UT - 'One central table' to help vets?
Jeanette Steele - In San Diego, a region where 15,000 Marines and sailors are discharged from the military each year, there’s an ambitious new plan to help these troops figure out their next mission, which is civilian life.
It’s called the Military Transition Support Project, and organizers say it may become a national model for how to welcome home those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The plan is being promoted by a high-profile coalition of regional military leaders and government officials, plus San Diego Grantmakers and several other nonprofits that serve the veterans community.
What’s new about this effort is that it will catch service members while they are still in uniform, at their mandatory on-base transition classes, and then track them for a year after discharge.
The plan is to hire paid “navigators” to assist each veteran. These navigators would provide links to jobs, employment coaches and social services. The project even hopes to evaluate and certify nonprofit groups that advertise their assistance to veterans.
The online backbone of the effort is expected to be the existing county-funded 211 San Diego website.
“The best ideas are coming from San Diego in terms of science, green technology — and now in terms of veterans, it’s going to be the same thing,” said Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, whose office has been involved in the planning effort.
“People here are going to figure it out and teach the rest of the country how to do it. That’s what I think is exciting.”
The group unveiled the plan Tuesday at a “call to action” meeting at San Diego State University.
“It’s convening all the different public, nonprofit and private sectors to try to bring one collective table together, which hasn’t happened in this community. We’ve had wonderful pockets of collaboration, but we haven’t had one central table,” said Jennifer James, lead consultant on the project for San Diego Grantmakers.
“Right now what happens is there are all these national websites and all these individual employers, and they are scattered everywhere. This is the funnel that brings it all together in one comprehensive location,” James said.
The coalition has worked for the past year, funded by grants from Blue Shield of California, Web MD and the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.
Organizers are hoping to get $500,000 in additional funding to launch their pilot program for a year. If successful, they hope to start signing up the first 200 sailors at transition classes in the spring.
Later, they want to spread the effort to San Diego Marine bases.
At the launch event, officials announced that San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency will include the “navigator” positions in an upcoming request for proposals for outside vendors to provide veterans support services. That means some number of “navigator” jobs may be funded by the county.