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AARP Maryland Veterans Corner: December 2019

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This month's edition of Veterans Corner is written by AARP volunteer and Navy Veteran Brian Smith.

The next Maryland General Assembly session is just around the corner and it promises to be challenging. As you undoubtedly know, there have been significant leadership changes in both chambers. Never more so than now has AARP Maryland needed a committed cadre of advocacy volunteers, willing to travel to Annapolis! Sign up, show up, and help make a difference for Maryland Seniors!

I will be sharing my time this session between AARP Maryland and the Maryland Military Coalition (MMC). I discussed the MMC in an article last year. I hope you will follow us on Facebook and Twitter That said, I am looking forward to continuing this monthly blog.

VETERANS MENTAL HEALTH

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If you have read any of my stories, you know that I focus on veterans mental health, the opioid crisis and suicide prevention. Sadly, there is scant improvement on the suicide front. Did you realize that more veterans have killed themselves in the past 10 years than the number of service members killed during the Vietnam War? Most of them using firearms. Stunning, tragic, sad, but all too true! Check out the story in my Newsworthy Notes for more information.

In addition to medical treatment options there are a variety of other therapeutic programs that can help our suffering veterans. Service dogs for veterans with PTSD is one option. Another option is equine therapy. Last year, I advocated for a bill, ultimately enacted, that enables the Maryland Service Animal Program Fund to provide grants to Maryland nonprofits that provide equine therapy programs to disabled veterans.

There are several fantastic Maryland-based equine therapy programs that will benefit from this change. One is Maryland Therapeutic Riding, located in Crownsville. Their mission is to improve the quality of life of children, adults, active military and veterans with special needs by connecting humans and horses in a healing environment. PenFed Credit Union has a wonderful video series focusing on veterans and recently visited Maryland Therapeutic Riding. Please take a few minutes to watch this compelling video!

COMMISSARIES OPEN TO SERVICE-DISABLED VETS

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One item I covered way back in August 2018 is about to come to fruition. Starting in January 2020, any veteran with a service-connected disability can shop at base commissaries and exchanges. This benefit will be also available to Purple Heart, Medal of Honor recipients, and caregivers. These groups will also be entitled to use base Morale, Recreation and Welfare facilities (gyms, marinas, bowling alleys, etc.).

“How does this work?” you might ask. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides extensive guidance on how to apply. Please read more about that on the Veterans Affairs blogsite and at Military OneSource. This change opens these facilities to over 3 million Veterans nationwide. HUGE!

NEWSWORTHY NOTES:
· Alarming VA Report Totals Decade of Veteran Suicides. Military.com.
· Bill Could Help Burn Pit Exposed Veterans Get VA Care. Connecting Vets Radio.
· Female Vets in Congress Want New TRICARE Breast Cancer Screening. Stars & Stripes.
· 3 Million More People Will Get Military Shopping Benefits. Military Times.

VETERAN OWNED BREWERY OF THE MONTH

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Well, the weather outside is turning frightful, but a beer inside can still be delightful… In many of my articles, I have given a shoutout to a GREAT, Maryland-based, veteran-owned brewery, because, after all, beer is patriotic. This month the “spotlight” shines on the amazing Frey’s Brewing, a small, farm brewery on the Frederick County side of Mount Airy, Maryland.

Owner and brewer Adam Frey has been brewing and selling beer throughout Maryland since 2012. If you are in the area, drop by their tasting room and tell ‘em you are a veteran!

SERVICE DOG IN TRAINING OF THE MONTH

This month’s winner is Monty, a wonderful puppy currently in basic training with Hero Dogs. Monty is more formally known as Captain Glenn H. Montgomery, U.S. Navy (Retired). Captain Montgomery was awarded the Silver Star Medal for actions against the enemy during Operation Desert Storm, while commanding USS CURTS (FFG 38). His ship captured an Iraqi-held island in the Northern Arabian Gulf and liberated the first piece of Kuwaiti soil. Hero Dogs is a Maryland 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, improves quality of life for our nation’s heroes by raising, training, and placing service dogs and other highly skilled canines, free of charge with lifetime support of the partnerships. They have many wonderful volunteering opportunities and are always looking for prospective puppy raisers, so check them out.

Captain Montgomery, Monty, and Monty with Brian at a Nationals Game.
Brian Smith

IN CLOSING

IT IS TIME! The 2020 Maryland General Assembly session approaches! Remember, you probably won’t get what you deserve, but you just may get what you fight for! Join the AARP Maryland team for a fun session in Annapolis! For information on our volunteer advocacy program, please contact our Tammy Bresnahan, our state advocacy director!

For more veterans resources, visit AARP Maryland’s Veterans Resources page at aarp.org/mdveterans.

About AARP Maryland
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