In the course of events, 'Albany' asked some questions to some people who, in turn, asked them of me. Here is that discourse.
What programs provide services to assist veterans in finding a job or getting an education?
There are a variety of programs at the federal, state, and local level that provide assistance in finding a job or getting an education. Two programs that come immediately to mind are:
- DVOP - Disabled Veteran Outreach Program, and
- LVER - Local Veterans Employment Representative.
At the local level you have programs such as 'Workforce New York' that includes special consideration for veterans.
The Department of Veteran affairs has their own programs, including:
- VEOA - Veterans Employment Opportunities Act Program,
- VRA - Veterans Recruitment Appointment Program,
- VR&E; - Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program,
- VECS - Veterans Employment Coordination Services,
- Post-9/11 GI Education Bill,
- Montgomery GI Education Bill for Active Duty and Selected Reserve,
- REAP - Reserve Educational Assistance Program,
- VEAP - Veterans Educational Assistance Program,
- Section 901 - Educational Assistance Test Program,
- SDEA - Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program, and
- National Call to Service Program.
How utilized or publicized are these programs?
A recent study has shown that 80% of America's veterans have no idea about the benefits to which they're entitled. While this study dealt with specific veteran related benefits, I think it easily also applies to the knowledge the veteran community has concerning services available to them in trying to find a job or getting an education. Publicity about what each program at the Town and county level would provide, is much-needed and would help educate the veteran about those benefits available of which he has no idea.
What needs to be done to make the state more veteran-friendly?
On Long Island we have a program the 'Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island.' This program, which presently includes 90 members, is an umbrella organization that attempts to increase overall outreach to the veteran in order to provide more veterans with the knowledge of the benefits and services available to them.
While an increase in the benefits available to the veteran community is always a good thing, to increase an understanding and perception of New York State's already more veteran friendly atmosphere does not mean increasing the existing veteran benefits. Rather it requires an asserted effort to contact those 80% of New York State's veterans who have no idea concerning the benefits to which they are already entitled.
Outreach programs run at the county level, with the proper funding, and requiring a proactive approach in the identification and contact of each county's veteran and servicemember population (instead of a reactive approach of just dealing with those who somehow find their way to the county agency) would go a long way in making the reality of its already veteran friendly nature the realized perception of its veterans, servicemembers, and their families.
Yet with all that there still remains a variety of not-so-small niches for which special difficulties exist or the lack of tailored-to-the-niche programs have yet to be implemented.
To name just a few...
The concept of Veteran Preferences on paper is admiral. The questions of employer education and enforcement remain open. And as has been already mentioned, the dissemination of the existence of such programs to the veterans is, at best, poor.
New York State has counties that range from 2,800 square miles to 34 square miles, with county populations that range from over 2.4 million to a little less than 5,400 individuals. The population density of our 62 counties ranges from over 45,500 down to 3 people per square mile. It should be easy to see that methods (availability and knowledge of services) that work for Nassau County, 287 square miles with a population of 1,335,000, might not work for (or be available in) Hamilton County, 1,808 square miles with a population of 5,380.
A September 2005 GAO report found 16% (as high as 24% in the Army Reserve) is female. Even a cursory review of veteran programs will identify the lack of programs and opportunities available for our female veterans.
A March 2009 National Council on Disability report found upwards of 40% of our current combat veterans have psychological and neurological injuries associated with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). And while the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Administration (VA) have dedicated significant resources to address PTSD and TBI, current efforts appear inadequate to ensure the psychological health of our combat veteran community.
Simply put, more must be done to provide additional care available and know to those who have served and have returned with the not-always-visible scars of war.
--- Regards, Walt Schmidt