On April 28, 2013, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to discuss the current outreach of the VA to the nation’s 22 million veterans. Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) requested the hearing and he was joined by Ranking Minority Member Richard Burr (R-NC).
Vermont Senator and Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Bernie Sanders
The first panel was the VA’s Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tommy Sowers. He outlined the efforts the VA puts into trying to reach all veterans. They have had tremendous success reaching the recent Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans using social networking. He explained that the VA recognizes that not all veterans, particularly those over 50 years old, have access to a computer or are familiar with the social networking sites. Sowers emphasized that both he and Secretary Shinseki are committed to making sure that every veteran knows what benefits and services are available.
Chairman Sanders voiced concern that neither the federal government nor the state governments know where many veterans are living. The only information available is a veteran’s address of record upon leaving the service. He emphasized that just knowing how many veterans there are is not enough.
Representatives from the nonprofit community spoke of their efforts to improve the flow of information, resources, and support services to veterans. One recent example given is the Community Blueprint program. This is a program coordinated by the nationwide nonprofit organization Points of Light. They collaborate with other groups on the local, state, and national levels to improve the delivery of support resources to veterans.
Another program having success working with veterans is the Corporation for National and Community Service. Their effort has been focused on helping veterans both give and receive national service. In recent years, their organization has employed more than 43,000 veterans as volunteers through AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. It also sends volunteer members to VA facilities and other veteran nonprofits organizations to assist their efforts.
On the local level, the state of Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services is recognized for being active with helping veterans throughout that state. Their efforts include helping needy veterans with case management, helping veterans find employment and employment training, and helping veterans and their families with social services and counseling.
Chairman Sanders was encouraged by the proactive efforts that were discussed. He concluded by stating that the VA, along with society in general, must continue to expand and improve efforts to assist those men and women that have committed time from their lives to serve the nation.
Learn more about the work of Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill