As the Director of VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP), I have the privilege of meeting individuals and organizations from across the country working with, and on behalf of, Veterans. Late February at a Veterans Roundtable in Las Vegas, Nevada, I spoke to approximately 180 faith-based and community leaders from across the state that are committed to serving the needs of Veterans, their families and survivors in their local communities.
VA and the CFBNP know the significance and importance of faith-based and community organizations to the lives of individuals and families. We are also aware that these groups and individuals need as much information as possible in order to assist our Veterans, their families and survivors. The speakers for the Las Vegas Veterans Roundtable spoke to concerns and issues relevant to the community and attendees. Each attendee was given a card to write down their question(s) for the Open Forum or to pass along with their contact information to local VA staff in attendance. This provided a way for questions to get answered publically or privately.
Employment and housing are key areas of concern. Questions were addressed by speakers from Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service and the Reno Regional Program VR&E on hiring Veterans with service connected disabilities, job placement strategies, special employer incentives and on-the-job training. Speakers from the VA Southern Nevada Medical Center discussed the challenges and resources available to Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) Veterans.
The Operations Specialist/Faith-based Liaison from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shared information on HUD resources. Attendees got an overview of Nevada’s homeless population, VA grants and services provided from the Southern Nevada Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Homeless Veterans Outreach Coordinator.
The Reno Regional Office Veterans Benefits Administration provided an excellent overview of benefits services. Persons received answers to individual questions or they were provided the direct contact information so they can follow-up.
Approximately 180 people representing faith-based and community organizations attended the Veterans Roundtable as did staff from the Governor’s Office, both U.S. Senate offices and several House of Representatives’ Offices. The staffs of our elected officials at all levels of government were able to see and hear the commitment and challenges faced by our Veterans and those that serve and work with them.
Each Veteran Roundtable identifies what the Veterans’ needs are for that city or region. The Veteran Roundtables are primarily for faith-based, non-profit and community leaders and organizations. VA CFBNP will co-host two more Veteran Roundtables with Regional Offices on July 28, 2011 in Chicago, IL and September 16, 2011 in Cleveland, OH. Persons interested in attending either of the upcoming Veteran Roubdtables can email Elona.Williams2@va.gov or Susan.Chung@va.gov.
If you or your organization are interested in working with Veterans, a good starting place is your local VA Medical Center's Voluntary Service Office. To locate your nearest VA facility visit www.va.gov and select Location or visit www.volunteer.va.gov and select Volunteer.
Rev. E. Terri LaVelle is the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.