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King County executive’s budget proposes Regional Veterans Initiative
Four of every ten veterans say they have little or no knowledge of the benefits they have earned, or how to access them. King County Executive Dow Constantine today said his 2014/2015 County budget will call for support of a King County Veterans Service Network – to embark on the first-ever comprehensive mapping of the labyrinth of federal, state and local services for veterans.
“They fulfilled their duty. Now we must fulfill our duty to them,” said Executive Constantine.”Our one simple goal is to unravel the red tape so that veterans can connect with the services they need to be housed, healthy, and successful in civilian life.”
In his State of the County address in February, the Executive announced his appointment of five special advisors to guide the effort. Acting upon their recommendations, he today proposed a two-year Regional Veterans initiative – backed by $388,500 in dedicated funds from the Veterans and Human Services Levy – with three key actions:
- Connect veterans programs and community agencies to form a King County Veteran Services Network to create many doors into services so that when a veteran approaches any one of them, he or she will be immediately directed to the right program at the right agency, and all agencies will use the same assessment and screening tools.
• Support that network with “Be the Connect” workshops, so that each program working with veterans is assured of knowing and understanding what the others provide.
• Develop online tools to reach veterans, including interactive websites, mobile applications and social media.
“Actions do speak louder than words,” said Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, Regional Veterans Initiative Special Advisor. “It has been humbling to represent the veterans in need, and be heard. Executive Dow Constantine has mobilized assets to develop a coordinated plan for veterans to access services in the greater King County area. I am proud to be part of it.”
The Special Advisors convened by the Executive are:
General Peter Chiarelli (retired), 32nd Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army,
• Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, Vietnam veteran and former Chief Nurse of the Washington National Guard,
• Leo Flor, West Point Graduate and former U.S. infantry officer,
• Debra Wood, U.S. Army nurse during the Vietnam era and chair of the King County Veterans Program Advisory Board, and
• Francisco Ivarra, Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient and chair of the King County Veterans Citizen Levy Oversight Board.
King County is home to an estimated 127,000 veterans and military personnel. More than 80,000 are 55 years or older. As many as 30,000 veterans live with mild to disabling mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or depression. Recently returning veterans are dealing with issues related to multiple tours of active duty, family disruption, lack of affordable housing and employment challenges.
Four in ten veterans say they have little or no knowledge of the benefits they have earned, or how to access them. The Special Advisors worked with the Executive and staff in his Department of Community and Human Services to reach out to veterans and regional leaders to identify needs, gaps, and opportunities for policy, planning and resource collaboration. Members of the King County Veterans Program Advisory Board and the King County Veterans Citizen Levy Oversight Board also provided critical input.
“The people of King County have already proven with generous support that they value the potential that veterans bring to their communities from their military service,” said Special Advisor Leo Flor. “The Regional Veterans Initiative takes the next step by fostering the shared sense of mission, urgency of action, and ethos of stewardship that are essential to converting so much good will into good outcomes for veterans, their families, and our communities.”
Representatives from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and others have been involved in the planning and have pledged to join King County to improve service coordination.
“We are committed to participating as partners in the efforts to overcome fragmentation, increase coordination, and improve the alignment of community, state and federal services for King County veterans and their families,” said Michael J. Murphy, Director, Department of Veterans Affairs, Puget Sound Healthcare System.
Lourdes Alvarado-Ramos, Director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs also pledged support. “We want to emphasize not only our commitment to this partnership, but also our role in improving overall results that support and advance the recommendations and goals of the Regional Veterans Initiative.”
The Regional Veterans Initiative will be sent on Monday to the Metropolitan King County Council with the Executive’s 2014/2015 Proposed Budget. For more information on the Regional Veterans Initiative, contact Pat Lemus, King County Department of Community and Human Services, at 206-263-9020.