Veterans Inc. – VSO (Veterans Service Organizations) Spotlight

Veterans Inc. - VSO (Veterans Service Organizations) Spotlight
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The goal of Veterans Inc is to end homelessness among our veterans. Using our triangle method of services, we provide housing, employment & training, and supportive services to veterans and their families. We take the time to prepare veterans for careers that will help them attain sustainability and secure permanent housing while addressing their health and benefit concerns.

Veterans Inc. is New England’s leading provider of support services to veterans and their families. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the organization’s single-minded mission is to be there for our veterans in their time of need.

Incorporated in 1990, Veterans Inc. has helped more than 60,000 veterans in need and today operates offices and programs in all six New England states.
In 2015, the agency was honored with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans 2015 “Outstanding Member Award” in Washington.

The following interview was conducted with Heather Salva who is a Regional Manager with Veterans Inc.

Veterans Inc. VSO team

In your words, what does Veterans Inc do?

We assist veterans who are homeless or at risk with housing, employment and training and supportive services. We take into account the barriers that may have led to their current situations and create a plan with the veteran to address such issues and what it will take to accomplish them. The difference being, we provide the hope, that they may have lost to help them tackle these situations and understand that they are not alone.  

Some veterans are recently coming home from deployment and don’t have any resources to come home to. A lot of veterans don’t have the resources or family to help them out to begin with when they join the military, sometimes it’s one of their reasons for joining. Veterans Inc’s makes it their mission to sit down with each veteran in person to verify their veteran status and inform them of the benefits that they are entitled to.  

What does this veteran need first and foremost?

Do they have or need housing? Are they receiving healthcare benefits? Are they entitled to receive benefits for a condition that would warrant a service-connected disability and who is going to assist them file that claim?  Are they interested in continuing their education and are they aware of any Post 911 benefits that they’re entitled to?

  • The first thing we ask is if they have any active duty . The VA requires they have 180 active duty days or a VA card to be considered an “eligible veteran”.
  • In order to receive SSVF services, the Veterans have to be under the 50% area median income guidelines, determined by HUD and this varies state to state. Veterans Inc is New England wide so we have to be up-to-date on the guidelines for each state and also aware of what each different state has to offer. We Then,discuss income and  employment status and look at available options for each; sometimes this comes in the form of a SSDI app or a service-connected disability claim; sometimes continued education is the best choice. In these circumstance, we want to see what they qualify for and connect them to the appropriate resource to assist with each.

After addressing their emergent needs, We also come up with a plan to help them establish long-term success.

What are the services we can talk about that you provide to their veterans?

  1. Housing: we can assist with rental arrearages to ensure the veterans remain stably housed or pay their first months rent and security deposit to get them housed if they are literally homeless.
  2. Employment & Training: Veterans Inc has case managers to help a veteran build a solid resume, we also do interview training and offer Dress for Success clothing for interviews. This could also include a clean cut and shave. We have funding available when Post 911 or Voc Rehab benefits is not an option to assist a veteran obtain a certification that will lead to employment such as CNA, EMT, or a Class A Driver’s license to name a few. We have relationships with many employers and training facilities throughout New England who want to work with veterans. We can also provide bus passes or gas cards for them to be able to get to work.
  3.  Supportive Services: Once a veteran starts working with Veterans Inc, they don’t become disengaged. We make sure they have a budget, meal and housing  plan in place and a list of resources in their area to reach out to so even when we’re not actively in the picture, they’ll still have these resources to turn to for help.This includes places to find clothing and furniture, food banks, substance abuse meetings and counselors they can talk to (especially if they are not comfortable going to the VA)

How did you first get involved with Veterans Inc?

I was in the National Guard from 1994-97. When I got out I raised a family and continued my education but always felt committed to assisting my brothers and sisters. I was an active AMVETS member and Chief of Staff of the local War Veterans Council and as of late reenlisted to continue my service.

When I saw an open position as an employment specialist with Veterans Inc. I researched the agency and completely agreed with their goals and mission statement.

How did you first get involved with VAe? What motivates you to continue to work with them?

I first learned about Veterans Assembled electronics at an OEF/OIF task force meeting at the Providence VAMC They presented their free training program for disabled veterans, and I felt it was an awesome opportunity for veterans looking to improve or learn new skills in the electronic industry.  I also loved the passion that they had to assist veterans and their commitment to follow through and assist them with the other services and benefits they be entitled to. Since then, we continuously refer clients back and forth and have been able to keep many veterans in their homes while they completed the program and then worked together to find appropriate employment and make sure they have the tools they need to succeed.

We’ve recently been able to partner with VAe and MMI to offer additional money management trainings and help veterans prioritize spending. They learned the importance of being financially responsible in order to keep a roof over their head and be able to provide for their family. They were also offered free MMI services that included debt consolidation, lowering APR’s, and other helpful money management tips.

Have you recommended anybody directly to VAe? How does that process work?

Yes. we literally call Julie on a regular basis. There is always an immediate response whether its for new veterans interested in the training or a mutual client that may have an issue that needs addressing. There’s never any frustration and there’s always continuous communication on what’s happening with clients whether they need clothing for their interviews, transportation or a housing concern.

Can you tell me about the veterans who come to you? What are some key requirements they need to meet for you to be able to help them?

Veterans who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. Veterans who may have lost their job and don’t know how they’re going to pay their rent. They could be couch surfing–staying on a friend or family member’s couch–or it could be a veteran who’s just come back from deployment or just finishing college and has nowhere to go….or someone who is no longer able to collect unemployment benefits would all qualify for HVRP services. For SSVFR, they still must have at least 180 active duty (or a VA card) and be under the 50% AMI to receive temporary financial services .

Does Veterans Inc have any specific goals for this year?

While our goal is to end veterans homelessness, we understand this is not likely and we’re tasked with the ongoing struggle/uphill battle of daily life. We want to help as many veterans as we can to lessen their struggles and connect them to all the resources that are available to them.  Our next step in Rhode Island is to secure housing, to be able to remove more veterans from literal homelessness and offer them a safe place to stay until they are ready to seek permanent housing.

Tell me about Veterans Inc’s future projects and events.

  • Stand down June 17th
  • Just did a golf tournament
  • Fall: music festival
  • Winter: Military Gala Ball

How are you currently marketing Veterans Inc?

We have a very grassroots approach. We do not spend a lot of money on marketing as it all goes directly to veteran services.  You will not see any billboards or buses with our logo on it. You will find us in all the shelters and soup kitchens. We are at the VA trailer 37 every Wednesday and Thursday from 9-12. You can come to our offices at 1070 Main St. in Pawtucket. We are on Facebook, Twitter, our website is veteransinc.org or 1-800-482-2565 which is available 24 hours a day

Veterans Inc VSO veteran with child

What action do you want one of our readers to take in order to find out more or get in touch with you?

Visit site/give call/visit at the trailer or office

They have offices in all 6 states throughout New England, but to contact the 1070 Main Street Pawtucket office, call the 800-482-2565 or Heather’s cell phone 774-239-9756

Anything else you want to share about Veterans Inc or VAe?

It’s awesome to have programs available to veterans such as VAe and Veterans Inc, that are really looking out for the underdog.

I say this 100x a day: Every situation is only temporary. No matter how good or bad you’re doing, it’s only temporary. Just changing your attitude is going to change what happens with your situation and that goes from being in a very glum place and realizing there’s agency like Veterans Inc that want to help you and/or Looking at the ones standing on the streets asking for food or money—most of us are just a job away from being that person. Our situation is only temporary too.

Have the resources and people around you. Be humble. Share your experiences and time. This is about neighbors helping neighbors. Veterans helping veterans. We’re all in this together. Be kind to one another.

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