In The Hill publication, our CEO Jim Lorraine calls on lawmakers and leaders to take real leadership and support efforts at community integration across the country.
Leadership needed to solve veteran issues
By Jim Lorraine
Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
When we address our enemies on the battlefield we do so with careful planning. We coordinate efforts among our air, ground, and water forces. We do not rely on individual warriors to plan their own attacks but rather lead squadrons, battalions, and teams with thought as well as with courage. We look to our commanders to lead. We need to take this lesson to the homefront to benefit our veterans.
A good example of leadership at home can be found in the efforts to end veteran homelessness. Since 2010, the number of veterans living on the street has shrunk by 47 percent. If you think it was all the work of congressional oversight or the Department of Veterans Affairs or community-based organizations, you’re wrong. The reason the number of homeless veterans has gone down over the last five years is not because of the work of one part of government or one group; is the direct result of collaboration among organizations and the leadership it took to break down the long-standing barriers that traditionally hindered government agencies from cooperating with nonprofits.
This kind of collaboration does not happen spontaneously, but with the right leadership and resources, it can achieve great things. America’s Warrior Partnership has put forth a bold plan, called Community Integration, to address all veteran issues, like homelessness, where they occur. At the heart of this plan is leadership and collaboration. Community Integration has been proven in communities from California, to Florida to New York. We provide the leadership to communities and we back it up with financial resources, extensive training, and the tools necessary for success.
Fostering successful collaboration is essential to addressing the challenges veterans and their families face whether it comes to health and wellness, employment and education, or maintaining strong relationships. It’s how America’s Warrior Partnership ensure veterans get the best resources matched to their specific needs in the most immediate way. Every day, our five communities are leading that collaboration. And at our symposium in Atlanta this September, hundreds of organizations will come together to learn how they can apply lessons from our communities in their own. There, they will also get the opportunity to connect with officials from the military, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and The White House.
We at America’s Warrior Partnership are asked one question over and over: What can we do to help? If you are in a position of national leadership, we ask you to keep veteran issues at the top of your agenda. Just as collaboration is key to enabling organizations to best serve veterans effectively, collaboration among lawmakers, and between lawmakers and veteran-serving nonprofit organizations, is key to enacting policies that best serve veterans’ needs effectively. Engage in dialogue, support policies that support our veterans, put aside partisan politics and get this done. Reward, rather than penalize agencies, both governmental and nongovernmental, that cooperate with other agencies. On every level, seek out and support collaborative efforts.
For those not in leadership positions, but who wish to be part of the solution, realize that these efforts require funding. Make it known to your companies, your shareholders, your communities, that veteran issues are community issues and that you intend to address them.
Collaboration doesn’t just sound good in theory. It works in practice. In America’s Warrior Partnership communities, 80 percent of post-9/11 veterans served have been enrolled in VA health care and 56 percent of the homeless post-9/11 veteran population has been housed. Those achievements were made possible by bipartisan collaboration in Congress that keeps VA health care and homelessness programs adequately funded.
Additionally, veteran-serving organizations themselves play an important role in informing our policy and law-making colleagues about veterans’ issues. These include such issues as gaps in services that veterans encounter, how to improve current programs, and even the success stories of veterans whose lives are better because of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, VA health care, American Job Centers, housing vouchers, and more.
When we collaborate, we do better by our veterans. America’s Warrior Partnership has seen the results of collaboration in our communities: more veterans employed, more veterans getting the health care they need, more veterans on track to graduate from college. As a nation, we’ve seen the results of collaboration, too, in fewer veterans living on the streets. Just think what we could accomplish together if our lawmakers, nonprofits, and all those working to support veterans, joined us in such collaborative efforts.
Ultimately, we need lawmakers to enact policies and direct resources to communities that support veterans. We need communities to create open networks of resources for veterans, understanding that these collaborative partnerships make better communities. We need your hearts, your minds, your money. Won’t you join us?
Jim Lorraine is president & CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership.