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Thursday, January 31, 2013

BYOC: Can I Bring My Own Coffeepot or Personal Items into a Government Office?

Q: Everyone knows that the forecasted federal budget cuts will have an impact on spending. If that’s the case, will workers be permitted to bring personal items to their offices in order to bridge gaps in supplies or equipment?

A: While generally acceptable, there are a few “Dos and Don’ts” to contend with when bringing personal items into a federal office space, specifically regulations on personal devices in the office, policy restrictions on contractors providing unpaid for ‘services’ to government personnel, and potential security issues. 

Firstly, contractors and federal employees alike may now have to accept that their workspace is not entirely for their use. 

The use of “hoteling” or shared workspaces is increasing and is expected to continue to do so in the future. (Sharing Workspaces Growing More Popular in Government Offices)

Secondly, there are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations concerning the use of electric or electronic devices, such as fans, heaters, or coffee makers.

For example, OSHA's interpretation of workplace use of electrical equipment designated as "Household Use Only" requires that they be approved by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.

Generally it’s accepted that household items can be used in an office setting, but that depends a lot on the electrical make-up of the office…and the disposition of those enforcing the policies.

See more here:
BYOC: Can I Bring My Own Coffeepot or Personal Items into a Government Office?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feedback and Annual Reviews on a Government Contract

Q. I work as a contractor for the Department of Defense. I enjoy my work but am a little frustrated by the unresponsive nature of my supervisor in giving feedback about my performance. I don’t know if my work is satisfactory, and I am starting to feel like I am unappreciated and under-utilized in my workplace. What are some good indicators that I need to start looking for another job?

A. Working as a contractor can be a complicated career path and many people find it difficult to adjust to the environment, particularly veterans who are used to clear rank structure and lines of authority. Defense contractors must accept that in some organizations there aren’t many opportunities for feedback from government supervisors. Feedback can be rare, or non-existent. 

Many contractors will find themselves reporting directly to a government employee, but the reality is that person is not responsible for giving performance feedback to contract employees. Many contractors have discovered too late that the government was not happy with their performance – and that time came when they were fired or reassigned. 

See more here:

Feedback and Annual Reviews on a Government Contract

Monday, January 21, 2013

It isn’t a fad. Trust me- Social Media is here to stay! My Guest Blog Post on Diamonds, Dogtags & Diapers

I met Diana, last year, at the Military Blog Conference and we've been digital besties ever since. I left the post topic up to her, and by surprise she wrote this post that is near and dear to my heart. 

See entire blog post here:
It isn’t a fad. Trust me- Social Media is here to stay!

Guns and Booze- Our American right and personal responsibility

I had an epiphany of sorts the other day as I was reading some online articles and accounts of how much misery is caused by the abuse and misuse of alcohol, not just in this country, but world-wide. Addiction and substance abuse is the most equal-opportunity scourge imaginable, except of course for another terrible scourge that is just as prevalent in almost every known society- violence. So bear with me and keep your mind open as I give my thoughts on some very controversial, but important issues we face as a nation.

I promise you, whether anyone chooses to acknowledge or accept it- the fact of the matter is that alcohol has caused as many, if not more, injury and death to civilians than guns have.

Alcohol use, or overuse, has become the untouchable topic. Why? Because the vast majority of people in the country support its legality and personally use it. That fact doesn't change some alarming and disturbing facts and statistics. 

Consider the number of deaths or injury caused by alcohol-related:




Driving under the influence of alcohol

Domestic violence against adults and children

Destruction of property

Choices that ruin lives related to marriages, family relationships, financial ruin, incarceration, loss of employment

They tried banning alcohol from 1919-1933. We all know how “well” that experiment in trying to legislate a basic “right” and freedom of choice turned out. Not so much. I am not a constitutional or political science expert, so I will let Wikipedia give a simple and succinct explanation of the 18th Amendment.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution had ushered in a period of time known as "Prohibition", during which the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal. Passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, but it soon proved highly unpopular. Crime rates soared under Prohibition as gangsters, such as Chicago's Al Capone, became rich from a profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol.

The federal government was incapable of stemming the tide: enforcement of the Volstead Act proved to be a nearly impossible task and corruption was rife among law enforcement agencies. - Wikipedia

It makes one wonder if it is worth it! After all is said and done, what BENEFIT does alcohol bring to society? For most people, it is used as a means to relax, a social “lubricant” and a means to let loose. Many people are able to manage their alcohol use and won’t experience any of the negative or harmful aspects of it. 

The recent acts of killing and mass murder of innocent people with gun violence have presented us with some hard questions and no easy answers. The major problems in this debate surround the notion of giving up clearly established rights, guaranteed, once again, by the Constitution. Obviously, there is far more to it than many people realize. 

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States first ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.
In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions officially establishing this interpretation. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home within many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession listed by the Court as being consistent with the Second Amendment.
 In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.

The idea of stripping the rights of law abiding, mentally stable, citizens is severe and arguably, unconstitutional; as the 18th Amendment was found to be in 1933 by the Twenty-first Amendment. The problem is when government seeks to prohibit the rights of those who have not broken the law, whether it is refusing EVERYONE the right to drink, or to own a gun. Why should someone who is a responsible citizen be deprived of their rights, whether it is to drink alcohol or own a gun, just because there are individuals among us who abuse the law? Why should a responsible citizen be penalized for what could or might happen?  
As far as rights and personal responsibility, we have decided that people have the right to buy and consume alcoholic beverages, with restrictions surrounding age and regulations related to performing certain activities while under the influence. 
We need to delve into the reasons WHY we need regulation and restrictions. Personal responsibility for one’s actions is everyone’s concern. There are expectations of how to act and behave within the norms and rules of society. Those do change, as we have seen many, many, times through our nation’s history. Societal norms do change and with them our laws have been adjusted and amended. Some will agree with those changes, others will not. But before any rights are removed or greatly modified, it is critical to be sure that we are not depriving the law-abiding and responsible citizens due to the acts and actions of those who are outside the bounds of the law.

Criminals will always do whatever they need to in order to commit crimes. Think about how many people now get DWIs a year and then think about how much less that would be if alcohol were illegal. Believe me, there still would be DWIs, but if alcohol was an illegal substance, and not as close as the local store, of course there would be would be less deaths from drunk drivers.

Using legal “things” in illegal ways or abusing the rights of others is the cause of most of the misery in the world. It is frustrating because human beings behave irrationally and selfishly and don’t always have respect for the rights, property, or personal worth of others. There is no way in the world to legislate attitudes, only actions. 

So we have to honestly decide what is the value and purpose of our laws? Are they to protect our freedoms while keeping order, or save lives and keep innocent people safe? All of the above, right? Not so easy, though. There are times when protecting freedom puts people at risk, because personal responsibility and choices are part of our freedom. At its basest point comes the realization that in a free society, people have the freedom to choose to do the wrong thing. They will have to be punished for their crime, but in the meantime, innocent people may have been killed or harmed. This happens EVERY SINGLE DAY on some level, be it as banal as someone cutting you off in traffic, or as sinister as being sexually assaulted by a co-worker.

Freedoms cause risk. You have the freedom to drive, work outside the home, and drink alcohol. Those rights are part of what makes our society what it is. Sadly, there are people within our society who chose not to adhere to those rules and laws, and they mess it up for the rest of us who are trying to live our lives in pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. You can’t change people or make them “act right” by taking away the rights of everyone. Criminals will still commit crimes, or do the wrong thing. 

Taking away rights rarely works out well. The black market or underground economy will never go away. Criminals always find work-arounds, as they did during prohibition, as they do today with illegal buying and selling of firearms. Personally, I wish for a world that had no violence, alcohol abuse and misuse, or a number of other evils. That isn't realistic or probable.
The misuse of guns, as well as booze, causes more misery and tragedy than most other things I can think of. I think most level-headed people acknowledge that there must be regulation and oversight by government for gun, as well as alcohol. Those specific details and nuances are for the American people, through their elected officials, to decide. That is how our country works and while there are always going to be those groups and individuals who are unhappy with the outcomes and decision; it is how our democracy works, and there are no easy solutions or answers. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Staying Healthy After Deployment - A guest blog post by Emily Walsh

Recently I received a request to feature a guest writer for my blog. Emily Walsh is a concerned advocate for veterans and cancer patients as the Community Outreach Director for the Mesolthelioma Cancer alliance. Emily wrote a blog post which addresses the need for veterans to be mindful of their health, especially after a deployment.

Thank you, Emily, for your contribution and concern for those who have served us.

Staying Healthy After Deployment

We all know that there are many risks that are associated with military service and deployment. Through healthy living habits and regular doctor visits, there are ways to keep a soldier healthy after a deployment and ensure that any negative health symptoms are swiftly evaluated and treated soon after they occur.

In order to avoid exasperating any negative symptoms that may have developed as the result of a recent deployment, remember to eat regular meals. It is important to eat a healthy breakfast to start the day and boost energy levels so that optimum body functioning can be achieved. In addition, a nutritious lunch and dinner are important to implement to maintain functioning and support an active lifestyle. While it is easy to drive through the fast food window or sit down at a restaurant to enjoy a meal, a family may consider eating at home on a regular basis and providing home-cooked meals to promote togetherness and a positive home environment.

A great stress reliever and immense health benefit for a recently deployed veteran is the act of exercising. Not only will exercising burn calories and help to maintain a healthy weight, but exercising is known to unwind the mind and provide a calming effect.  This is especially important for post-deployed veterans, as this will help these individuals to build a routine that will occupy their time in a positive manner.  In addition, meditation and other creative solo activities such as painting or wood crafting may provide therapeutic benefits to an anxious mind.

One of the most essential ways to remain healthy after a deployment is to see a doctor on a regular basis for check-ups and evaluations.  When deployed or during any military service, soldiers can become exposed to dangers and illnesses that are not always clear to see. Soldiers may suffer from physical trauma, psychological issues, or even asbestos exposure. In fact, symptoms of an asbestos exposure may not become apparent in an individual for as many as 20 to 50 years, possibly resulting in mesothelioma or other related lung illnesses. For this reason, it is important to discuss any possible exposures and conditions with a physician so that they may know what to look for.

Those who serve in the military face many risks when signing up for service, but they volunteer themselves nobly every day. For this reason, it is important to keep these individuals healthy and engaged in a rewarding lifestyle to honor the services that they have provided.  

Guest Blogger: Emily Walsh   

 As the Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, Emily Walsh dedicates much of her time building cancer awareness through social media and blogging. To read more from Emily go to

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Military Spouse Employment Partnership Gets Mixed Reviews

Q. I am the spouse of a Service member who recently had to leave a job to move to a new city. Building a career is very hard when you have to move often and many employers don’t want to hire me when they see how often I have changed jobs. Our family depends on my income. Are there programs or benefits which I can use to help me with a job search?
A. Yes there are. The
Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a program which provides a digital platform for employers to have direct access to military spouses seeking jobs. Some 400,000 jobs have been posted with the partnership since it was created in June of 2011, and 22,000 military spouses have been hired. There are over 100 companies participating in the partnership and the number continues to grow.

In December 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a
report, which questioned the effectiveness of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, however. Despite having spent $54.8 million on the tuition assistance program and $1.2 million on the employment partnership program in fiscal 2011, the Department of Defense is unable to quantify the effectiveness of the programs it has created for military spouses. 
See more here:
Military Spouse Employment Partnership Gets Mixed Reviews