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New ad campaign targets veterans

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 7:29 p.m. ET
The Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign Monday designed to encourage more military veterans to enroll for government benefits and services.

Only about 8 million of the nation's 23 million veterans use VA benefits and health-care services, and the department hopes new television and Internet advertisements and other outreach efforts will convince more vets to sign up.

The ad campaign begins Monday with a TV spot airing in the six media markets where most service members returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom will first arrive: El Paso, Tex., Norfolk, Raleigh, Savannah, Ga., Seattle and Watertown, N.Y.

"Welcome home! You've served your country," Marine Staff Sgt. Robert Kugler says in the ad. "Now that you've completed your service, you've got lots of opportunities for your future. But health comes first. Sign up for health care at your nearest VA."

Kugler also encourages veterans to apply for the VA's Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, job assistance services and a zero-down home loan from the department.

Kugler is an aspiring actor who moved with his wife to California shortly after his brother, Mike Doheny, a private security contractor and former Marine, was killed in Iraq. He's studying with the Groundlings Theater and has appeared in several TV ads.

The new ad takes a "big brother approach," reminding veterans of the importance of using the benefits available to them, Kugler said.

"I think there could be somewhat of a stigma as far as maybe thinking that maybe they wouldn't get the benefits or they don't want be portrayed as weak," he said.

The first wave of the multiyear ad campaign will cost the VA about $5 million, it said. A second ad will start airing before Thanksgiving, and the department also plans to buy time during national telecasts of the Country Music Awards and college bowl games. The first batch of ads are targeted at recent veterans, but future messages will focus on older veterans, the VA said.

This item has been updated and corrected since its original post.

Watch the ad above and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 11, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Veterans, especially those who have voluntarily joined during time of war, deserve every benefit we can give them. They deserve our respect and our support.

However, does the federal government really need the DVA to spend millions to "encourage" veterans to get into entitlement lines? Why not have military counselors simply have this as part of the ETS process?

Or is this just another program to create more federal civil servants under the claim that it's "all about the veterans"?

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Posted by: 1561705755 | October 11, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

All Veterans should be provide with and required to participate in a post discharge boot camp, comparable to the induction boot camp going in.

We spend months and millions training them to turn off basic human instincts.

The Defence Dept. should spend at least as much time and money un-training them:

How to turn those human instincts back on and how reconcile the internal conflicts their initial training and exposure to inhumane behavior has created.

Posted by: alpacaman1 | October 11, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

alpacaman1, your comment is valid and, as a veteran who was discharged without so much as a "thanks", appreciated.

"The first wave of the multiyear ad campaign will cost the VA about $5 million, it said. A second ad will start airing before Thanksgiving, and the department also plans to buy time during national telecasts of the Country Music Awards and college bowl games. The first batch of ads are targeted at recent veterans, but future messages will focus on older veterans, the VA said."

Five million given directly to professional organizations, not civil service snots, is a good first step.

A veteran is a veteran. This concept of "targeting recent veterans" is total bullsh@t. If you got out last week, last year or 2000 after serving 3 years, 6 years or 25 years - it makes no difference and any assistance program needs to realize that.

Sounds like a bunch of pukes who don't have a clue what veterans have gone through will be given lifetime government jobs to waste more money.

And what is this stereotyping with country music? Black veterans like pedal steel guitars too? W T F ?

Posted by: dskiff | October 11, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Increased rates of immune system disorders and other wide-ranging symptoms, including chronic pain, fatigue and memory loss, have been reported in over one quarter of combat veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

Combustion products from DU (depleted uranium) munitions are killing our veterans and causing birth defects, as DU was used in 30 mm and smaller caliber machine-gun bullets on a large scale for the first time in the Gulf War. The German NATO military claims we are still using DU in Afghanistan.

Veterans of the conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo have been found to have up to 14 times the usual level of chromosome abnormalities in their genes. Serum-soluble genotoxic teratogens produce congenital disorders, and in white blood cells causes immune system damage.

Human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in the offspring of persons exposed to DU. A 2001 study of 15,000 February 1991 U.S. Gulf War combat veterans and 15,000 control veterans found that the Gulf War veterans were 1.8 (fathers) to 2.8 (mothers) times more likely to have children with birth defects. After examination of children's medical records two years later, the birth defect rate increased by more than 20%:
"Dr. Kang found that male Gulf War veterans reported having infants with likely birth defects at twice the rate of non-veterans. Furthermore, female Gulf War veterans were almost three times more likely to report children with birth defects than their non-Gulf counterparts. The numbers changed somewhat with medical records verification. However, Dr. Kang and his colleagues concluded that the risk of birth defects in children of deployed male veterans still was about 2.2 times that of non-deployed veterans."

Since 2001, medical personnel at the Basra hospital in southern Iraq have reported a sharp increase in the incidence of child leukemia and genetic malformation among babies born in the decade following the Gulf War. Iraqi doctors attributed these malformations to possible long-term effects of DU, an opinion which was echoed by several newspapers. In 2004, Iraq had the highest mortality rate due to leukemia of any country. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) has made a call to support an epidemiological study in the Basra region, as asked for by Iraqi doctors, but no peer-reviewed study has yet been undertaken in Basra.

A medical survey, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009”, published in July 2010, states that the “Increase in cancer and birth defects…are alarmingly high” and that infant mortality 2009/2010 have reached 13.6%. The group compares the dramatic increase, five years after the actual war 2004, or exposure, with the lymphoma Italian peacekeepers developed after the Balkan wars, and the increased cancer risk in certain parts of Sweden due to the Chernobyl fallout.

Posted by: alance | October 11, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Ads are great ......... but the service provide to a lot of veterans stinks........

Again action does not match the words spoken.

Shame on our "elected" officials for not donating their automatic pay raises to the veterans. Again action is louder then words. And out politicians of both parties have a lot of words ......... self serving ones.

Past the time for TERM LIMITS!!!

Posted by: bkarpus | October 12, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

I applaud this campaign. I've seen the comments from right-wing hacks who hate President Obama and can't help themselves from maligning him even when he is speaking for the good of our country and helping its citizens. Nevertheless, this administration has worked toward improving conditions at military hospitals, improving housing for military personnel, improving the quality of care, and ending the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers doing tour after tour of duty past their enlistment date.

This administration should be thanked for its efforts and not condemned every step of the way as is the style of the Republican opponents. They do this not to their advantage but to our expense, and they don't know when to back off and when to give credit where credit is due, much to our detriment as a country.

Thank you, President Obama for your hard work and your efforts to serve this country - you have my support.

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Posted by: itkonlyyou316 | October 12, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Under the law, veterans are owed many small, cheap benefits, which our government has no intention of paying because there are too many of them. Therefore veterans are seen by our politicians as more valuable dead than alive. In spite of this, I have not had bad experience with the veterans' health care system. Most of its employees are trying to do a good job, as far as their agency permits them. It is not the medical staff but the DVA lawyers who perceive their job as finding ways to kill off veterans as fast as possible to save the government the cost of their care. The tricks used include the following:
1) finding ways to delay treatments until the veteran is dead. A file through the paper wolf can accomplish this. A few lawyers have been caught killing vets in this way and permitted plea bargains, usually getting them slightly more than a year in prison for each veteran they deliberately killed;
2) exempting dental care. Every dentist will tell you that untreated teeth develop abscesses, which spread bacteria to the blood stream, brain, and heart, eventually resulting in death. I think it was Ronald Reagan who eliminated dental care from the DVA health plan;
3) exposing veterans to great psychological stress by making them destitute due to employment discrimination, homeless for lack of income, and unable to keep a family together. This job has been deligated to the U.S. Department of Labor. The DVA medical system can do nothing about this because it has no jurisdiction to find the veteran decent employment.
Most veteran will eventually find themselves in the position of using DVA health care of having no health care at all. Apparently, some high-ranking politician has a friend who runs an advertising agency and want to channel a few million dollars to him by giving him this advertising contract.

Posted by: cwheckman | October 12, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

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