Here in South Alabama, our Community Action Team (CAT) has come together twice to better understand the needs of Veterans in our community. We just wrapped up a very successful public meeting on June 6 that involved the entire community and the core Operation Deep Dive research team. At this meeting, we learned about some significant concerns regarding gaps in Veteran services in our area and the views of both civilians and Veterans. This was very eye opening and helpful.
Here are a few of the insights:
- We have a unique geography in our area, which spans over one hundred miles from east to west and numerous very rural counties and those more populous. This contributes to the unique challenges faced by Veterans and the increased potential for isolation. Our CAT is looking at four different counties in South Alabama and we are rotating meetings between each county to better engage our teams “on the ground” and understand the unique challenges they face. For example, one of our coroners does not have an office and has to work out of his truck.
- The importance of equity in support for women veterans was a key point of discussion. There are a number of inequities that women veterans face, even the immediate assumption that they must be a spouse, grand-daughter or family member when they go to the VA.
- It has been great to get the community together and serve as a networking bridge between people and organizations all focused on better serving veterans. For example, I was able to personally connect the Coordinator of Veterans Affairs at the University of South Alabama with a woman attempting to begin a weekly quiet study session for student veterans at the University.
- We are especially gratified to see our medical examiners and coroners taking strong ownership and leadership within this program and helping us to make the right connections in our community. Here’s hoping that these meetings continue to be a place where individuals and organizations come together to fill in gaps, creating a true community in support of all of our Veterans. — Nick Fadoir, Research Assistant