Different Voices, Same Message
By Matthew Feldhaus
It was early September, 2017, and my American Airlines application notified me I reached the next tier of travel status. We at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families have realized that to best serve the communities we work with, we must be in the field with them. For me, in particular, that had me traveling almost every other week to either Pittsburgh, PA – Jacksonville, NC – Asheville, NC, or Charlotte, NC. For nearly a year, I served as the advisor and support for four AmericaServes communities, PAServes Greater Pittsburgh, NCServes Coastal, NCServes Western, and NCServes Metrolina. These four communities decided to participate in the national AmericaServes initiative, sprawling across the country, coordinating participating communities public and private resources to better support its service members, veterans, and their families. Despite their regional and cultural differences, through months of work with community leaders, veterans, and various service providers I realized they all share a common mission to address shared issues.
This story requires a bit of context. The US Armed Forces does an excellent job creating soldiers, indoctrinating them into disciplined military life. However, they do not repeat this level of attention when individuals exit service. Thus, service members transitioning to veteran status encounter a mass of overwhelming support options with varying eligibility requirements. It’s stressful, trust me, I’ve struggled my way through it.
On another side, service providers often work in segregated silos and despite their goodwill, more often than not are unable solve the multitudes of complex needs. The AmericaServes networks work to alleviate this shared issue by coordinating a community’s resources. It uses the innovative UniteUS technology, and allows for multiple organizations to share referrals and collectively empower the military-connected community in their lifelong transition from service member to civilian. In addition, the AmericaServes communities have dedicated advisors to provide support and guidance to assist in the growth and success of the coordinated network.
My efforts and time revealed the fact providers all face time and budgetary restraints. Communities across the country face similar service demands in Housing, Employment, Financial Support, and Healthcare above all other sectors. These communities all rely on the complimentary support of both private and public. We’ve seen that when these two important groups work greater harmony, the community can best serve its’ citizens, service connected or not. Take PAServes Greater Pittsburgh, where one of the most active service organizations is the Pittsburgh VBA. Since it’s inception over 2 years ago, the PAServes Greater Pittsburgh coordinated community has experienced some of the following key success measures:
- Growth of providers from 27 to close to 60
- Increased the number of average referrals created (unique client needs) by 300% over a 3 month period
- The median service length (the time it actually takes a client to get matched with a provider and the service provided) measure has been cut in half from 27 days to only 13 days
I want you to pause and reflect about that last measure, on service length. In reality, this involves that veteran getting a job, that spouse getting connected to family support resources, or that transitioning service member getting much needed VA benefits in half the time as before (on average).