The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) conducted town hall meetings in response to Governor Kaine’s Executive Order 19. This executive order directs DVS and other state agencies to improve services to the state’s veterans, especially disabled veterans.
DVS identified four primary areas of focus:
Outreach and communication with Virginia’s veterans: How can we reach veterans and what information do they need and want?
Quality of life for all veterans: What are the needs of veterans, especially in terms of health care, services from state government agencies, and outreach to veterans who are homeless, incarcerated, or hospitalized?
Workforce development: How can we ensure that employment opportunities are available to veterans and how can we ensure that the private sector has access to the veteran labor pool. What can we do to assist veteran-owned businesses?
Technology: How can we use technology to communicate with and deliver services to veterans?
This report summarizes the comments provided by participants attending the session held at the Virginia War Memorial on March 15, 2007 in Richmond, Virginia. Approximately 33 people attended the meeting including representatives from state agencies, veterans’ service organizations, retired and active servicemen and women and spouses of veterans.
The session gathered information concerning:
What currently works well in delivering state government services to veterans and what are the best practices in place?
What are the critical barriers to serving veterans and what are the most important issues facing veterans?
Recommendations for future action to improve state government services to veterans.
The meeting was facilitated by faculty from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Office of Public Policy Training.
What is Currently Working Well to meet Veteran’s Needs
DVS staff helps veterans make connection with Veterans Administration (VA)
National Guard and Reserves are helping young veterans find assistance
VA medical services are currently under national review
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) classes are offered at the VA McGuire Medical Center – more publicity needed
DVS staff helped move the VA to action and provided improved access to the VA system
Executive Order 19 indicates Virginia’s veterans are a priority
State agencies, such as the Department of Rehabilitative Services and DVS, have programs for disabled veterans to provide technical training
DVeterans employment programs
Guard and Reserve are helping young veterans transition back to civilian life
Critical Barriers to be Addressed
It is difficult to get information and services for the children of veterans when the veteran is disabled, especially help in finding them employment
Differing interpretations of law and policy related to the G.I. Bill , some students are being penalized upon receiving G.I. benefits since institutions treat the assistance as income and reduce their financial aid offers
TRIcare and CHAMPUS penalizes you for longevity – if still employed when you are 65 or older you must register with social security for health care coverage
Veterans denied a grave marker if no next of kin is available to fill out a request
Vietnam veterans have not received as much support from veteran organizations as veterans from other conflicts
Information that the VA has is not shared with the veteran – denied access to records
VA benefits to the widow of a veteran were denied due to income limits – difficult to get clear answers – the veteran was disabled and thought benefits would be paid upon his death
WWII veterans don’t always know they can increase disability coverage as their health deteriorates over time
Veterans affairs cannot represent the veteran in federal court creating a large financial burden for the veteran to hire a lawyer to appeal their claim
VMSDEP for family needs clarification as to who can benefit – all veteran children?
Recent returning veterans have two-year window to file a health care claim – problems surface later than that time period
Federal, state and local government organizations protect their information and turf, making it difficult for children to help parents who are veterans – privacy issues block action – state should be advocates for the veterans
Many returning veterans have injuries and it is not clear if we have the resources to care for them
Have to pay for medication in Virginia but not Kentucky – inconsistent policies
No state transition assistance program to share information on state benefits for veterans relocating into Virginia
Inability to get the word to all veterans about health care benefits and where to go for help