U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Leverages Community-Based Resources to Improve Lives

By Mike Schindler,  IVMF Program Manager of Community Services 

In a continued effort to better serve Veterans and their families, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Innovation (VACI) joined forces in early April 2017 with Syracuse University and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) in a national pilot to demonstrate the merits of a community-based health care and services coordinated referral system within the Institute’s AmericaServes initiative. This pilot provides an alternative level of engagement where the VA has the ability to tap into ideas from external partners and co-develop innovative ideas of mutual interest to best serve America’s veterans and by extension, their family members.

Through IVMF’s AmericaServes’ Collective Impact initiative, the landmark strategic partnership between VACI and IVMF will provide “a more cohesive process….shared programming, ideas, and efficient delivery of resources aimed at quickly and directly improving the lives of veterans, service members and their families,” according to VACI.

This partnership to improve how services are delivered through innovation and community–based coordination could not be timelier.

In a recent white paper by Phillip Carter and Katherine Kidder, A CONTINUUM OF COLLABORATION: The Landscape of Community Efforts to Serve Veterans, research revealed that while veterans “may avail themselves to federal benefits such as VA health care or the GI Bill, veterans largely will turn to private and nonprofit activities at the local level for employment, education, housing and other forms of support.”

By encouraging VA facilities and Centers to participate in a community-based, coordinated  referral system that properly connects the veteran to the right community-based resource, the potential to ‘move the needle’ on ensuring service members more seamlessly transition from military service recognizes new-found opportunity to integrate community capacity, while recognizing where veterans often actually turn for services and care.

This innovative effort also speaks to the VA’s desire to be more proactive in their approach to working with its existing relationship with state agencies as well.

Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, the Director of Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, hailed the effort as a move in the right direction. “The state is a critical government-to-government partner and not just a stakeholder. By establishing the enterprise MOU, it sets the stage for stronger collaboration and better services to veterans and their families not only among the federal VA and our community-based partners but also between our state and federal agencies.”

This partnership model enables the VA to problem solve and determine solutions that otherwise could not be found alone, or where solutions generate positive externalities to industries outside the VA. VACI’s forward-thinking approach to embracing this public-private model that leverages many assets dedicated to serving our military and veteran families is a positive step in the right direction – one that will send a message to communities and to our military and veteran families that the VA is committed to best-serving those who comprise the backbone of our national defense.

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