IVMF collaborates to assist state communities competing for federal grants in support of returning veterans, families

New initiative will provide free support to applicants to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families grants program

A new collaborative effort among the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) and Veterans Outreach Center is offering free technical assistance to help communities throughout New York State better serve returning veterans and their families.

ivmfThe initiative will provide tailored support to help community-based nonprofit organizations prepare successful applications to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Supporting Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grants program. Technical assistance is also available to help current SSVF grantees enhance their capacity to provide community-based supportive services for veterans and their families, particularly vulnerable families at risk of homelessness. Of New York State’s 1.1 million veterans, an estimated 21,000 are living without a home.

In 2012, the VA awarded more than $8 million through the SSVF program to 11 organizations serving veteran families in communities throughout New York State, helping them find stable housing, employment and access to health care and other benefits. The goal of the collaborative technical assistance program is to ensure that an even larger number of New York’s veteran families will benefit from the next round of SSVF funding. (A detailed funding announcement is expected early in federal fiscal year 2013.)

“We know what it takes to meet the needs of veteran families in their communities: a coordinated, comprehensive array of services to sustain housing; help veterans find jobs and improve skills through education and training; offer counseling; provide case management services; and provide mental health, physical health and substance abuse rehabilitation and support services,” says Gary Shaheen, IVMF director of employment policy. “This collaborative technical assistance program will help New York State communities that are starting or expanding their services for veteran families learn from successful existing models like Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester and identify the approach that best suits local needs and resources.”

The IVMF, NYSHealth and Veterans Outreach Center expect to work with the 11 current SSVF grantees and an additional 12 organizations applying for 2013 funding to develop successful strategies and proposals to provide community-based health and social services to as many veteran families as possible.

“Veterans and their families want to receive health and social services in their communities, where they live and work,” says Col. Jim McDonough (Ret.), senior fellow for veterans affairs at NYSHealth, which recently approved a $500,000 grant to support the technical assistance collaborative. “Expanding effective community-based models that help veteran families avoid homelessness, find jobs and get the physical and mental health services they need makes a real difference in improving overall health and well-being. This initiative will help ensure that many more of New York’s veteran families have access to the benefits and services they need and deserve, where they live and work, in their communities.”

“What’s most exciting to me about this collaborative program is the opportunity for community-based veteran-serving organizations like ours to share with and learn from each other,” says Col. Gary S. Yaple, president and CEO of Veterans Outreach Center. “Every community is unique, but some opportunities and obstacles are universal when it comes to developing and sustaining an effective model for meeting veteran families’ needs. Understanding and applying those established best practices will help communities throughout New York State secure and sustain funding through the SSVF grants program.”

At the IVMF, James Schmeling, managing director and co-founder, and Shaheen are co-principals for the two-year grant from the New York State Health Foundation. They bring to the project expertise working on federal and state projects, such as the U.S. Department of Labor/Veterans Employment and Training Services and the National Veterans Technical Assistance Center for Homeless Veterans Reintegration, to address disability and homelessness among veterans. Joining Shaheen and Schmeling on the project are the IVMF’s Mirza Tihic and Nicole LaCorte-Klein, who both have extensive experience related to homelessness, training, education, mental health and employment.

“We’re very fortunate to have partners like NYSHealth and Veterans Outreach Center to address issues of homelessness prevention and stability for our veterans and their families. We’re excited to continue this important work here at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to assist our communities in their efforts to reintegrate veterans and their families after service,” says Schmeling.

Organizations interested in receiving technical assistance should contact Gary Shaheen at the IVMF at 315-443-9819 or geshahee@syr.edu. More information about the SSVF program is available at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.