By Thom Stoddert
A centralized one-stop location by which a veteran, family member, or even an active duty service member can access help is being made a reality in Lacey, Washington. Traditionally, when a veteran needed help, they first had to locate a possible resource in a community they were not familiar with, then travel to it and learn that agency is not what they hoped for or the vet had to wait in line for hours. With the sudden increases in the veteran population from draw-downs, vets being arrested, and homelessness, the need for greater community involvement became the answer, but how?
The Thurston County Veterans Advisory Board was at the forefront to deal with these problems. The answer was found in the concept of a centralized one-stop resource. With the City of Lacey heading and bank-rolling the project along with support from the Advisory Board, other veteran organizations, and lots of volunteers - it became a reality. The Resource Hub is now located a few miles south of Joint Base Lewis-McCord (JBLM), in Lacey Washington.
The one-stop concept was to place as many community resources possible into one easily accessed location and to provide guided mentorship for each veteran. The mentorship was needed because it was found that veterans often did not have a true understanding of their own needs, they were too distracted by the immediate challenges.
A single location was needed. It was more efficient for veterans to locate and travel to the various organizations if they were in one building. It also allowed for networking among the various agencies and service organizations.
Thus, a veteran looking for housing could also receive help in registering for medical care with the VA, or even bus tickets to the VA hospital. The needs for VA benefits employment, education, food, and clothing were also addressed as part of the Hub.
The typical story is that of a veteran recently discharged, unable to find stable employment, in need of medical care and help in dealing with the VA. This veteran’s first need is food for his family and then help with his rent before eviction. The vet first needs are somewhat easy to satisfy, but the future is also important. The vet may need counseling for PTSD and the Vet Center is next door on the same floor.
Upon entering the Resource Hub, the vet or family member is met by a receptionist (volunteer) who registers the visit and for a basic assessment of needs. Then the vet is introduced to a navigator (mentor) also a volunteer, who designs an action plan. The vet, with his or her plan written out is then steered to the correct office of an agency or community resource to be interviewed. At each step of the way, notes and instructions are written down for the veteran to remember appointments and instructions given. The bottom line here is the person seeking assistance is not alone.
All veterans with any kind of discharge are welcomed, but only veterans with a discharge (DD-214) that is better than a dishonorable character of discharge can access all the services. Till confirmation of veteran status is made, the veteran will receive some benefits and services based on a signed affirmation that he or she is a lawful veteran. At which time the other than dishonorable DD-214s will open access to all services and benefits. Yes, the Hub can also obtain copies of a veteran’s discharge in a very short period.
The Hub also contains a classroom with enough space to be used by any group with a veteran interest.
In summation, any legal veteran living within the limits of the Thurston County will be able to come to one place for assistance. The attitude is to meet each individual’s needs, not the cookie-cutter approach in getting a veteran into a particular provider.
I wrote this article for publication because other municipalities have expressed interest in what Lacey has done and wish to copy it. The Hub is a very comprehensive approach, though it is still a work in progress.
For further information
or just google “Lacey Veterans Service Hub.”