the time to play a role in preventing suicide—to reach out in a timely manner to someone at risk, especially current and former service members, and encourage them to trust and seek help. Let them know that there are constructive ways to resolve whatever challenges they face. It is a myth that seeking help is a sign of weakness. The truth is seeking mental health treatment is a choice that embodies moral courage and integrity. It is a sign of strength and effective treatment is available.

Here’s what you can do.

Learn to recognize the risk of suicide and let Veterans know that caring, confidential support is only a call, click or text away. Families, friends and co-workers need to work together to provide a network of support for Veterans in our communities. We’re all in this together.

When a Veteran is in crisis, even one small act can make a lifesaving difference. Begin the conversation. Start with compassion and listen, without questions. Hear their story, just listen. The telling of a story can be very powerful healing force. “If I had been through what you have, I would probably feel the same way”, can go a long way in starting the process for seeking help.

Encourage a Veteran who is a risk to get help and know where to turn during a suicide related crisis. Remind them that it takes courage to seek help.

Suicide Signs Unique to Veterans:

Experts on suicide prevention say for veterans there are some particular signs to watch for:
Service Dogs go a long way to squelch suicidal thoughts

  • Calling old friends, particularly military friends, to say goodbye
  • Cleaning a weapon that they may have as a souvenir
  • Visits to graveyards
  • Obsessed with news coverage of the war, the military channel
  • Wearing their uniform or part of their uniform, boots, etc.
  • Talking about how honorable it is to be a soldier
  • Sleeping more (sometimes the decision to commit suicide brings a sense of peace of mind, and they sleep more to withdraw)
  • Becoming overprotective of children
  • Standing guard of the house, perhaps while everyone is asleep staying up to “watch over” the house, obsessively locking doors, windows
  • If they are on medication, stopping medication and/or hording medication
  • Hording alcohol — not necessarily hard alcohol, could be wine
  • Spending spree, buying gifts for family members and friends “to remember by”
  • Defensive speech “you wouldn’t understand,” etc.
  • Stop making eye contact or speaking with others.

Here’s Where to Get Help:

NEED HELP RIGHT NOW!

The Military Crisis Line is available 24/7/365

CALL: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1

The following sites all have excellent resources. Most are free and include toll-free numbers, texting, online chat and email communication options. Click on the links provided to visit their websites. All links will open in a new tab or window.

Emergency Services

The National Suicide Prevention/Military and Veteran Lifeline: offers free and confidential support to service members in crisis or anyone who knows a service member who is. The service is staffed by caring, qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), many who have served in the military themselves.

Veterans Crisis Line: Since 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 890,000 calls and made more than 30,000 lifesaving rescues. Support is offered through the crisis line, online chat, and text-messaging services for all service members (active, National Guard and reserve) and veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by visiting their website at.

Military Crisis Line: Support for Service members, their families and friends. Services are available even if members are not registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or enrolled in VA health care.

Miscellaneous Resources

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: The leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.

Suicide Prevention Resource Council: Promoting a public health approach to suicide prevention.

Military OneSource: Service members, family members, service providers, and command-welcome to Military OneSource. Policies, procedures, timely articles, cutting-edge social media tools, and support. All in one place, empowering our military community.

Find a Therapist

HelpPRO Therapist Finder or Give an Hour: To find a therapist.

Support Groups

To find a support group for suicide survivors, visit the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Afterdeployment.org: An all-purpose resource for active-duty personnel, veterans, families (kids and teens, too) and health care providers on issues ranging from post-traumatic stress and anger to those involving work, finances and substance abuse. You can also join a workshop, participate in research, take self-assessments and find additional resources.

MakeTheConnection.net: Meet other military brothers and sisters with similar concerns.

Mobile Apps

PTSD Coach: PTSD Coach, provides users with education about PTSD, information about professional care, a self-assessment for PTSD, opportunities to find support, and tools that can help with managing the stresses of daily life with PTSD. Tools are based on evidence-based PTSD treatment and range from relaxation skills and positive self-talk to anger management and other common self-help strategies. Users can customize tools based on their preferences and can integrate their own contacts, photos, and music.

Breathe2Relax: A portable stress management tool to reduce stress and calm the “fight or flight” response.

T2 Mood Tracker: A diary to record emotions and behaviors on six pre-loaded scales (PTSD, stress, brain injury, depression, anxiety and general well-being).

Military Branch Specific Sites And Services

Army

The Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program (CSF2) is designed to build resilience and enhance performance of the Army Family — Soldiers, their Families, and Army Civilians. CSF2 does this by providing hands-on training and self-development tools so that members of the Army Family are better able to cope with adversity, perform better in stressful situations, and thrive in life.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. DHCC works to improve psychological health and deployment-related health care for our nation’s warriors and their families.

Suicide Prevention Program information: The Army’s comprehensive list of resources.

The Army’s Ready and Resilient campaign offers a unique blend of support options.

Navy

Navy Military Crisis line The Navy Suicide Prevention Program outlines procedures implemented by every command. It is made up of four basic components; Training, Intervention, Response and Reporting.

Air Force

Air Force Medical Service – Suicide Prevention Suicide prevention remains a top priority of Air Force leadership, and we remain committed to doing everything possible to save lives. The Air Force Suicide Prevention Program (AFSPP), launched in 1996 and fully implemented by 1997, emphasizes leadership involvement and a community approach to reducing deaths from suicide. The program is an integrated network of policy and education that focuses on reducing suicide through the early identification and treatment of those at risk. It uses leaders as role models and agents of change, establishes expectations for Airman behavior regarding awareness of suicide risk, develops population skills and knowledge, and analyzes every suicide.

Marines

DSTRESSLINE: Marines — both active and reserve — and their families can speak to a Marine veteran for any kind of help.

Coast Guard

Coast Guard Suicide Prevention Program: This Program applies to all Coast Guard active duty and reserve personnel and appropriated civilian and non-appropriated fund employees and their families. It also applies to other Uniformed Services members and their families while either serving with the Coast Guard or using Coast Guard facilities.

National Guard

National Guard Suicide Prevention: Includes a six-part series examining why some guard members choose suicide.

Let’s SHOUT about Suicide Prevention. Tweet your friends and loved ones with the following message: “One small act can make the difference.” This #SuicidePreventionMonth, help #Veterans access the support they’ve earned.

Vets Helping Heroes (VHH)

Vets Helping Heroes
VHH is dedicated to making as many service dogs as possible available to veterans and the men and women of the armed services. These professionally trained dogs are better than a pill and although they don’t replace therapy, they are invaluable in helping our nation’s heroes who gave so much for the freedom we enjoy today. Please read more about us on our website and visit and “Like” us on FaceBook.

Original post date: 09/19/2013
Article written by: Kathy Genovese, Board of Directors, Vets Helping Heroes
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“A Gift of Life” – A Documentary

“The Gift of Life”, is the story of B-24 Bombardier, Lt. Irwin Stovroff, who survived being shot down and captured over Nazi occupied France, and his subsequent 13 months in a POW camp where he was isolated to be shot for being Jewish. Thankfully before that could happen, the camp was liberated by Russian Cossacks. After returning home, he was able to go to school, get married raise a family and enjoy a long and successful career. After retiring at the age of 75 he wanted to pay it forward and decided to volunteer at the local VA Hospital. His time there segued into the founding of Vets Helping Heroes. This film tells the whole story. You can witness the difference a trained assistance dog can make in the life of an injured soldier, learn about all the wonderful people who make the assistance dog possible, from Vets Helping Heroes to dog trainers, puppy raisers and the organizations dedicated to help our wounded warriors.

About the Director

Louis Molina came to the US. from El Salvador in 1968, with the plan to go to school in America, and then go back to work in his family’s business of television news production. He decided to stay in the US. after he met his wife. By the end of the 70’s he had degrees in Accounting and Motion Picture and TV Production.

In 1980 he worked for NBC news based in South Florida, as a Sound Technician covering the civil war in El Salvador,. For the next 15 years he had covered every major news story in Latin America for NBC. In addition to his work as a sound technician he produced, using his knowledge of the social, political and economic problems affecting the region. He was also required to be a cameraman whenever needed.

In the mid nineties he worked as a freelance cameraman, sound man or Producer for all the major networks in the US, Japan and Europe, working on documentaries, specials and news coverage all over the US and the world. He was part of an ABC news team that won the Alfred I. DuPont, Columbia University award: The Gold Baton for excellence in Broadcast Journalism for their coverage of Haiti.

During his 31 years of freelancing with news organizations all over the world he has had the pleasure of meeting and working with personalities including Barbara Walters, Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Dianne Sawyers, Richard Engle and more. He has covered the war in El Salvador, the Contra war in Nicaragua, the Falklands war in Argentina, the invasion of Granada, Panama and Haiti, the conflict in the Middle East and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and coverage of the story of Cuba and the US, with interviews of Fidel Castro by Maria Shriver and Dan Rather.

Recently he has worked for reality shows, like “Whose Wedding is it Anyway”, “A Baby Story” and “Bringing Home Multiples”. His last productions were social and sports events and corporate videos.

The list of documentaries Louis has under his belt is formidable. We have been truly blessed and honored that he has seen fit to create a documentary about Irwin Stovroff and Vets Helping Heroes. We knew for a long time that the documentary was in the works and we were of course anxious to see it. We never imagined just how incredible it would be. Everyone who has seen it has raved. Louis has created a shortened version (13 minutes) of the documentary so we could post it on the web. We are seeking an opportunity to get the full length version (94 minutes) seen by a larger audience. If you think you can help please contact us.

Watch a short version of the full length documentary

Contact Louis F Molina

Wide Angle Video Productions
4719 Monroe St. Hollywood, Fl. 33021
Phone: 954-981-2240
Cell: 954-257-9866

Lou Molina Sr., Irwin Stovroff and Lou Molina Jr.

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The Gold Coast Corvette Club – Car Show for a Cause

The 1st annual Gold Coast Corvette Club car show took place on Sept, 4th 2011 at the beautiful PGA National Resort and Spa.

There were over 160 cars on display comprised of Corvettes, Rods and Customs. I think it’s safe to say that everyone VERY much enjoyed the 50's and 60's classic music that was played over the loudspeakers throughout the day thanks to DJ Donnie Hancock, President of the South East Rod Club. Gold Coast Corvette Club really did think of everything.

I worked with club member Cheryl Coddington to get ready for the event and I knew her plate was full but I didn't realize how big the event would actually be until I saw it. When I arrived that morning, I was immediately blown away by the large and efficiently run operation. There were cars as far as I could see and easy to spot club members directing people and traffic, running three raffles and much more, all in 90°+ temperatures. Thankfully, there was a pretty decent breeze and we were spared from rain.

Vets Helping Heroes is proud to have been selected by the club as the non-profit to benefit from proceeds raised at the event. Board member Lt. Colonel (retired) Mel Pollack represented Vets Helping Heroes and spoke briefly to the crowd just before the awards ceremony. It was then that club president Jim Campbell announced that the event raised $4,032.00 for our cause.

I met some wonderful people at the show and on behalf of everyone here at Vets Helping Heroes, thank each and every one of them for their efforts on behalf of the wounded heroes returning from the war on terror.

Pat Levenson,
Board Member

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Vets Helping Heroes Visits Southeastern Guide Dogs

Southeaster Guide Dogs

One of the programs Vets Helping Heroes supports is the “Paws for Patriots” program at Southeastern Guide Dogs located in Palmetto, Florida. Southeastern’s mission is to create and nurture a partnership between a visually impaired individual and a guide dog, facilitating life’s journey with mobility, independence and dignity. In 2003 one of their Board members, Bobby Newman, read about a young Marine named Mike Jernigan, who was blinded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the Veterans Administration does not provide guide dogs to soldiers. This spearheaded an effort by the Board and the school to bring awareness to top military leaders that they could serve these blinded soldiers and the “Paws for Patriots” program was born. Often an injury that leads to impaired vision can also cause a combination of physical disabilities. Southeastern Guide Dogs specializes in training dogs to assist in navigation for the visually impaired as well as to mitigate any additional disability the individual might have. In addition to guide dogs, the “Paws for Patriots” program provides service dogs specifically trained to ease the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and places therapy dogs into military hospitals to spread cheer and encouragement and help wounded warriors heal from their injuries.

Southeaster Guide Dogs

After the dogs complete their training and have been paired with their new handler, the dog and handler team go through a four week training period to learn how to work together and to bond with each other. Upon completion, friends and family are invited to their graduation ceremony. Southeastern provides the guide dog, equipment, single-room lodging, all meals, outings, instruction and post-graduation support completely free of charge, thanks to generous contributions.

Recently a few of the Vets Helping Heroes Board members, Mel Pollack, Sam Bierstock Paul Barreto and me, Pat Levenson took a trip to visit the Southeastern campus and we timed it to coincide with a graduation ceremony.

The evening of our arrival we met with Southeastern’s Development Director Patsy French, CEO Titus Herman and Board members Lea LeVines and Bobby Newman for dinner. Also in attendance were two heroes from the current conflicts, Mike Jernigan and Shawn Mello, their wives and of course, the wonderful assistance dogs they received through Southeastern’s “Paws for Patriots” program. We all sat entranced as these brave men recounted the stories of how they received their injuries, what they went through during their recoveries, and how they have benefited from their assistance dogs. It was gratifying for us to see the life changing impact of an assistance dog on their owners and families.

The next morning we arrived at the Southeastern Guide Dogs campus and started our day with a tour of the campus. We were pleased to be joined on our tour by Cindy Schwarzkopf, daughter of General Norman Schwarzkopf and Southeastern Board member Lea LeVines. Southeastern is a self contained training facility that includes among other things breeding and whelping facilities, a puppy nursery, their own full-time veterinarian and veterinary staff – and even a chef.

Vets Helping Heroes visits Southeastern Guide Dogs

We spent a little time playing with a group of adorable “Goldador” puppies. This is the most common (but not only) breed of dog trained on campus. Combining the sensitivity of the Golden Retriever and the tolerance of the Labrador Retriever makes them first rate candidates as assistance dogs. Our tour guide was Jennifer Bement, Souteastern’s Media Relations Coordinator. Jennifer explained all the details that are considered for the best possible training environment including acclimation to various elements of daily life such as noises, weather conditions, navigational challenges and more. Their training starts at a few weeks old and typically takes two years to complete. The dogs spend a good part of that time in the care of puppy raisers.

As part of the tour we all got to participate in something they call a “blindfold walk.” We put on a pair of blackout glasses and were taken on a short walk down a path with a guide dog and trainer. The blindfold walk is intended to give a sighted person a tiny glimpse into what a guide dog can do for a vision impaired individual. It’s a humbling experience.

Experiencing walking with a guide dog's assistance

The tour was over and we headed to the graduation ceremony. Six graduates and their new partners sat before a room filled with friends, family and well wishers as we heard what events in their lives led them to be there that day and how their guide dog will give them the freedom to pursue what most of us take for granted. There were plans to attend school, work, travel, go hiking and camping and anything and everything in between. Things that might not have otherwise been possible without their new companions.

Southeastern Guide Dogs Graduation Ceremony

After the ceremony we were treated to a fantastic lunch created by Southeastern’s in-house chef. I didn’t think it was possible to feel any more motivated to work to raise money for such a noble cause, but as we were talking in the car on the way back we realized we were more charged up than ever.

There was a touching poem printed in the graduation ceremony program. No author was mentioned.

You love me; I’ll love you.
You walk with me; I’ll walk with you.
You lead me and I will follow, trusting you.
We’ll move Forward together™.

We would like to thank Southeastern Guide Dogs for their hospitality. Everyone was so nice.  More than just a team of co-workers, we got a strong sense that they are  a happy family

Vets Helping Heroes visits Southeastern Guide Dogs

Southeastern Guide Dogs’ “Paws for Patriots” program is one of several programs Vets Helping Heroes supports in order to achieve our mission. Our goal is to provide a professionally trained assistance dog, prepared by a qualified instructor, to every disabled hero wounded in the global war on terrorism enabling them to live a life of dignity and self-reliance, whether they are visually impaired or have other special needs that require an assistance dog.

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Reuben H. Fleet, the B-24 Bomber and a Generous Donation to Vets Helping Heroes

The San Diego Foundation

Last month, the Reuben H. Fleet Foundation The San Diego Foundation donated $50,000 to Vets Helping Heroes. This money will go directly towards providing an injured veteran with a service dog for life. This generous grant award was allocated by fund management company, The San Diego Foundation, whose mission is to build and allocate charitable funds for the benefit of San Diegans.

Founder of the Reuben H. Fleet Foundation The San Diego Foundation was himself a veteran. After serving as a military aviator, overseeing the training of aviation pilots and pioneering the first US Air Mail service, Major Fleet left the military in 1922. In 1923, he founded the company Consolidated Aircraft in Buffalo, NY, which trained pilots and developed new aircraft.Consolidated Aircraft

In the spring of 1935, Fleet relocated to San Diego, reasoning that it would offer better weather for developing and flight-testing new aircraft, particularly the seaplanes. In a move unprecedented in industry, Fleet transferred his entire operation in 157 freight cars as well as his employees and their families to the newly constructed factory in San Diego. Consolidated Aircraft developed many airplanes of World War II, including the B-24 Liberator and PBY Catalina.

As coincidences have it, Fleet’s company, Consolidated Aircraft also built the aircraft that Irwin Stovroff — the founder of Vets Helping Heroes – flew in World War II, the B-24 Bomber. (Stovroff is no stranger to stranger-than-fiction coincidences…When he was a POW in World War II, he soon realized that his German interrogator was a childhood neighbor from Upstate New York! Watch this blog for more details of this story, which could surely be a movie premise!)

IMAX TheaterMajor Fleet passed away in 1975, the same year that The San Diego Foundation was founded (the coincidences in this story continue!) even though the two foundations were as yet unrelated. In 1985, The Reuben H. Fleet Foundation The San Diego Foundation donated $8 million in assets to The San Diego Foundation. Since then, The Foundation expanded the Reuben H. Fleet Theater & Sciences Center, which — with its 100-plus science exhibits and its IMAX theater – serves the public by educating all ages about science and technology. The center has been the best-attended museum in the city and a top ten attraction in San Diego. Over 35 years, The San Diego Foundation has granted $700 million to improve the lives of the local community, now and into the future.

Thanks again the Reuben H. Fleet Foundation The San Diego Foundation and The San Diego Foundation for the generous donation to Vets Helping Heroes.

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