• Featured Image Warfighter Rights Movement

    Thank you for taking this step to join the Warfighter Rights Movement.  We will be separating everyone into groups. As you spread the word start thinking about if you want.

    • Leadership
    • Show up to rallies
    • Contribute resources
    • Provide Legal help (Pro bono)
    • Publicity and Public Relations

    All are required to simply pass the word The next step is to write letters (template provided below) to all of your legislators and every media organization you can find. Make sure you join the group at the bottom for further updates. For now we will have two communication outlets, you will need to have both. We will use this website and the Facebook group below. Here are your orders: Follow the below instructions and send the below letter to your Representative and local news outlets.

    • Copy the text below
    • click on the link  http://www.house.gov/representatives/
    • find your Representative on the list provided (The hyperlink will send you to their page when you click on their name)
    • Find the email link on the page
    • paste the below text
    • REMEMBER to add their name to the top of the letter send it off
    • Click on this link and repeat for your senators. http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
    • Once you have sent the letter to your Representative it is time to send the letter to your local media station.
    • Do an internet search for the contact information for all your local news outlets and send off the letter to them

    As soon as you complete this mission click the link below and join our group on Facebook for all further updates

    Warfighter Rights Movement Facebook Page
    Warfighter Rights Movement Facebook Group

    ***************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************** SUBJECT: Warfighter Rights Movement

    Dear _______,

    I am contacting to inform you of the Warfighter movement. This is a movement that I am proud to be a part of. We stand here today united to end Warfighter discrimination and stop PTSD phobia. As you have seen, the issues with the Veteran Administration has been substandard for decades. However, this is not the only issue we as Warfighters are facing in America today. Routinely our Warfighter community is discriminated against in the areas of employment, housing and whenever we stand before a judge. As your constituent, I am respectfully bringing this to your attention so you may appropriately support this movement. As part of the plan we will seek to take action in the courts through class action law suits and to propose legislation to end the discrimination of warfighters in America. American Warfighters are comprised of 23 million strong veterans with supports plus the additional numbers of those currently serving on active duty military and their families. In the 1960’s Americans rallied to end discrimination with the Civil Rights movement. During that same timeframe the returning Warfighters were chastised and shamed by the very people they fought for. We continue to see this today as another generation returns from answering the call to arms of this nation. The method of discrimination is different and in some ways more secretive and more underhanded. We will not allow this to continue to happen to the present day Warfighters. This is the era of the Warfighter Rights movement. Rather than complain with excessive rhetoric, we seek your assistance to support our effectiveness. We want all of our representatives at our backs. We don’t care about politics. Politicians that support us must agree to “give no quarter to the corrupt”. Expect to see us protest and rally in large numbers across the country. If you have questions or want to be part of the movement contact this email address. rally@warriorpointe.org rally@asmdss.com rally@boonecutler.com



  • Where is my cape?

    Where is my cape?
    You know the one I am talking about. The cape that your friends and even strangers compliment you on. The cape that is draped across your shoulders, flying in the wind as you sprint about doing ten things at once. The cape that holds you up when you feel like you are falling down. I need that dad blamed cape! I would love to see it, on me, just once. I keep hearing people talk about it but I just can’t even start to imagine what they are talking about. Oh, I have seen it on other women. Sometimes it is hard to see, but when they pause to take a breath I catch a glimpse of it. I want to know where they get their beautiful capes that make them so strong.
    What? I am not the only one wishing I could get one? I am not the only one that feels like every day is a struggle, but I am the only one lagging behind. I thought I was the only one. The only one that gets up before daylight, starts running at the day head on determined to be productive only to hear the bed calling, no screaming, my name by noon. I look around at so many other woman that I adore and they are still running strong while the only thing I want is to chug that third pot of coffee so that I have the energy to go one more step. Surely I must be the only one that sits down exhausted at dinner only to realize that I haven’t eaten anything all day, or sat down all day, or…. When was the last time I went to the bathroom? I know I have been today. Anyway, since I haven’t taken care of myself, what HAVE I done? The house needs to be cleaned before bed, I hope the kids have clothes for tomorrow, and I still haven’t done my school assignment that was due last night. *Sigh* I guess I slept all day, why the heck am I so tired. Yep, this is what runs through my head, every single night as I put the kids in bed so I can get some work done. If I were to guess I would say that some of you feel the same way, at least every once in a while.
    Just a bit of a back story, I have five kids. Well, four and a half, the step-daughter is only here part of the time. Three of my four kids have special needs, one of them is mild and getting better every day. My eight year old has moderate autism and my two year old has signs of autism. So I still have two in diapers. I am in college, online. I have my own photography business and I am active (well kinda) in the Warfighter Rights Movement. I am also in the process of starting a non-profit group to help our warfighters who are missing or are in distress. I usually get up between 2:00am and 5:00am and then work till about midnight. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I can honestly say that I am living my dream. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like I am not doing enough, there are ALWAYS something that gets left undone.

    I have a wonderful support system, I call them my “cheerleaders.” When I am feeling down they are ALWAYS there to pick me up. If I am doubting my abilities, they point out my victories. Around these people it is easy to feel like super woman. When I am on my own, running around, trying to do everything at once and feeling like nothing is being accomplished, I wonder what these people see in me. I have surrounded myself with successful women. These women amaze me every single day. I truly believe some of them have super powers. They have full time jobs, families, some of them battle health issues and yet they manage to fight for our warfighters and truly make a difference every day. I look at them and think, “Why can’t I do that?” Then I talk to them and they tell me how amazing I am. Really? No freaking way they are talking about me! I want to look them in the eyes and scream, maybe even shake them a little. I am NOT amazing! I haven’t put on makeup in at least a month, maybe longer. I grab the first outfit I come to in my closet and between kissing boo boos, changing diapers and fixing snacks I lay everything out for my shower so that I can get in and back out in under five minutes. I cook my family three meals a day but I snack while I clean because I don’t have time to sit down and eat. Every time I start to put in a pair of earrings I pause to consider if the holes have had time to close up. I clean the living room, then make a mad dash to clean the kitchen so I can see some accomplishment. Only when the kitchen is half clean I turn around to see the living room covered in cheerios, toys, both packs of pull ups emptied, and the DVDs scattered all over the room. Then I excuse myself to the other room to cry for thirty seconds and then compose myself and continue cleaning like nothing is amiss. Surely, if these ladies could see that side of me they would know I am so not amazing. They would see me as weak, maybe even pathetic.
    Do YOU ever feel this way? When someone gives you a compliment on what you accomplish every day, do you ever look behind you to see if there is someone else standing there? Do you feel like you can’t be amazing because you struggle? How do you measure “amazing?” One thing I have found out in talking with so many wives, mothers and women in general. No one has a perfect life. No one goes all day every day without feeling weak. Everyone has moments where they think, “I am so glad no one can see me right now.” So the next time you see that lady that you respect, that you think “I wish I could be more like her.” When you are tempted to wish your life was like “hers.” Remember, she has her moments too. She thinks she is weak too. She WANTS TO BE AMAZING JUST LIKE YOU.
    I am sorry that I have rambled on for so long today. I really hope that just one lady can read this and realize that YOU are amazing. Despite your weakness, despite your flaws, there is someone, somewhere that wants to be like you. I will leave you with my favorite quote:
    “Be strong when you are weak, brave when you are scared and humble when you are victorious. – Pink



  • LEGAL BRIEFING: Service Animals in the Workplace under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act

    By: Todd Lezon, O.I.F. Veteran and Warfighter Rights Attorney

    Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
    Title I of the ADA is the federal law that governs service animals in the workplace.

    KEY DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN TITLE I AND TITLES II-III OF THE ADA AS APPLIED TO SERVICE ANIMALS

    Titles II and III of the ADA regulate the conduct of private businesses and state governments. This means that if you’re asked to leave a private business or state government building because of the presence of your service animal, you would sue the state under Title II or the business under Title III.

    But if your employer discriminates against you for bringing a service animal to work, the law of Title I will form the basis of your lawsuit. There are several, significant differences between Titles I and II-III, chief among them are as follows:

    1. Title I is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), whereas Titles II and III are administered by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”).

    2. Unlike the DOJ, The EEOC has not defined “service animal” in its regulations, and this could have a prejudicial effect on the veteran asserting that his or her dog is a service animal as a matter of law.

    3. Titles II and III provide a veteran with a service animal an almost automatic right to enter a business or state government building with a service animal, but, under Title I, no such right exists, and the veteran must give notice to the employer of the existence of a service animal and the need for a “reasonable accommodation”–i.e. allowing the service animal in the workplace.

    4. The employer has the right to ask for “reasonable” documentation showing that the service animal is required as a disability aid, whereas businesses and state government entities cannot require the veteran with a service animal to produce such documentation.

    5. Titles II and III require the disabled person only to be legally disabled as that term is defined by the ADA. But, Title I has the additional requirement that the person be a “qualified person” in order to bring his or her service animal into the workplace.

    WHO IS A “QUALIFIED PERSON” ENTITLED TO A SERVICE ANIMAL UNDER TITLE I?

    To determine who is a “qualified person” under Title I of the ADA, a reviewing court conducts a two-part inquiry: (1) whether the veteran with a service animal can perform the essential functions of the job in question, and (2) if not, whether reasonable accommodations made by her employer would enable her to perform those functions. (See School Bd. of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273, 287 n.17, 107 S. Ct. 1123, 1131 n.17, 94 L. Ed. 2d 307 (1987); Myers, 50 F.3d at 281-82. See School Bd. of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273, 287 n.17, 107 S. Ct. 1123, 1131 n.17, 94 L. Ed. 2d 307 (1987); Myers, 50 F.3d at 281-82.)

    WHAT IS A “REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION”?

    Court’s determine whether the employer has provided a disabled employee a reasonable accommodation by making the following, two-part inquiry: (1) Does the accommodation adequately address the employee’s job-related difficulties?, and; (2) Does the accommodation enable the employee to attain an equal level of achievement, opportunity, or productivity as a similarly situated non-disabled employee?

    Here, the “accommodation” would be the employer’s decision to allow the employee to bring his or her service animal into the workplace, and such accommodations will be deemed “reasonable” if they grant the employee an equal opportunity to attain the desired level of job-performance.

    THE “UNDUE HARDSHIP” TEST

    Once the veteran has given the proper notice to his employer, the employer must attempt to provide the veteran a work environment where he can bring his service animal, and doing so is considered a “reasonable accommodation”. However, the employer can argue that the veteran’s request to bring his service animal to work creates an “undue hardship” on business operations.

    The basic test for undue hardship is whether the employer must bear too great of an expense in granting the accommodation to the veteran with a service animal.

    In evaluating whether an undue hardship exists, courts will consider several factors, including: (1) The overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation, the number of persons employed at such facility, and the effect on expenses and resources; (2) The overall financial resources of the covered entity, the overall size of the business of the covered entity with respect to the number of its employees, and the number, type and location of its facilities; (3) The type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure and functions of the workforce of such entity, and the geographic separateness and administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity; and (4)The impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the facility, including the impact on the ability of other employees to perform their duties and the impact on the facility’s ability to conduct business.

    If anyone has any questions, I can be reached at lezonlawfirm@gmail.com



  • Broken or different?

    The last few weeks, I have had a hard time thinking of something to write. This week I have so many ideas running through my head that I do not know where to start. The topic that is on my mind the most, is quite controversial and is somewhat sensitive. Therefore, before I get into writing the blog, I want to remind everyone that I am not telling you what you should do or telling you that my ideas will work in every situation. For all intents and purposes, my methods may not work for my family tomorrow. However, in this blog I like to talk about everyday issues within my life and the struggles that the warfighter and his/her family face.
    One issue I have seen very frequently is concerning the news and how it can trigger our warfighters. I cannot start to count how many spouses, parents, siblings and children I have spoken with who have spoken to me about the stress that watching the news brings into the home. Not just the news but many situations can act as a trigger to the warfighter who battles PTS(d). Probably the most frequent idea I see and question I get is, “How can I hide, trigger, from my warfighter.” Well that is a question that I do not know the answer to. Allow me to tell you about when I realized that hiding an event, news story, or situation was not what is best for my family. I will not divulge specific details but I want to tell you about the general incident and the conclusions that was drawn.
    A while back there was a news story circulating that I was sure would cause my warfighter a lot of stress. We do not have satellite or cable so I wasn’t worried about him SEEING the news. So I struggled to preoccupy him and keep him off of Facebook, I did my best to monitor his conversations and keep him away from the topic of this story. It worked well for the first few days. Then about 2300 one night he woke me up. At first I thought he had, once again, had a nightmare. However, I was wrong, a well-meaning friend had contacted him to discuss this “event” that I was trying to shelter him from. The next couple of hours was miserable. I had been dreading him being triggered by this event, but now I was also faced with the devastation that I, his girlfriend, was hiding stuff from him. After, we got past the explanations of why I had sheltered him from this situation. We then entered into the planning stage. We planned out all the possible dangers and how we could protect ourselves and our children. Soon after, he drifted off to sleep while I lay there thinking.
    When a warfighter signs that dotted line, they enter boot camp. During boot camp they are stripped of their identity. They are no longer civilians, with the civilian mindset, they become warriors, fighters, protectors. During the time that they are serving our country they are surrounded by brothers and sisters who are trained in the same way. They all are privy to the same dangers, they have a plan to stay safe and to protect each other. They review and practice these plans constantly. When that warfighter leaves the service, no one strips him/her of the warfighter identity and trains them to be civilians. It is my personal opinion that this is why it is so difficult for our veteran warfighters. The civilian world is not scarier than the military, however the lack of a plan and practice is debilitating.
    Now, back to my story. The day following that stressful night we sat down and talked about how we can make life less stressful. He refers to me as his “filter” I filter movies, songs, events, situations and especially news stories. However, I no longer hide these things from him. What I do is to educate myself of what could cause stress, I figure out potential dangers and a plan to combat those dangers, whether real or perceived. Whether it is going into a crowded place, Independence Day, or news of ISIS targeting military personnel. When I identify the threat, I try to make a plan to keep us safe. Then he and I will sit down and discuss it. It does not completely eliminate stress, however, it reduces it by a huge margin.
    As his partner, we have each other’s back. I know I will never be the same as his brothers that he stood with to protect this country, I honestly don’t want to be. He will forever be a warfighter, he will always have the mindset of a warrior, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I do not want him to think or act like a civilian. I realize that for us, “normal civilian” activities is out of the question. Even going to the grocery store is anything but normal. We have a plan, we know the “procedure” for staying alert, and identifying threats, we also know how to respond or get out if there is a problem. The same thing for having a movie night at home. We have the same place(s) that we sit, if there is a noise or anything that startles us, we have a plan. Our children are a part of that plan. They may not understand exactly what is going on or why we have our “drills” but they are prepared.
    After talking to so many families and loved ones who just want a normal life. They want to fix their warfighter. I can sympathize. I really can. I know that pain of seeing the warfighter you love looking lost and alone. That excitement in his eyes when he sees a photo or a video that reminds him of the places he has been and his brothers that he stood shoulder to shoulder with. That faraway look in his eyes and you just know that he is reliving those painful memories. The regret on his face and the way he apologizes over and over when he cannot participate in the community events that you have planned. It is the normal human mindset to want to change what we see as broken, but these warfighters aren’t broken. They are strong, and perfect as a warfighter, it is our theories of how it should be that is broken. To me, I think of being dropped in a foreign land. I am from the southern US, if I was suddenly dropped in China, I wouldn’t know how to react. I would seem broken to those who were familiar with living in China. I know that many caregivers and loved ones of our warfighters already know these things. I wrote this blog so that you will realize that you are not alone in this foreign land. There are many of us hiding out in our little own personal safety box.
    Keep your head up, tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to live and love.



  • Magic of Life

    Greetings, my warrior class friends! It is that time again, when I give a sneak peek into the insanity that is my life. With some thought and recent events I decided to talk about “Magic” today. According to the Webster dictionary: 1mag•ic
    noun \ˈma-jik\
    : a power that allows people (such as witches and wizards) to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions
    However, in day to day life “magic” plays a vital part in our lives. To me it is so much more. “The power that allows people to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions.” Who are the people that can say these words or perform these actions? What are the special words and special actions? I want to talk about this, because it is a very simple and relevant answer but first let’s talk about the fun side of magic.
    One night my four year old son had just gone to bed, soon after he laid down he came back in the living room sobbing because of a night mare. A very regular concern with anyone who has small children. I sat with him till he calmed down and then he went back to bed. Being the “weirdo” that I am I recognized that a nightmare was subconscious and that the best way to combat these nightmares was to sooth his subconscious. A plan slowly started to form. The next night when he went to bed there was a stuffed animal on his pillow along with a note. I do not remember exactly what the note said but something to the tune of, “It made me sad to see those bad dreams upset you. So I brought you my friend (insert name). He has special powers that will protect you while you sleep. He chases away bad dreams and if a bad dream sneaks by, he will fight the bad guys for you and he ALWAYS wins.” Signed; the good dream fairy. It worked because he believed, and subconsciously he was convinced that no one or nothing could hurt him. Over time one phase lead to the next, and instead of nightmares he was afraid of the monster under his bed. I went and I bought a bottle of febreeze, a clear spray bottle and I printed off a label for “Monster spray.” Every night I would spray the room and no monsters could cross that barrier. This is just one example of magic in the real world.
    Now… I would really like to talk about real world magic. “The power that allows people to do impossible things by saying special word or performing special actions.” The majority of adults reading this is now envisioning alters, wands, potions and chants. But let’s dissect the that definition and apply it to our everyday life.
    “The power that allows people;” People? Who? Perhaps me, perhaps you.
    “To do impossible things:” Like what? Get/stay organized? Face a stressful event? Lose weight? Face it through another day following a sleepless night?
    “By saying special words;” Hmmm, I can, I will, I know? Could those special words be maintaining a positive attitude and expressing it?
    “Or performing special actions;” Does this have to be waving a wand or could it be as simple as getting out of the bed in the morning? Making a list, and sticking to it? Could the action be obtaining a phrase or item that reminds you that you can achieve your goals?
    Now, what do you think? Is magic something that belongs in a fairy tale? Or is magic something we have the ability to do every day? Is it something that we grow out of believing in as children, or is it something that we lose sight of because our mind becomes closed.
    As I say every week, just because this works for me doesn’t mean it works for you. However if you keep an open mind you can wake up in the morning and see the magical sunrise and use your special words and special actions to achieve the impossible.



  • Last One Standing

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    Plain and simple, we were a band of misfits. We weren’t some terrific trio. We didn’t have this undying bond that you see in the movies. We were three guys in the same unit who ended up living together after deployment. In truth, all three of us had more than a few screws loose. We still do. We were crazy, in one way or another. None of us were perfect. We were flawed in more ways than most. But we were good men, at least I like to think we were. The odd thing is that all of our different kinds of crazy ended up being perfectly fit pieces to a pretty interesting puzzle. Between the pharmaceuticals-handed out like candy by the Army-and the booze-also financed by our Army paychecks-you’d think there was no way any of us should have survived as long as we have. Most of us. But we did, possibly because also thanks to the Army, we were stubborn enough to survive. I cannot say that I’d willingly relive that time in my life. I wouldn’t. However, even if given the chance, I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it. Yes, it was dark. Between the booze, drugs, and our own demons from fighting a war we never should have had to fight, there was a tangible atmosphere of heavy darkness. You could feel it as soon as you stepped into the house. But, even in the midst of the darkness, there was laughter. There was that unspoken knowledge that we understood each other. We bitched about each other constantly. We pissed each other off on a daily basis. But we understood each other. We knew exactly where each other was coming from. Like most things, people, and places in life, we each went our separate ways. We lost touch.
    Angelo had given me the single greatest piece of advice I’ve ever gotten. He had my back when everyone else had written me off. Like us other two, he had his own demons. He is still fighting them. The last couple years, it hasn’t seemed as if he is winning that fight. To be honest, even though I wish there was something I could do, some days, I feel like I am waiting for that phone call, or text, or message telling me he has taken his life. I do pray that day never comes. Behind bars now, I am fairly certain the chances of that are significantly lower. I hope so. I can’t say Kevin and I were best buds, but we understood each other enough. We got along more than I get along with most people. We had the same experiences, agreed on most things, pissed each other off but never fought. Kevin was a great actor. He knew just how to be whatever you wanted him to be. Sometimes now, I think maybe that ability cost him some part of himself. Most of those who had a passing acquaintance with Kevin would give you some humorous and sarcastically negative description. They didn’t live with him. They weren’t deployed with him. I can’t say I knew everything about him, but I was close enough to him and knew him well enough to know the guy he really was. It saddens me that we lost contact. It had been 4 years since we’d talked until I got the message that he’d taken his life four days ago. Kevin and Angelo both were and are good men. Many people can’t see that through the facades they put up and the demons they both had to fight. But me, I’d stake my soul on the goodness at the core of those men. We were unstable and crazy as hell, but it’s ironic that when we were together, our craziness ended up balancing out and providing some sort of reverse stability.
    It’s been a rough couple days trying to wrap my head around the fact that Kevin is gone. With Angelo in jail and Kevin dead, a friend, a firsthand witness to the insanity that was our lives, told me the other day that I’m the last one standing. It took a while for it to sink in, and it’s hit hard. I can’t lie, it’s hard to keep holding on. It’s inexplicably hard to keep living in a world in which you don’t fit. The Army may have made us this way, but it was also the glue that held each of us together. Even though I have accomplished much since then, I still feel like the biggest part of myself, the only part I truly know, is missing.
    Angelo and Kevin’s pain, I have that same pain. Their demons, I have those same ones. I can’t really say how I am any different than them. I don’t feel like I am. But like my friend said, I’m the last one standing. Why, I couldn’t tell you. But I am here. The really shitty part is that those of us that are still standing carry the pain and demons and loss of our brothers who leave us prematurely. They no longer carry that pain, but we do. Most will not understand this, but I think I’m ok with that. We were there. We did what they did, know what they know, saw what they saw. That’s what happens in that brotherhood, if you are no longer able to bear your load, you pass it on to your brother.
    We will carry that load, those demons, that pain. You don’t have to ask us. But we will ask you not to make us. We’ve buried enough. We’ve shed enough tears. We have all lost enough. Don’t make us lose more. I can’t say I have the light for Angelo’s darkness. I wish I’d had a chance to shine a light for Kevin. But as the last one standing, I have to make sure my own light doesn’t go out, dim as it is most times. As long as there is still a spark, it can be fanned into a flame, and the flame can turn back the darkness. I’ve lost brothers to haji and I’ve lost brothers to themselves. I can’t say that I am or will always be strong enough to bear my load, but I can say it’s their loss that keeps me holding on. I can say that the pain we carry when we lose a brother to himself is not something I’d pass on to anyone.
    To those whose watch is ended, I say rest easy now, brothers, and hold the high ground, for the watch is now ours. For those of us still standing, I say stand tall, brothers, and keep the faith. When the darkness floods in, as it certainly will, fan that flame and let your light shine brighter than a thousand suns. Our watch is not over. We swore to stand watch only until properly relieved, and we have not been relieved. When you lose strength, as you certainly will, reach out your hand, and we will lift you up. If you cannot run, walk. If you cannot walk, crawl. If you cannot crawl, we will carry you. Stand strong, keep your heads up, and keep the faith, brothers. Ours is not over until the Valkyries come to take us to drink together once more in the halls of Valhalla.
    To Kevin, rest easy now brother, friend. Your body may be gone but your spirit is with us. There is no goodbye, only till we meet again.



  • Getting (and staying) organized

    I have talked to many spouses of our warfighters. After many conversations I have heard of a lot of struggles and even more strength. I will never compare being a spouse to actually being in the military. Like I talked about last week, all relationships have their trials and hardships, likewise, each relationship has highs and bonuses.

    One trial I have seen in every relationship I have ever discussed, whether military or civilian is the lack of time to accomplish everything that needs to be done. This struggle is especially prominent in relationships involving our injured or disables warfighters. Often the spouse becomes overwhelmed in the effort to be a parent, a spouse, a caregiver and often an employee. Not too long ago I found myself in this very struggle. I have four children of my own that live with us full time, my warfighter has a daughter that stays with us a few weeks a year, I am a college student, and caregiver, business owner and I took on an active role in the Warfighter Rights Movement. I realized that I was always exhausted but never accomplished anything. My house was the most unorganized that it has ever been. My warfighter and children were complaining that they missed me even though I never left the house. I was failing my classes and my tasks within the Warfighter Rights Movement were becoming farther and farther behind. I really couldn’t understand, I was putting in 20-22 hours a day, yet I accomplished nothing.

    I decided it was time to come up with a plan, I sat down and came up with a system. I used index cards, I made one for each day of the week. I knew it wasn’t a long term plan but it was just to get my house organized. For each day I broke it down into three sections, morning, afternoon, and evening. I left Saturday blank for family days. I set a goal of one month to have my house organized. For the morning of each working day I listed one load of laundry, and light cleaning. For the afternoon I listed one room to organize. For the evening I listed one more load of laundry and preparing for the next day. Every day was a struggle to stay on task. Very slowly my house started getting organized. I only had so many hours to work on each task and when that time slot ended I stopped what I was doing and started my next task.

    A couple weeks ago my house had become organized but I still felt like my life was out of control, so I sat down and came up with another plan. School had started again, and since I thrive on schedules, I decided to make myself a schedule. I will describe it in a minute, but first let me tell you about the days that I have appointments or need to make a trip into town. These are the most trying for me. As I mentioned I thrive on schedules, if my schedule gets interrupted, I will literally walk in circles for the rest of the day. So this is a constant struggle, but my goal is that if my schedule gets interrupted and I do not have time for a specific task, then I continue around it. I try to plan ahead if I know that a particular day is going to be different. If I know I am going to be busy on Thursday during the time I should be working on school and I have an assignment due, I will finish my assignment on Wednesday.

    For my schedule, I have a dry erase board on my wall and this is where I write my schedule. For me it looks like this.

    Get the kids on the bus

    Shower

    Clean house

    School

    Warfighter Rights Movement

    Dinner

    Family Time

     

    I intentionally did not add the confines of time. I know what I need to accomplish and that is my confinement. If I do not have time to get to all of the tasks then I just try to breathe through it and convince myself that the work will be there the next day. It isn’t easy but it is working. I know take both Saturday and Sunday off of my usual routine. On Saturday morning the whole family pitches in and we do a quick deep clean of the house. On Sunday we only do light cleaning and spend the day together as a family.

    I know that we are all different and what works for me may not work for you. However, I encourage you to look for what will work for you. Don’t get discouraged if your first plan doesn’t work, heck, don’t get discouraged if your first TEN plans don’t work. If you are consistent you will find what works for you. I can attest to the fact that when you get your house organized and become comfortable in your environment and in your routine it will greatly decrease the stress in your life and you will become more productive.

    I will be back next week with another story of life with a warfighter. Remember, keep your head up, tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to love.



  • LEGAL BRIEFING: Service Animals under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act

    By: Todd Lezon, O.I.F. Veteran and Warfighter Rights Attorney

    SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF TITLES II AND III OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (“ADA”)

    The ADA is a federal law that imposes two legal duties on businesses and state and local government entities that offer admission to the general public (“public entities”): public entities (1) must accommodate disabled persons, and; (2) cannot discriminate against disabled individuals on the basis of their disability.

    PREEMPTION OF STATE LAW

    The ADA must prevail over any conflicting state law, unless the state law provides greater or equivalent protections to those contained in the ADA. The practical effect of preemption is to make the ADA the law of the land that applies everywhere in the United States and its territories.

    PUBLIC ENTITY’S DUTY TO COMPLY WITH THE SERVICE ANIMAL PROVISIONS OF ADA

    Generally, a public entity shall modify its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability. 28 CFR § 35.136(a).

    SERVICE ANIMAL DEFINED

    A service animal is any dog trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, psychiatric, sensory, mental or intellectual disability. In some limited circumstances, the definition also encompasses a miniature horse. 28 CFR §§ 35.136, 36.104.

    PERSONS ENTITLED TO USE A SERVICE ANIMAL

    Any person with a disability is entitled to use a service animal. “Disability” is defined under ADA as: “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” 42 USC § 12102(1)(A). “Major life activities” means functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. 28 CFR 36.104

    SCOPE OF WORK FOR WHICH SERVICE ANIMAL IS AUTHORIZED

    The law requires that there be a connection between the specific tasks performed by the service animal and the mitigation of a disability. The federal regulations set forth eight examples of the services that a service animal is authorized to perform: (1) Helping blind persons navigate; (2) alerting deaf or hearing-impaired persons to the presence of sounds; (3) providing non-violent protection; (4) pulling a wheelchair; (5) alerting handlers to the presence of allergens; (6) retrieving items such as the phone or medicine; (7) providing physical support and assistance to person with mobility disabilities, and; (8) helping persons with psychiatric disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. 28 CFR §§ 35.104, 36.104.

    The list above is not an exhaustive, or complete, list of authorized tasks for a service animal under the ADA. Rather, the list only provides examples of permissible service animal tasks. Once the connection between the service animal’s tasks performed and the mitigation of a disability is established, virtually any conceivable use of the service animal that alleviates the disability is lawful under the ADA.

    QUESTIONS A PUBLIC ENTITY MAY ASK TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE ANIMAL IS A SERVICE ANIMAL

    Entities may only ask two questions of the handler or disabled person: (1) Whether the animal is required because of a disability, and; (2) What tasks the animal has been trained to perform. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(f), 36.302(6). However, the public entity may not ask either question if it is “readily apparent” that the animal is trained to do work for the person with a disability.

    Finally, a public entity cannot require the handler to produce documentary proof that the animal is a service animal under the ADA. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(f), 36.302(c)(6).

    DUTIES OF THE HANDLER UNDER THE ADA

    A service animal must be under the control of either the disabled individual or a designated handler and have a leash, harness, or similar tether, unless the handler is unable because of a disability that would interfere with the animal’s safe performance. In such cases, the service animal must be under the control of the handler’s voice or signal commands.

    PUBLIC ENTITY DEFENSES TO DENYING ENTRY OF A SERVICE ANIMAL

    1.   Out of Control Animals

    The service animal and the handler can be asked to leave if the service animal is out of control or not house broken. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(b)(1)-(2), 36.302(c). But, If the service animal is properly excluded from the premises, the individual must be permitted to remain on the premises to obtain goods and services. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(c), 36.302(c)(3).

    2.   Fundamental Alteration Defense

    A service animal may be excluded if the entity can show that the presence of the service animal would fundamentally alter the nature of goods, services, facilities and accommodations.

    Example: A museum argued that the presence of a service dog would fundamentally alter the Center’s service to patrons because the dog could make noise and thus deter other patrons and artists from coming to the art museum. The court ruled that the center’s speculation of dog-barking was insufficient to prove operations were fundamentally altered. Lentini v. CA Center of the Arts, 370 F.3d 837 (9th Cir. 2004).

    3.   Service Animal is Direct Threat to Health and Safety

    A “direct threat” is a significant risk to the health and safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices and procedures. 28 CFR §§ 35.139(a), 36.208(a).

    Example: A federal court held that a service animal was a direct threat to the health and safety of other hospital patients because the dog’s “putrid smell” had caused nearby patients to request moving to others rooms.

    REMEDIES FOR ADA TITLE III VIOLATIONS

    If a public entity violates either Titles II or III of the ADA, the aggrieved plaintiff can seek an injunction, which is a court order that will require the public entity to follow the ADA, or face harsh, punitive consequences that could include heavy fines or incarceration.



  • Communication.

    When I was asked to write for this blog I was a little confused where I should start. So I decided to start with what I consider to be the most important aspect of any relationship. A relationship with a military veteran is no harder than being in a relationship with a civilian. Every relationship has challenges unique to the persons involved.

    My warfighter and I are together 24/7. Any time two people spend that much time together they will inevitably find that they get annoyed with one another. To combat this unpleasant ”side effect” we have learned to be very open and honest. It is not unusual, in my house, to hear the line, “okay, you are really annoying me.” Usually, this sentence is followed by us going into separate rooms or even one of us leaving the house for a little while. By recognizing that we are getting upset with each other, we can stop the fighting before it begins.

    Another thing we do is to prioritize our fights. Just aside note, I use the word ”fight” lightly. In two and a half years, we have only had three true fights. Back to the point I was getting to, we have learned that our love is stronger than any disagreement we could possibly have. Therefore, if we have any hard feelings, but have important business to address (usually involving the kids) we have learned to place our differences on the back burner until the time is right to hash it out. This simply means that instead of spending hours or days angry or fighting, we are able to get along and actually support each other without a lot of tension between us. However, we always let the other one know how we feel, we might say, “I am hurt, we need to discuss this as soon as we have a chance.” Then we set it to the side.

    We try hard to never speak in anger. I read an article many years ago that discussed our language patterns when we are upset. The use of words such as mad, pissed, hate, or other negative words come freely and hurt both the one saying them and the one receiving them. However if you retrain yourself to use words like, angry, upset, sad, etc, you are forced to think before you speak and they do not cut the other person as harshly.

    I have saved our most effective communication tool for last. This is my favorite, and I have never met anyone else who has used it. When we first started talking on May 14,2012, the thing that we noticed immediately is that we are both very efficient in the language of sarcasm. Yes you read that correctly, our biggest tool in preventing fights and other tension is sarcasm. I have never met another couple who can carry on a full conversation using sarcasm. I am not suggesting that sarcasm is the answer for everyone, I have talked to people who hate sarcasm. In that instance it might cause even more tension in your relationship. My simple point is that you must find what works for you.

    Just to recap, using communication effectively is a process that never ends. Each day brings new challenges and we must approach each situation with an open mind. Don’t dwell on the tension. Feel free to say I am hurt/annoyed/frustrated and we need to talk about it as soon as the time is right. Then go on about life without hating each other. Find a means of communication that is effective for both of you. It might be sarcasm, or email, or text. Whatever it is, use it and improve it. Most importantly, NEVER speak in anger and if you do, apologize immediately.

    I will be back next week to talk about another aspect of loving a warfighter. Until then, remember that you are not alone. Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to love.



  • LEGAL BRIEFING: YOUR RIGHTS UNDER 38 U.S.C. § 1151

    By: Todd Lezon, Esq., O.I.F. Veteran and Warfighter Rights Attorney

    Despite the billions of dollars recently appropriated by Congress for much-needed reform at the VA, any combat veteran will tell you that the VA is so broken that it could take over a decade or more to fundamentally change for the better. It is a fact of life for the Warfighter Community that our healthcare will be challenging and stressful for years to come. Through understaffing and an insatiable appetite to prescribe deadly medication, the VA committed great harm to its veteran-patients in the mid-to-late 2000’s to present day. Therefore, we must, as a Community, assume that more harm will unfortunately be done before we realize the benefits of any VA-reform.

    So, what are you supposed to do when the negligent acts of VA employees cause you harm? The natural inclination may be to file a lawsuit against the VA, but that’s not going to get you very far. The Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) immunizes the VA from negligence or wrongful death lawsuits. If you or an attorney sued the VA for medical malpractice, the VA would answer that it is totally immune from suit under the FTCA, and your case would summarily be dismissed.

    Luckily, however, Congress gave us 38 U.S.C. § 1151 (“Section 1151”). Section 1151 provides, in pertinent part, that veterans harmed by the VA’s malpractice can recover monetary compensation for the harm in the form of a disability claim. So, for example, if you suffer $1,000,000 worth of physical harm when the VA botches your surgery or prescribes the wrong medication, you cannot sue them for that amount. But Section 1151 authorizes you to file a disability claim for this amount. If you prevail, you will be paid the compensation sought through the normal, service-connected disability payment system.

    It is important not to gloss over the fact that the VA is deciding (internally) whether it committed malpractice and whether it’s going to pay you damages. If this dynamic strikes you as contrary to basic principles of equity and due process, you would be right. You have every right to be skeptical of the VA’s decision-making – whether you file a Section 1151 claim or a regular, service-connected disability claim – because we have all experienced arbitrariness and unfairness at the VA. Luckily, you have the right to appeal your Section 1151 claim – first to the Board of Veterans Appeals (“Board”), and then to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is the forum where you will finally get a fair hearing in front of an impartial judicial officer. I have read several opinions from the Court and I think its judges are smart, practical and fair. So, remember, you do have substantial rights of appeal if your Section 1151 Claim is not initially granted.

    I would be happy to answer any questions that anyone may have. I can be reached at lezonlawfirm@gmail.com.



  • Featured Image Adding to the Legacy of Robin Williams

    robinwilliamstourafghanistan2007

     

    I absolutely hate commenting on the death of anyone so close to the tragic event or even seeming like I am putting words in their mouths or intentions in their actions. I am not doing any of that when I say that Robin Williams is continuing to support the troops even in death as he did in life. His support is just the happenstance of how his death is being perceived and even in something so tragically sad I am glad to see at least something good come from it.
    Surely most have heard the soundbite information that has been endlessly publicized about the 22 veterans we lose every day to suicide.  It has taken quite a bit of work from various veteran organizations to achieve the viral spread of that information. These groups have toiled for years to gain the attention of the masses to educate them on the disabling depression and hopelessness felt by veterans due to stigmatization of their unseen illnesses. The death of Robin Williams received this much attention in mere hours after his death.

    A day after Robin has left us came the outpouring of people finally saying what needs to be said about suicide and depression. People finally coming to the realization that it is a disease, and finally catching up with the latest scientific studies that have shown it to be a very physiological response.

     

    I think these Facebook statuses say it best and so I will share them and they are just examples of the theme I have seen today.

     

    You know, from now on when someone dies from suicide I am going to call it what it is. They died from depression and hopelessness. The things that lead to suicide are brushed off and the people who contemplate it shamed and even after death they are thought of with anger or demeaned. Do you get upset at a person who dies from cancer? Do you get upset with a person who dies from an accident? I know that suicide can be prevented, but only as much as can illness or accidents. We do not take the prevention of suicide seriously.

    Robin Williams was depressed. He may have died from his depression.

    There are also 22 Veterans every day who die from depression and hopelessness.

    We need to change the way we think about people who are depressed because shaming a person who is unhappy is like saying the beatings will continue until morale improves.

    I try my hardest to be a diplomatic person.. BUT I simply have too much empathy for the suffering to see Actor Robin Williams torn up all over the internet like this. He was ill. Sometimes people die of what ails them. In the field of neurology, scientists find that during depressive states the brain is actually physically different therefore does not process things the same way as during a non-depressive state.. or during a manic one for that matter. It’s no different than how I cannot process certain foods because of my Crohn’s. Indeed, if we are to speak up about the stigma of suicide it should not come before considering the stigma of mental illness. Which is why a great many are actually gone.. They did not have or seek proper treatment because we embarrass them TO DEATH about it. Literally. That is all. Thank you.

    These are just two of the many with similar messages. Robin Williams was most definitely not thinking about anything but his incredible pain when died, but even in his death he still gave. This heartbreaking loss of a wonderful person gave our society the push it needed to go down the path of proper treatment of depression and other illnesses that drastically change our brain. His death paved a way for the many Veteran’s organizations to finally get ahead of the stigmatization of depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In his way he is still giving to our troops as he did in life. And I hope now that he is able to see the vast amount of energy he has put out to all of us and the good it is doing that he can finally smile truly and realize what a wonderful person he has always been.


    I hope you have found peace Robin, and thank you for all of the wonderful memories, laughter, and fun you gave to each and every one of us.