I’m now blogging at http://thevirtualvirtuoso.wordpress.com
Please journey there and join me.

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About Me http://ow.ly/nW74H

About Me http://ow.ly/nW74H

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RT @luzdonahue: Facebook Tests Celebriti

RT @luzdonahue: Facebook Tests Celebrities-Only App For Checking And Replying To Fan Chatter http://t.co/uae0icT3mZ I think this is a good thing, but businesses that use social media are going to want to get in on this, too. What do you think?

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Just a reminder….

I saw that I have some new followers of this blog, I would love it if you would follow my other blogs too; I plan to delete this one in  a few days.


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Sad face

I am sorry that I have not been posting much to this blog, I started three other blogs on more specific topics, All Things Chocolate is  about chocolate and desserts:


The Lemon Life,  about turning life’s lemons into lemonade:


and The Virtual Virtuoso, my business blog where I write about marketing, entrepreneurship, and small business related topics.

These blogs take a lot of my time, so I am going to delete this blog. I am going to be moving several of my posts to either The Lemon Life, or The Virtual Virtuoso, and reposting them there. I hope you will follow one of those; happy reading!


Categories: Chocolate, Christianity, Current Events, History, Humor, Life, News, Perspectives, The Lemon Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fine Line, conclusion, by guest essayist Amy Fernaays

Somewhere in the middle a casualty of war exists in the form of privately owned businesses. Reservists that own a company must find someone to run their company while they are deployed. For some reservists this means shutting down a business and losing everything to service their country.
The men and women that served to protect us are in need of protection now. We have been here before and the results were not good. After the Vietnam War the unemployment rate for military soldiers’ was very high. The Gulf War-era brought an unemployment rate that was 11.6 percent; that translates into 958,000 unemployed veterans. [Albany Times Union, 2009]
The future doesn’t look good when our businesses and our heroes are at war.
The Veteran’s Association has many programs available to soldiers but for a lot of reservists this is not an option. V.A. centers may not be easy to access. Just like a reservists’ family not having access to military base support; a veteran may not have access to veteran support. That is why many companies are implementing their own programs to assist returning veterans. Samuel Greencard state, “BNSF Railway Company employs about 6,000 veterans who represent about 15 percent of its workforce, and more than 1,000 BNSF employees have been called to active duty since 2001. The firm offers these employees “whole pay” and sustained benefits while they are away. BNSF must ‘make adjustments and plan ahead when service members are called to active duty,’ says John Wesley III, manager of military staffing.”
BNSF Railway Co. is a leading example of how to address the military workforce soldier issue, but not all companies can afford to take such a remarkable approach to caring for their military personnel. This should stand as a starting place for other companies and organizations to find new ways to implement a system using the example of BNSF Railway Co.
Veterans seeking help can visit the Veteran’s Association online and be linked to different groups within the VA that can assist with medical care, disability, PTSD, drug and alcohol counseling. The VA can also refer veterans to legal counsel if needed. There are also civilian organizations that assist military personnel with employment, housing, support groups and with readjusting to civilian life. You can find many organizations listed online or in your community. The VFW (Veteran’s Foreign Wars) and the American Legion are two organizations that can help point a veteran to organizations that are in their area.
It is time the government took responsibility for the soldiers. Organizations that are branches of the military system are not organized or properly managed, and fall short of fulfilling the needs of veterans. The VA does not have the capability to provide the needed support that all veterans are entitled to. It is time the VA was restructured so that the needs of all veterans: reservists, retired and disabled soldiers receive what is truly due to them. This organization needs to meet the needs of each individual that has served this country without hesitation.
The goal is for veterans to be provided with the support and care they need. The VA needs to be divided. It has become an organization too big to do any good. There needs to be two branches to the VA; a veterans branch and a veterans medical branch. One side deals with the physical and psychological health of veterans, and the other side deals with the needs of transitioning the veteran back to civilian life through training, education and assisting with employment/reemployment.
This is not a get out of jail free card for businesses. They need to remember that their soldier is being deployed to fight for the freedom of this country, and as a company there is a responsibility to this soldier. That is to provide them with the assistance they need to come back and return to their job.
For someone interested in helping veterans there are many organizations already in place that need volunteers, but there is a new need that can’t be overlooked. Small business owner/reservist that is called to duty must sacrifice their businesses to serve. There is a need for an organization that can connect skilled and educated people willing to assist small business owning reservists. An organization or groups that can help keep these businesses’ running while the owner serves as a soldier. This will be a daunting task, but one that needs to be addressed.
When everyone is contributing and assisting veterans, as they transition back to civilian life the problem becomes a lot smaller. America has enough military history to show what happens when veterans are not helped. The reality is right now there are 21.5 million veterans [U.S. Census Bureau] that served this country during wars, conflicts, humanitarian reliefs, and in peace. Now it is time to serve them.
This is a difficult time for civilians and reservists alike but if the government, companies, organizations, civilians and reservists work together many solutions will be developed and our heroes will be given the welcome home they deserve. Not the shallow empty parades that fade away but instead the support, and help they need to resume taking care of their families and the chance to live the America Dream.

Works cited
“Back From War, Still In a Fight.” Albany Times Union [Alban, NY] 19 Nov. 2009: C1. New York State
Newpapers. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.
“Enlist, Reenlist, Benefits | Army.com.” Enlist, Reenlist, Benefits | Army.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

Garamone, Jim. “Deploying Unit Shows Differences Between Active, Reserve.” Defense.gov News
Article: Deploying Unit Shows Differences Between Active, Reserve. U.S. Department of Defense,
14 Feb. 2004. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. .

Greenwald, Judy. “Guidelines Welcomed on Reservists’ benefits; Regulations expected to help as
troops return.” Business Insurance 27 Dec. 2004: 1. General OneFile. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

Greenwald, Judy. “Soldiers Return to Civilian Jobs; Veteran’s Rights Put Compliance on us Former
Employees.” Business Insurance 18 June 2012: 0001. General OneFile. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.
Geisel, Jerry. “Law Outlines Employers’ Duty; Call-up of U.S. Reservists Triggers Benefit Obligations.”
Business Insurance 24 Sept. 2001: 26. General OneFile. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.
Lenckus, Dave. “Easing Return to Civilian Life a Must; Employers urged at PRIMA to Consider
Veterans’ Special Needs.” Business Insurance 25 June 2007: 4. General OneFile. Web. 19 Nov.
Greencard, Samuel. “When Johnny or Janey Comes Marching Home.” Workforce Management 90.6
(2011): 4-4. Academic Search Complete. Web 19 Nov. 2012.
Moniz, Dave. ” Guardsmen, Reservists Hit Hard at Home by Call-ups.” USATODAY.com – Guardsmen,
Reservists Hit Hard at Home by Call-ups. n.p., 07 Feb. 2005. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
Tillson, John C.F. “Landpower and the reserve components.” Joint Force Quarterly Dec.2004:41+. General
OneFile. Web 5 Dec. 2012
Zoroya, Gregg. “Army to Expand Citizen Soldiers’ Traning Periods.” USATODAY.COM. N.p., 30 July 2012. Web.
10 Dec. 2012.

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The Fine Line, part 5, by guest essayist Amy Fernaays

Leaving a job, even with a modest guarantee that it will be there when you get back is a hard task. For the working military, the fear of being replaced, and not being able to support their family only adds to the trauma soldiers’ face on the battlefield every day. To make matters worse, there are loopholes in the USERRA, and soldiers’ are being denied their job back upon return from deployment.
Court cases against companies can last years and reservists are left jobless in the meantime. Dave Lenckus states,” The U.S. Department of Defense last figures showed 17,000 to 21,000 active duty personnel being released from duty per month.” Add to that the 32,000 plus reservists’ coming back home and it is a recipe for disaster. The unemployment rate for veterans will continue to rise as soldiers fight for their jobs, and compete for new employment in a job market that can barely employ civilians.
As a battle rages in the military sector, one is brewing in the private sector as well. Companies and businesses are crying foul as laws are passed to protect the jobs of reservists.
For employers the problems are many from the wording of the USERRA to the amount of time a reservist has to apply for re-employment. Jerry Geisel points out, “Employers with 401(k) plans must give returning veterans the opportunity to make retroactive contributions. Companies will have to match those retroactive deferrals to the same extent they matched the other workers’ contributions during the period of military service. Returning employees have no more than five years-in which to make retroactive contributions.”
If financial issues aren’t enough there is a bigger issue with re-employing veterans. As Samuel Greencard illustrates, “It’s a challenging environment,” says David Dahler, director of human resources for insurance and consulting giant Aon Corp. Although many troops return ready to tackle a job in the corporate world, “a lot of individuals come back and spend months re-acclimating to private life. Some of them aren’t entirely ready for a formal job and all that comes with it.”
Aon is one of a few companies that have implemented policies and programs to help veteran’s transition back to civilian life. Samuel Greencard states, “Challenges range from creating programs to train and assimilate veterans to figuring out what to do with an employee who has filled in for a reservist returning from deployment.”
When dealing with returning veterans a company will have to deal with the transition from military life to civilian life. “The military does a great job turning civilians into soldiers,” said Greg Langan, the Mendota Heights, Minn. based director of risk control services at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., “But when military personnel return from active duty, ‘there’s no transition for them into civilian life,” reiterates Dave Lenckus.
Dave Lenckus indicates that, “Many returning enlistees are young and lack experience in the workplace. Some also face psychological and physical challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD,”
Dealing with returning soldiers is going to be a tough task for most businesses and it is clear that the smaller the company or business the greater the task will be. Small businesses do not have the resources necessary to retrain, counsel or provide financial assistance to their returning veteran.

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The Fine Line, part 4, by guest essayist Amy Fernaays

Besides his family, the reservists’ has the added worry concerning his job. In our economic climate today, it is very possible that his job could be phased out or the company could close. Many National Guardsmen work for fire departments, police, and in hospital; which can cause a hardship for a small community when a unit is called up. (Jim Garmone 2004)
“’Large corporations have the depth to absorb a year-long loss of personnel,’ Said a state Guard official. ‘Smaller companies do not.’ Some companies have continued the Guardsmen’s medical coverage. Still others have made up the difference between the Guardsmen’s civilian pay and their military salaries.” states Garmone.
Some reservists’ take a pay cut when they are activated because their civilian salary is not connected to their military pay. The soldier must be prepared for the loss of certain income, benefits, retirement contributions and other investments.
Even though reservists are worried about their jobs, and benefits the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) does try to protect reservists. Judy Greenwald reports, “’Typically, the employer must reinstate within two weeks of the application for re-employment,’ Ms. Farmer said. ‘If there’s been several years of active duty the regulations recognize that it may take a little bit more time because you have to open up a position, which can mean laying off another employee or transferring someone else.’”
Judy Greenwald discloses, “Thousands of veterans could return to the workforce given President Barack Obama’s commitment to withdraw 23,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the summer and his plan to turn security entirely over to the Afghan government by 2014.”
This could spell trouble for businesses because some issues have already surfaced. One of those problems is that the USERRA is ambiguous in its wording. As troops begin returning home; reservists wishing to return to their civilian jobs are faced with employers unprepared to re-instate them. (Greenwald 2012)
Judy Greenwald asserts, “’Employers have to pay close attention to deadlines regarding how soon they have to bring the veterans back, which depends on factors including the length of time the service member was deployed and whether he or she was injured,’ said Shannon D. Farmer, a partner with law firm Ballard Spahr L.L. P. in Philadelphia.
It may seem that this act favors veteran’s and be a hardship for businesses, but this act doesn’t help veteran’s if there job has been completely phased out due to the recession or if the company has shut down. For a reservists income is only obtained through employment. Once they are out-processed from their active duty tour their income, and benefits come from a civilian job. This puts a large amount of stress on a returning soldier to become re-employed as quickly as possible. Knowing that you will have to fight for your job after spending a year fighting for your country is a hard pill to swallow for most reservists.

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The Fine Line, Part 3, by Guest Essayist Amy Fernaays

The composition of America’s military has changed a lot in the past 20 years. With increasing military budget cuts the military began shifting more of its assets, i.e. military soldiers, into the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR). This creates a workforce military. A workforce military transfers a majority of the financial responsibility on the worker and on companies to support the soldier and their families. There are approximately 550,000 Army National Guard and Reserve in the IRR. (Zoroya 2012) About 188,000 reservists are serving on active duty. That leaves a large military reserve army being supported by businesses and corporations. (Garamone 2004)
Even though the Ready Reserve was established in 1908 it wasn’t used very much because we had a large military force. As times have changed and the economy puts pressure on the country to finance an affordable military this brings the Ready Reserve to the forefront of the battlefield. The military has to turn to the surplus of qualified and skilled soldiers in order to fight any war or conflict the U.S. engages in.
America has been engaged in many wars, conflicts and humanitarian reliefs since the 1980’s. From Desert Storm to the War on Terrorism soldiers have been and are currently deployed to various foreign countries fighting many battles. When a conflict or war is initiated the need for more qualified and trained soldiers’ increases. This is where the IRR can be activated and used to its full potential. An example of this is the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade that was deployment on February 12, 2004. The brigade includes units from New York, Minnesota, Maryland, California, West Virginia, and Illinois.(Jim Garamone 2004) Jim Garamone states, “The core of the brigade is the 3,500 members of the Old Hickory Brigade base in Clinton, North Carolina. This brigade will serve with the 1st Infantry in Iraq.”
Being the largest activated reserve military doesn’t come without drawbacks. The differences between enlisted, and reservists become more apparent during a deployment. For many reservists they will leave behind a family and a job. The military has concentrated support on the base for active duty families. This doesn’t work for the reservists, whose family might be hundreds of miles from a military base. There are new organizations forming every year to help the reservist family with support. (Jim Garmone 2004)

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The Fine Line, Part 2, by Guest Essayist Amy Fernaays

New laws add to the confusion, and businesses are having a difficult time understanding the obligation they have to a returning employee. Organizations, companies, and the government are trying to find solutions that help meet the needs of the workforce soldier, the Reservist.
To understand, you must first know what an Individual Ready Reservist (IRR) is and why they are important.
Since 1908 there has been a Ready Reserve of soldiers that waited until they were needed to defend America. The IRR was a small army of men, skilled in various areas that would be able to fill the gaps in the active duty brigade. The concept remains the same, but the evolution of the reserves has changed into what we know today. (Tillson 2006)
A person who joins the reserves will have many of the same experiences of an active duty soldier. They will both attend basic training (Army/Coast Guard), boot camp (Marines/Navy), basic military training (Air Force), or basic combat training (National Guard). Once basic training is completed; the next step is Advanced Individual Training (A.I.T. Army), or School of Infantry (S.O.I. Marines) to become educated in the M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) of choice. If the reservist has completed civilian education in their desired M.O.S. they may be able to skip A.I.T. This process can take up to six months or more depending on necessary schooling. [U.S. Army and U.S. Marines.com]
This is where the reservists and enlisted soldier will part ways. The reservist will be assigned to a post. Once assigned and out-processed, the reservist will report to their post commander and receive information on when to report for duty. Reporting for duty will consist of one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. (Army.com reservists)
Reservists are only compensated during “active” duty periods. On average a reservists earns around $3,000-5,000 a year for one weekend a month and two weeks a summer. (Army.com benefits)They do not receive many of the benefits that active duty members enjoy. This makes their civilian job the main source of income, health care benefits, and retirement.
The military used to be made up of many active duty members, but it is very expensive to have a large active duty military and in recent years our economy has put a strain on the military system.

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