Gary Wright II

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Helping Our Veterans

POW MIA - Remembering our prisoners of war and those still missing in action FC2 Gary Wright II is a proud veteran of the United States Navy during the Gulf War era (1991-1995). FC2 Wright served aboard the Aegis Destroyer USS STOUT (DDG-55) as a Missile Systems Supervisor. He is also an official plank owner from the USS Stout commissioning crew. When he became a victim of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, Gary became a LGBT human rights activist and fought for 17 years to get the policy repealed.

Having spent many years navigating the bureaucracy of the Veteran's Administration (VA), he provides the following suggestions to improve the quality of care being given to our veterans:

No Homeless Veterans - There are over 76,000 homeless veterans and they need our help. In 2009, there were 136,000 veterans who spent at least one night in a shelter. All of our veterans deserve to live in a safe and accessible home.

Suicide Prevention - Despite several major efforts to identify and help our at-risk soldiers, we are still losing way too many of our troops to suicide. In 2010, we needlessly lost 343 soldiers, which averages out to be almost one suicide every day. The suicide rate has been increasing for the past five years, and in some branches the number has doubled. We must remove the stigma of seeking mental health and eliminate the conditions that are leading to suicide. For those veterans in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Benefit Awareness - Benefits and eligibility criteria change frequently, yet our veterans are rarely notified of these changes. Veterans and their care-givers should regularly check the VA.gov web site for any changes in benefits or eligibility requirements.

Every veteran should check VA.gov for new benefits every year. The past two years the VA has made many improvements and new benefits for many. You can do everything online now, refill prescriptions, view lab results, and secure messaging to your assigned medical team.

Example: Most veterans can get a free tombstone / grave marker through VA.gov You can get either the flat grave marker or the upright tombstone. Lots of optional symbols are available. Most of the funeral directors know about this and can help you order them as part of funeral arrangements. Also check into this if any of your deceased veterans have a missing or damaged marker. The form is easy to fill out and can be downloaded at VA.gov

Check this benefits guide every year for changes: Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors

If have a problem at the VA - ask to see the "patient advocate" office. They can usually help.

A valuable service often overlooked are the VSOs (veteran service organizations). There are many, but the first one that comes to mind is The American Legion. Those groups help people with the system on a daily basis and can be a real lifesaver for many people. They can represent the veteran and make sure the paperwork is done correctly.

Our veterans deserve the best, so please help me spread the word!