21 December 2018 MDVA News & Announcements

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maryland department of veterans affairs

News and Announcements  -  December 21, 2018


Charlotte Hall Veterans Home receives donation of Comfort Pets

Charlotte Hall logo

Charlotte Hall recently received a donation of Comfort Pets for the memory care units.  Comfort Pets are robotic pets who serve as companions, and have a calming and therapeutic effect for the residents.  Thank you to the following organizations for this wonderful donation:

AMVETS, Department of Maryland Service Foundation

American Legion Post 293

American Legion Riders 293

VFW Auxiliary

VFW Post 8810

Comfort Pets II

Shown in this photo are: Debbie Dudak, VFW Post 8810, Ron Teufel, AMVETS Service Foundation, Carl Lempin, American Legion Riders #293, Gail Lempin, American Legion Riders #293, Sharon Murphy, Director, Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Linda Newsome, Ladies Auxiliary, Yahan Thompson, American Legion #293, and Ashley Radano, Director of Recreational Service, at  Charlotte Hall Veterans Home


MDVA Secretary George Owings and Charlotte Hall Director Sharon Murphy presented a Governor's Proclamation to Shirley Vatter for her dedicated service to the residents at Charlotte Hall. Shirley volunteered over 1500 hours and ran the Music and Memory program.  She also taught residents to play the piano, and guitar. Tom Vatter, her husband also volunteered many hours helping with events. They are moving out of state and last week was their final week volunteering at Charlotte Hall. They will be missed by the staff and residents of Charlotte Hall.

AF Sgts. Assoc.

The Air Force Sergeants Association brought homemade Christmas Wreaths and Gifts for the  Veterans they adopted at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home. They enjoyed visiting with each Veteran, sharing stories and laughter. It meant so much to our Veterans and we here at MDVA are very grateful for the Association's support of Charlotte Hall Veterans.

Charlotte Hall Team

The Charlotte Hall Team: 

Rodney Jones, Deputy Director Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, MDVA Secretary George Owings, Sharon Murphy, Director Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Angela Quade, Contract Compliance Coordinator, Dinah Sigmon, Fiscal Compliance Specialist, Michelle Cariaso, Quality Assurance Manager, Tom Johnson, Inventory Compliance Specialist, Robert Finn, MDVA Deputy Secretary 

Project Opportunity 2

Project Opportunity Southern Maryland Class Graduation Fall 2018  

Shown in Photo, Left to Right: Joe Giordano, Founder, Project Opportunity, Ivan Sherard, Ernest Duane Black, Bridgette M. Alfred, Jonathan Gray and MDVA Secretary George Owings

Photo Credit: Katina McDonald

Commissioner Macri

Captain Cynthia Izuno Macri, USN (Ret.) in uniform above, spoke to the students of Spark Matsunaga Elementary School recently.  Captain Macri also serves on the Maryland Veterans Commission, and was asked to speak at several events related to Veterans Day, including the school observance in the photo above.  Captain Macri is a Physician and teaches wellness to the students at MCVET, in addition to all her other volunteer activities. We appreciate Captain/Doctor/Commissioner Macri's service to the MDVA and the veterans of Maryland.

State Partner News

Step Into 2019 with a First Day Hike


The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites everyone to kick off the New Year with one of Maryland’s fastest-growing traditions – a First Day Hike.

On Jan. 1, 2019, the Maryland Park Service will offer more than three dozen hikes on more than 30 state lands and parks, as part of a nationwide event sponsored by America’s State Parks.

These hikes will provide a wide array of outdoor adventures and experiences for every level of hiker and walker, providing unique access to Maryland’s cultural, historical and natural resources and treasures, along with opportunities for education and stewardship. Many hikes are even pet-friendly.

Numerous parks, state forests and wildlife management areas will also be open Jan. 1 for self-guided treks.

“2019 will be an exciting year as we continue to create, enhance and maintain public access and recreation opportunities throughout the state,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “I urge everyone to kick it off with a resolution to join us in Maryland’s great outdoors.”

In 2018, despite frigid temperatures, New Year’s Day saw 1,227 people hike 2,535 miles in Maryland. For 2019, parks will again distribute “I Hiked” stickers to First Day Hike participants, a popular new addition. 

Change in Maryland State Tax on Military Retiree Income

As the year grows to a close, this is a reminder that the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation in the 2018 Legislative Session, which benefits Military Retirees.  Here is the language from Chapter 573 of the 2018 Maryland Legislation:

(2) The subtraction under subsection (a) of this section includes:

 (i) if, on the last day of the taxable year, the individual is under the
 age of 55 years, the first $5,000 of military retirement income received by an individual
 during the taxable year; and

 (ii) if, on the last day of the taxable year, the individual is at least 
 55 years old, the first $15,000 of military retirement income received by an
 individual during the taxable year.

Full Text of the Legislation


Local County Property Tax Exemptions Updates,  Check with your County Office of Assessments and Taxation for more information: Local Tax Billing & Collection Offices

"Sully", Service Dog to former President George H.W. Bush trained at a Maryland Correctional Facility

You may have seen the photos of Sully, standing watch near the casket of former President George H.W. Bush.  You may not have known that Sully received his initial training with an Inmate at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Check out this video from WJZ/CBS Baltimore

Federal Partner News


PTSD and Veteran's Symptoms, Military Benefits.info article

2018-2019 VA Disability Rates, Military Benefits.info article

Managing Holiday Stress, Health.mil article

VA - Free, Confidential Courses to Launch Your New Year, Help Fight Brain Overload

Relaxation Programs for Veteran Caregivers

VA Warriors to Workforce Video

Holiday Video from Our Friends at Ft. Meade - the number one employer in Maryland

Did you know the National Security Agency has a Technology Transfer Program? Read More Here

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continue to team up to combat illegal robocalls, especially those targeting veterans and their families.

Each year, the FCC receives more than 200,000 complaints about unwanted calls. While this may seem like a big number, it pales in comparison to the millions of robocalls being made each day.  The calls interrupt dinners and family time; they flood landline and mobile phones. Scam calls frequently solicit money for fake charities, including ones claiming to support America’s veterans  - some even claiming to be representatives of Veterans Affairs. 

We know that scam activity increases during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, so the FCC and VA urge you to be vigilant. We offer the following tips to help you avoid unwanted calls and scams. 

  • Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. Scammers may spoof their caller ID to display a fake number that appears to be local.  If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, or passwords in response to unexpected or suspicious calls.
  • Be sure to set a password for all voice mail accounts to avoid being hacked.
  • Register your number on the Do Not Call List to block calls from legitimate telemarketers at www.donotcall.gov  
  • Ask your phone company about call-blocking tools and services for your landline phone, and check for helpful apps that you can download to your mobile phone.

Please help spread the word about robocall fraud among those who may need assistance, particularly  those who are frequently targeted by phone scams. 

For more information, visit:  www.fcc.gov/robocalls 

Community Partner News


For Your Information

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse the organizations sponsoring these events, and we do not endorse the views they express or the products/services they offer.  The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document do not necessarily state or reflect those of MDVA.  The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only, and serves solely as a MDVA community outreach effort.


Community News


2019 Homeless Point-in-Time Homeless Count Volunteer Registration Form Montgomery County, Maryland
The point in time is an annual survey of homeless persons in Montgomery County who are residing in sheltered and unsheltered environments. This year the count for the unsheltered will be conducted on:
Wednesday night January 23 and Thursday morning January 24 | 9:00 p.m.
We need help completing the point-in-time survey. Volunteers will receive training with refreshments on Wednesday, January 23 and will be going out in teams to designated locations, where we believe unsheltered homeless persons may be located. More Information & Registration


CyberVetsUSA which provides free Cyber Training and Employment Services to Transitioning Service Members has expanded to serve Maryland.  CyberVetsUSA, is an industry-led initiative that provides FREE training and employment opportunities to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reservists, and military spouses looking to enter the cyber workforce!  Offering the latest cyber courses and certifications from industry-leading tech companies, CyberVetsUSA is a skills-to-job pathway that aims to fast-track veterans into high-demand cyber careers.   Read More Here 


TALMAR (Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland)  - Due to the success of our sustainable agricultural farm training program for the past two years, TALMAR was selected to provide vocational training in agriculture and horticulture for 30 veterans, as part of Veterans Affairs Farming and Recovery Mental Health Services (VA FARMS) beginning February 11, 2019. Using our USDA curriculum of classroom and hands on education in sustainable farming and ongoing mental health treatment from the VA, we anticipate there to be a positive impact in their mental health and employment in the farming industry.  While a pilot program, we expect VA FARMS will be an ongoing partnership for years to come. 


Outward Bound:

Active Duty and retired veterans this is an amazing fully funded invitation for you to go on an awesome adventure! 

The Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School, in partnership with the United States Naval Academy, is actively recruiting military to participate in a Spring Break Backpacking and Rock Climbing Expedition! Click here to learn more! 

Since 2015, Outward Bound and USNA have worked together to pair Midshipmen with active or retired military on a 5 Day | 4 Night expedition meant to teach the skills of leadership through both the expedition and through the practical experience of you, the Veteran. 

More information can be found by clicking here, but here are the most important details: 

Dates: 2019 March 11-15

Cost: THE COURSE IS NO COST TO YOU (fully funded by Northrup Grumman and USNA).  *Travel to Outward Bound in Baltimore is not funded*

Eligibility: Active Duty or Retired Military from all branches of service are invited and we are hopeful for our female military to make a strong showing!

Qualification: You are ready to live on the Appalachian Trail for 5 Days and 4 Nights with your crew of Mids and Vets, in March & You are excited to share and teach through your own leadership experience

Application Process: Please follow this link to learn a little more about the course and to begin the application process. https://outwardboundbaltimore.org/courses/usna_vets/



Melwood Veterans Services has had a busy 2018.  It has been two years under the leadership of Dave Blackledge, BG, US Army (Retired).   We have our full complement of 8 staff members on board: five are involved with Operation Tohidu and three are with Vets Ready2Work.   During this 2-year period, Operation Tohidu has had 210 veterans from 34 states attend and Vets Ready2Work has helped 233 veterans in the Washington, DC area with their careers.

The majority of the women veterans that we serve (73 out of 126) with Operation Tohidu do self-identify as Military Sexual Trauma Survivors.  We held 3 retreats in 2018 specifically devoted to these veterans. 

Operation Tohidu® Dates 

January 14 – 18                                   Women

February 11 – 15                                 Couples

March 4 – 8                                           Women’s (MST focused)

March 24 – 29                                       Men’s

April 15 – 19                                          TBD  (will be based on demand)

May 6 – 10                                             TBD  (will be based on demand)

For more information please visit https://www.melwood.org/veterans-services/operation-tohidu-sup-andreg/sup-overview.   We are also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/melwoodveterans


Community Calendar

January 8, 2019

Mid-Shore Veterans Network, Easton

January 9, 2019

Lower Shore veterans Network, Salisbury

January 10, 2019

The Anti-Stigma Project, Westminster

January 17, 2019

TECHEXPO Top Secret Hiring Event, Linthicum   Employer Info

January 22, 2019

Navigating eMaryland Marketplace

State Procurement 101

January 28, 2019

Free Food Service Training, St. Vincent de Paul, Baltimore

Message from Jeffrey Kendrick, Executive Director of the Maryland Center for Veterans Education & Training (MCVET)

December 7th is MCVET’s official Anniversary; marking twenty-four (24) years of providing service to the nation’s Homeless Veterans.

But this would not have been possible without the sacrifices of individuals who should be recognized as visionaries; such as COL Charles Williams, Dr. Jack Pierce, Lee Rosenberg, Ebony Vaughan, Sandi Dutton, and COL Walter Mitchell.

However, MCVET will not use today to rest on its laurels, but instead realize how much outstanding work has been accomplished; but recognize that much more must be done until there is no longer ANY veteran who does not have a permanent place they can call home.

Congratulations to those men and women who have served as, and are current members of the Board of Directors, and staff; you have much to be proud of.

Thanks to all of you who supported our program – without you we struggle to exist.

Here’s to MCVET yesterday, today, and tomorrow – ready to answer the call for those in need.