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Veterans Service Are Plentiful But Hard To Navigate; NCServes Wants To Fix That

By Benjamin Schachtman, Port City Daily Wilmington

WILMINGTON — There’s a new service that’s helping veterans navigate the often confusing variety of resources available to them.

NCServes is a coordinated network of public, private and non-profit resources for veterans and military families. Director Jerrick Vernon said the main goal of the initiative was to help veterans and their families receive help from the wealth of resources offered in their area.

“The issue is not that the there aren’t resources. The issue is that the resources are hard to identify and navigate,” Vernon said. “Veterans often think there’s no help for them, or they have no idea where to start. That’s where we come in.”

NCServes is the part of a larger network, AmericaServes, which started operating in New York City just over a year ago. NCServes’s Coastal Initiative focuses on 20 North Carolina coastal counties, including Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.

Jerrick Vernon, United States Air Force veteran and director of NCServes. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY NCSERVES.ORG)
Jerrick Vernon, United States Air Force veteran and director of NCServes. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY NCSERVES.ORG)

According to Vernon, the center coordinates local resources from its headquarters in Jacksonville, through Eastern Carolina Human Services. The single hub for information allows veterans to avoid a painful routine, Vernon said.

“You talk to these veterans, and they’ve been through some difficult things. Some of these stories are heartbreaking to hear. Can you imagine having to tell that story over and over again? This way, you tell your story one time, we record all of that information, and we can make sure it gets to providers, you don’t have to relive those moments,” Vernon said.

Those providers include numerous categories, what Vernon calls “buckets,” including VA benefits, education, employment and others.

Traditionally, veterans would have to approach a separate provider for each service. In addition to forcing them to retell their stories, veterans can also face repeated rejection,  Vernon said.

“Veterans often have to ask more than one provider. In that process, in addition to having to tell their story, and go through all their details, they also get told ‘no.’ They get doors closed in their faces — that’s demoralizing. We what we can do is prevent that,”  Vernon said. “If we ask a provider, and we can’t help, we just go on to the next provider. The veteran doesn’t hear that ‘no.’ They don’t have to deal with that until we find a provider who can work with them.”

Vernon said his understanding of what veterans go through is more than second hand.

“I am a United States Air Force Veteran myself. I understand the challenges that Veterans face and how difficult it can be when you are transitioning back to civilian life.  When I separated from the Air force in 2002 I felt alone, I didn’t know where to turn for community support,” Vernon said.

While NCServes’ mission is to provide as many services to veterans as possible, Vernon stressed that every provider was thoroughly vetted.

“We’re not going to partner with a provider just to fill a ‘bucket,’ just to check it off the list. It’s important to have a range of services, but only if they’re the right services,” Vernon said.

Vernon encouraged organizations wishing to join the network to contact him directly at (910) 347-2151.

Veterans and military family can enter the network by visiting the NCServes website, calling 1-844-435-1838, or by visiting a network service provider (including the Wilmington VA office and CFCC).

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