Articles tagged with: veterans

Navy Seabee Tim Peña is Veteran Mission Possible’s Journalist of the Month

Navy Seabee Tim Peña is Veteran Mission Possible’s Journalist of the Month

“Navy veteran Tim Peña sat on the laminate wood flooring in his studio apartment for three days. There was no TV or radio, just his thoughts. He thought about how to clean up all the blood if he survived, or how his family would have to walk through it to collect his things if he succeeded. He thought about the veteran in his cellblock who had committed suicide a few days earlier by slipping the blade out of his razor…” from reporter Molly Bohannon: Is Arizona’s model for veteran suicide prevention the answer?

Most journalists report on the lives of others; Tim Peña lives a life that others report on.

He didn’t intend it to be that way. But by being someone else’s “story” he processed this experience to become the person on the other side of the notepad and microphone. This provides an unmatched authenticity to his reporting on veteran suicide, homelessness, and incarceration. 

He came close to experiencing the first, managed to survive the second, and speaks from a long history of being in and out of homelessness.

From written-up, to written-about, to written-by

The first firm writing step came about for Tim back in 2004 while living in Croatia where he published the first English-language business and tourism guide with distribution in Croatia and London in the Croatian Bureau of Tourism. Before then, he also designed and sold advertising for Arizona Directions - a new-student guide at the University of Arizona (1986-87), Key Magazine in Chicago, and for the Chicago Blues and Jazz Festival program guides (1993-95).

Upon his return from Croatia in 2006, Tim was arrested at JFK Airport for an outstanding warrant issued by Arizona for back-to-back DUI’s from 2002. After spending six weeks in Ryker’s Island and the Brooklyn Federal Correctional Center, he was ‘conaired’ to Arizona where he was sentenced to 4 ½ years in Arizona prison and released in 2009. In 2014, Tim was again arrested for DUI and a first-offense marijuana possession, and in 2016, found himself homeless and at MANA House, a veteran’s transitional program where he also served as the front desk clerk.

His time at MANA House (Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force) serving as a front desk clerk along with his background in publishing provided the time and space to write a comprehensive Veterans Incarceration/Suicide Index whitepaper that draws parallels between vet suicide and incarceration among veterans with service-connected disabilities such as PTSD, TBI and drug and alcohol addiction.

In 2018, Tim was sentenced to two years in Arizona prison for the marijuana possession and another four years on probation for the DUI. He created the Veterans Justice Project based on his incarceration experiences and those of veterans who were being denied access to Veterans Affairs with a program to ‘Bridge the Gap’ between the veteran and the VA. He credits MANA House for providing him, as a staff member, “access to individuals on the resident side (to interview) as well as all the research and resources I could hope for. I started the VISI in May/June 2016 and finished it up in early 2017.”

As he describes it, “MANA House supplied me the tools necessary to research and write the Veterans Incarceration/Suicide Index (VISI) which compares veteran population, incarceration, and suicide to an average ‘index’ for each state. My findings showed that states with more robust Veterans Treatment Courts had significant reductions in all three.”

Fast forward to 2022 and all too many disagreements and disputes with veteran services and Arizona authorities, he moved to New York City.

A new home as a writer – Military Veterans in Journalism

A series of articles that Tim has been writing for Our Newspaper called “Be The Story” caught the attention of Russell Midori, career journalist/videographer and co-founder of Military Veterans in Journalism. Following a personal introduction in NYC, Tim was invited to attend an MVJ meet in Washington DC. How did that come about so quickly?

“A journalist’s primary responsibility is to tell the truth,” Russell says. “My litmus test for a potential journalist is how willing he is to reveal truths about himself because those are the hardest truths to share. Tim is not afraid to share his experiences with physical and mental health, or even highly stigmatized topics like homelessness or incarceration. Authenticity is a journalist’s most powerful currency, so when I saw that in him, I knew he had great potential in this field.”

And the reason for inviting Tim to an MVJ conference in DC?

Russell continues, “Journalism is a tough field because you have to be polite enough to get an interview and rude enough to demand the truth. Most journalists have too much of one, and not enough of the other, but Tim embodies both these characteristics effortlessly,” and offers one more reason.

“Tim probably didn’t regard himself as a journalist for most of his life, but I think he’s just the kind of person needed to do this type of work. I really felt my early career MVJs needed to meet someone like him so they could observe that sweet spot between courtesy and entitlement, and maybe find that balance for themselves,” Russell ends. 

Much to his amazement (or amusement), Tim now finds himself cast as a role model. Which is what he is, and why we are honoring him this month.

(Military Veterans in Journalism is working with Let’s Rethink This to develop an onsite and online “media pool” of experienced professionals whose interviews and stories will support thenewly-launched Veteran Mission Possible campaign attacking the two evils of veteran suicide and veteran medical debt.)

Healthcare Benefits for Veterans Who Are Also Expats

The Most Important Things You Should Know

Healthcare Benefits for Veterans Who Are Also Expats

It can already be challenging enough to transition back to civilian life from active duty, but the prospect gets even more daunting for veterans moving abroad with family after retiring from service.

If you’re a Veteran who lives overseas, you remain entitled to the benefits and services you earned through your military service. Most VA benefits, such as disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment and burial, are payable regardless of your place of residence or nationality. disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment and burial.

The Veterans Benefits Administration can provide assistance regarding VA benefits.

Getting healthcare overseas

As a Veteran living or traveling abroad, you can receive medical care for VA service-connected disabilities through our VA Foreign Medical Program. Under this program, we assume payment responsibility for the necessary treatment of service-connected disabilities. You can visit our Foreign Medical Program page for more information. There are regional toll-free phone numbers on this page that you can call for additional assistance.

If you are a veteran who lives or travels abroad and needs medical care for service-connected disabilities, you can receive that care through the VA Foreign Medical Program. This program allows veterans to receive medical care from approved providers in countries all around the world. This care is provided at no cost to you, and you can receive it whether or not you are stationed in a foreign country. To be eligible for the VA Foreign Medical Program, you must: 

  • Be a veteran. 
  • Have a service-connected disability that is considered permanent and requires regular care. 
  • Be registered with the VA. 
  • Be a citizen or national of a country eligible for the VA Foreign Medical Program. 
  • Meet other eligibility requirements specified by the VA.

To complete an online registration form for FMP, please download VA Form 10-7959f-1.

In Conclusion

To sum it up, you should aim to be aware of your emotions when making this big life decision. Be patient with yourself and don’t forget that the journey won’t always be easy. Just like how challenges are used to make you stronger, the ups and downs that come with the big decision can only make your life better in a way!

Fellow Veterans – To Tell a Story – BE the Story

Fellow Veterans – To Tell a Story – BE the Story

As part of my participating in the filming of a documentary on vulnerable veterans with Let’s Rethink This founder Jerry Ashton and acclaimed documentarist and filmmaker Patrick de Warren I arrived in NYC in late July from Phoenix, AZ.

nyc dept homeless servicesFor this documentary to work I actually participated in the process of going ‘homeless’ (which I was) and registered with the New York City Dept of Homeless Services located on 30th St. in Manhattan – just seven blocks from the Manhattan Harbor VA. The men’s shelter is an eight-story former school with classrooms serving as offices and 2–5-man rooms. It was quite an experience.

 Everyone entering the building passes through a metal detector and belongings are thoroughly inspected. There are no weapons allowed or any item that could be used as a weapon. No outside food is allowed, and no food can be removed from the dining area. There is security and staff everywhere.

veterans residenceAlthough formidable, the result is a calm, peaceful environment with tons of support from case workers from multiple agencies (including the VA with an onsite veteran’s case manager three days a week). There are laundry facilities, hot meals, showers, and comfy beds. Essentially, it is a steppingstone intake for the hundreds of temporary residents who will be referred to other short-term housing and supportive programs.

What is amazing is that Veterans experiencing homelessness are immediately identified and fast-tracked to a number of transitional programs regardless of military discharge status. 

I was transferred to the Borden Avenue Veterans’ Residence in Long Island City in Queens; a large sprawling building with hundreds of beds in open bays and 6 x 9 ft cubicles. Here, the cubicles are provided to veterans that qualify for HUD/VASH and all the veterans are provided a safe haven with meals, showers, counseling services, and access to mental health and medical providers.

I was immediately assigned a case worker to assist in obtaining permanent housing, whether with HUD/VASH or any number of veteran-supportive housing programs and employment opportunities structured around a vet’s needs. As a 62+ veteran with physical and mental health disabilities, they made sure that I would be aware of need-specific options available through agencies on the federal, state, and city levels. Thorough!

The NYC-Phoenix Difference for this Vet

veteran housingMy start at the 30th St. men’s shelter in two weeks has positioned me to be approved for a HUD/VASH voucher for which the Phoenix VA and CRRC refused to allow me to apply! This provided me an immediate confirmation that these people were on my side.

In that same, short time I was also accepted to participate in an SSVF program providing business opportunities and housing to veterans. I’m surrounded by an amazing staff of case workers and counselors, and a security staff and feel accepted, respected and safe. 

It is no wonder why the per-capita suicide rate of New York is less than half that of Arizona. It is proof-positive that the Veteran-based support policies and programs for at-risk and vulnerable veterans being done in NYC reduces stress and contributes to saving lives. I expect to count mine among them. Tim Pena, Veterans Justice Project.


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