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Monday, December 15, 2008

National Resource Directory Offers Veterans One-Stop Info and Access to Myriad Health, Employment Services

Wonderful news:

The Department of Defense [last month] launched the National Resource Directory, a collaborative effort between the departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs.

The directory is a Web-based network of care coordinators, providers and support partners with resources for wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans, their families, families of the fallen and those who support them.

"The directory is the visible demonstration of our national will and commitment to As new links are added each day by providers and partners, coverage from coast to coast will grow even greater ensuring that no part of that journey will ever be made alone," said Lynda C. Davis, Ph.D., deputy under secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

Located at www.nationalresourcedirectory.org, the directory offers more than 10,000 medical and non-medical services and resources to help service members and veterans achieve personal and professional goals along their journey from recovery through rehabilitation to community reintegration.

"The VA is extremely proud to be a partner in this innovative resource. This combination of federal, state, and community-based resources will serve as a tremendous asset for all service members, veterans, their families and those who care for them. The community is essential to the successful reintegration of our veterans, and these groups greatly enhance the directory's scope," said Karen S. Guice, M.D., executive director, federal recovery care coordination program at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

-- Source: National Guard

I've been among those calling for something like this for some time now. Yet again this week I found myself carrying on about the need for such a database in an email exchange with the organizers of next month's Survivor Corps Community Reintegration Summit at the Carnegie Institution (I have been invited to attend).

It looks like we're getting closer to that goal.


In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Continuing:

"The National Resource Directory will prove to be a valuable tool for wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families as they wind their way through the maze of benefits and services available to them in their transition to civilian life. The Department of Labor is pleased to have the opportunity to work with our partners at DoD," said Charles S. Ciccolella, the assistant secretary of labor for the veterans' employment and training service.

The National Resource Directory is organized into six major categories: Benefits and Compensation; Education, Training and Employment; Family and Caregiver Support; Health; Housing and Transportation; and Services and Resources. It also provides helpful checklists, Frequently Asked Questions, and connections to peer support groups. All information on the Web site can be found through a general or state and local search tool.


Launching last month, (but, because I was completely inundated with finals prep, I missed its arrival), it looks to be a step in the right direction. Last year, so many frustrated community caregivers who came out on my book tour to share their resources and knowledge told me that they were at the ready, but having a difficult time connecting with the military members in their area who might have a need for their services or resources.

But the military wasn't willing to share their information. And so, veterans weren't coming in to make use of community-based help because they didn't know those services even existed.

But, how to get the word out? Online.

This younger generation of vets is highly Internet-savvy; they would have no problem using some sort of online searchable database to find what’s out there for them (one promise of the NRD). Veterans could easily seek these services out themselves – rather than having the community service providers tasked with doing it themselves.

I mentioned this to Congress last year when I testified (although by no means am I taking credit for the NRD):

Mr. SNYDER. So that is what I was getting at, the community-based resources. Even now, you are talking about our not really being called forward as a country, but think of where we will be 5 and 10 and 15 and 20 years from now when memories will have faded about our responsibilities, and we are still going to have families from these folks who are going to have these needs.

I think it is on the second page where the two of you recommend and you talk about complimentary counseling to all immediate family members. That is what triggered my thought because we need to have a system in this country of providing better mental health coverage because that need is going to be there for a lot of years for these families, and it may be generational. And I think that we are going to be grappling with it on this Committee, but we need to be grappling with it in our entire healthcare system.

Ms. MEAGHER. I do have one suggestion that could be easily done, and I would have done it myself if I only had the opportunity.

Mr. SNYDER. Yes.

Ms. MEAGHER. I think it could be easily done.

All of these resources that are out there—now, I am from Illinois, and the Bowmans are as well. We have National Guard troops. They come from the community.

Mr. SNYDER. Right.

Ms. MEAGHER. So they know the community. The community knows them. And there are resources available to them, but there is not a database. There is nothing where somebody who is sitting in Texas or in Illinois can simply just go to a database to see "what is available in my community." The military is not giving the information to the soldiers, and the soldiers do not know where to go often. They do not know that there are psychologists who are at the ready to donate their services. There are programs. There are all types of programs. So there could be a database. There could be something that is put together that has resources for people.

Not the most eloquent exchange on my part, I know. But it was the one recommendation I felt fully confident in making at the time.

The need was and is clearly there.

There are so many resources (many free), but their details are scattered far and wide. Some are listed online, others are not. Up until now, we've had Military OneSource -- lots of info in there; but, most of it strictly the "official" DoD/VA kind. It doesn't include all the free veterans reintegration retreats, or important conferences and other events that military families might be interested in attending.

I'm also pretty sure it doesn’t include all the writing or artistic expression workshops or free yoga or meditation classes that are right now being offered to our vets across the country.

I'm not sure that the new National Resource Directory will include all of these, either. If it doesn't, then I guess I'll still have something to agitate for. (If you head over to the NRD to kick its tires a bit, please consider leaving me your thoughts and feelings on the resource in comments. Would love to hear what you think of it.)

My feeling has been that we need to have an online searchable database created and funded properly that brings together *all* resources that are available to a veteran and his/her family. Not just military or VA resources in there; but all the big, medium and small organizations and groups and individuals in communities large and small who are doing things to help in their own corner of the world.

There are so many great things going on [events list] – free conferences, workshops, retreats, counseling, art programs (like the Vet Art Project orientation I attended on Saturday), etc.

While I understand the need to check each item placed in the database, I believe even the "lesser" offerings should go in alongside the more "official" stuff. If necessary, designate the lesser entries in some way to show that they are not fully sanctioned by the DoD/VA, but pass along the information nonetheless.

Military families can and should make some decisions for themselves about the style and direction of their reintegration and post-war care. Give them access to the myriad resources out there, and they'll feel they have more control over their health and well being.

They'll also see just how many civilians really do care.

Have a resource/service? Be sure to add it.

---

A few more details from the American Forces Press Service:

The National Resource Directory will include information on care coordinators, health care providers and support partners, Dr. Lynda Davis, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said during an “ASY Live” interview today on BlogTalkRadio.com.

"Working with wounded ill and injured servicemembers and their families, there [are] many resources and individuals available to help them," Davis said. "We needed one source that can tell us where everyone in the country is who wants to help our wounded warriors and their families."

The directory is part of a larger effort by the departments to improve wounded warrior care.


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