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VA provides more help for homeless veterans

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced the award of nearly $100 million in grants that will help approximately 42,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families. The grants are going to 151 community agencies in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“We are committed to ending Veteran homelessness in America,” said Shinseki. “These grants will help VA and community organizations reach out and prevent at-risk veterans from losing their homes.”

Under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, VA is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income veteran families living in — or transitioning to — permanent housing. Those community organizations provide a range of services that promote housing stability among eligible very low income Veteran families.

Under the grants, homeless providers will offer veterans and their family members outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits and assistance in getting other public benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.

This is the program’s second year. Last year, VA provided about $60 million to assist 22,000 veterans and family members.

In 2009, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015. The grants are intended to help accomplish that goal. According to the 2011 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, homelessness among veterans has declined 12 percent since January 2010.

Through the homeless veterans initiative, VA committed $800 million in FY 2011 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless veterans, including health care, housing, job training and education.

VA Mental Health Care Update 15: The Department of Veterans Affairs recently completed a media campaign for its call center “Coaching Into Care,” a telephone service which provides assistance to family members and friends trying to encourage their veteran to seek health care for possible readjustment and mental health issues.

“‘Coaching Into Care’ is a valuable service for family members and friends of Veterans who might be reluctant to seek mental health care,” said Shinseki.“In the last three years, VA has devoted more people, programs and resources toward mental health services to serve the growing number of veterans seeking mental health care and this marketing effort is designed to expand our reach to those who need our services the most.” The “Coaching Into Care” service offers free coaching to callers, with no limit to the number of calls they can make. The goal of these sessions is to connect a Veteran with VA care in his or her community with the help and encouragement of family members or friends. Callers will be coached on solving specific logistical problems and ways to encourage the veteran to seek care while respecting his or her right to make personal decisions.

The service is available at www.mirecc.va.gov/coaching or toll-free at (888) 823-7458. If a veteran is experiencing an acute crisis, callers should contact the Veterans Crisis Line at (800)273-8255 for immediate help. “Coaching Into Care” works directly with the Veterans Crisis Line and the Caregiver Support Line to provide guidance and referrals. The department is a pioneer in mental health research, high-quality, evidence-based treatment and access to high-quality care. VA has many entry points to care through the use of 300 Vet Centers, the Veterans Crisis Line and integration of mental health services in the primary care setting. This campaign is part of VA’s overall mental health program. Last year, VA provided quality, specialty mental health services to 1.3 million Veterans. Since 2009, VA has increased the mental health care budget by 39 percent. Since 2007, VA has seen a 35 percent increase in the number ofveterans receiving mental health services, and a 41 percent increase in mental health staff.

Travel funds

The American Legion Trust Fund for 2012-2013 has been approved. These funds are not yet available. I will send out notice through this column when funds have been released.

Ensure you apply for travel through the Veterans Administration at VAMC Albuquerque, whenever possible.

Useful links

For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the VSO office.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. Third Ave. in the old Mercy Medical Center.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108. Second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans. Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans. Every other Monday 6 p.m., St. Patrick Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministry (Veterans). Every Thursday at 9 a.m., (Buffalo Inn).

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