As many of you may know, I attended a webinar today hosted by the VOA Director of Communications, David Burch. The purpose of the webinar was to present VOA's vision of the future and get grassroots feedback from the Veterans they hope to serve even better. To achieve this, they invited a group of independent bloggers and authors to discuss the big issues that are facing all veterans of every generation. Other than myself, two other invitees were able to attend today:
We were joined by Executive Vice President of Veterans Affairs for the VOA, John Sherin, who presented the history of the VOA and their vision of where they would like the VOA to head moving forward. Right now, the VOA is very focused on providing housing for the homeless. That being said, they have identified a substantial need to expand veterans services to include mental health care, drug counseling, job training and employment, women's veteran issues, etc. They have partnered up with the VA and plan on supplementing/augmenting the services that are already provided by the VA.
The VOA has a great system set up: They set strategic goals at the national level but they work through affiliate organizations at the local level. What does this mean? It means that the money and resources that are getting sent out to different communities around the country are being utilized efficiently and effectively because the local affiliates are plugged into the needs of the local population. The biggest problem they appear to be facing: Organizing this same type of affiliate program for veterans services. Their biggest concern is that implementing this plan incorrectly will only confuse and alienate more veterans. With this concern in mind, John Sherin expressed a desire for the VOA to act as a gateway to local services, ensuring that the funds and resources are being utilized by those local organizations that can do the most good.
I expressed the concern that there are a lot of great federal programs for veterans that aren't utilized by veterans because there is no local outreach. The VOA acknowledged this concern and said it was on their radar. I also stated that there needs to be a shift in perspective - that these services are not being offered by the government. Many veterans, especially older ones, have been ill-treated by the existing government social welfare programs set up for their benefit.
Lastly, I espoused the use of social media as the vehicle to achieve maximum reach with veterans. Many veterans want help, but can't force themselves to leave their home to find help. With the advent of social media and the security/anonymity it can provide, many more veterans are reaching out for help and taking a step to connect with other veterans that wasn't possible before. We cannot squander this opportunity.
OK, I think that's pretty much everything. I just wanted to reiterate, it is not too late to be heard. Sound off and express concerns and opinions in the comment section of this post. Find your voice and make a difference for those who can't.
Yours in Health,
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.