Augusta, GA, January 7, 2016 (Newswire.com) - Active duty military members leaving the service in 2016 will need strong community support to be successful in the civilian world.
That’s the message Jim Lorraine, president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership, delivered Dec. 15 to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. Lorraine supported his testimony with research that showed an average of 33 percent of new veterans leaving the military stayed local because of their ties to the community.
“With the collective leadership of communities throughout the nation, I know that we can have a strong and vital national veteran network that not only strengthens its communities, but can also improve our military for tomorrow,” Lorraine told senators, including committee chairman, Georgia’s Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson.
"With the collective leadership of communities throughout the nation, I know that we can have a strong and vital national veteran network that not only strengthens its communities, but can also improve our military for tomorrow."
Empowering communities to empower veterans is at the heart of America’s Warrior Partnership’s mission. AWP is a national nonprofit supporting six regional communities. In just eighteen months of effort, its affiliated communities have developed a relationship with more than 17,000 unique warriors. Lorraine credited a model of private/public partnerships between local nonprofits and government agencies for its successes and encouraged senators to strengthen these relationships in order to better serve the veteran at home.
While Lorraine’s message focused largely on the positive results of community integration programs, he also shared his concerns about the existing Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Lorraine testified four years ago before the same committee that TAP was incomplete because it did not incorporate community resources.
“Since then, not much has changed,” Lorraine said. “The current transition program is not focused on the individual veteran; instead the focus is on the outputs of attendance and post-class evaluations at a time when the service member’s life is nothing but unknowns.”
Through community partnerships, AWP has been able to give better definition to the veteran’s future and eliminate those unknowns. For example, by focusing on improving access to veteran benefits, communities have ensured 76 percent of their warriors are enrolled in Veterans Affairs healthcare and 64 percent are enrolled in eBenefits.
Lorraine’s testimony pointed to multiple, quantifiable practices the government can implement to improve the chances of a successful transition. Ultimately, though, Lorraine concluded it’s two intangible elements that are going to determine success: hope and purpose. While not as concrete as housing, education and employment, these two things are “the foundation by which we thrive and this cannot be discounted,” Lorraine said.
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