With ongoing revelations about the expanding scope of mass surveillance by private and public entities, people increasingly are wary of governmental programs and interventions. The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter #86 of Flagler Beach, Florida, is working to counter some of that wariness by following-through on the fulfillment of benefits available to U.S. veterans, and demonstrating their commitment to “…empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity.”
In January 2009, retired U.S. Army General Eric K. Shinseki was sworn in as the Seventh Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Almost immediately he put into play within the Department the planning, energy and resources necessary to attain President Barack Obama’s goal of extending Veteran assistance and ending homelessness for those who served our nation but lack safe, secure housing.
The Department has set as a major goal the desire to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. To accomplish this goal, in 2013 the VA targeted $1.4 billion for specialized homeless programs and $4.4 billion to health care for Veterans who are homeless. Monies are being used for health care, housing assistance, job training, and education which can help Veterans secure housing and achieve self-sufficiency. The VA is the sole federal agency providing substantial hands-on assistance directly to Veterans who are or are at risk of becoming homeless. Its major programs comprise the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in our country. A major national initiative related to this effort is the VA’s Stand Down program. Annually since 1988, these events, similar in concept to business, education and government in-service days, are locally organized across the U.S.
On March 29, 2014, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8696 in Palm Coast, FL, hosted the first Flagler County Stand Down. During the event, specialized personnel assisted homeless veterans and their families.
Services included free clothing, counseling on VA and Social Security benefits, employment opportunities, food, health screenings, shelter, substance abuse treatment, and others. DAV #86 supported the Stand Down with transportation services, matriculation assistance into VA programs, event registration and VA information. Completing the link from the President to the Department of Veterans Affairs to individual States and local organizations, DAV #86 invited individual veterans and families to their facility for follow-up assistance. Typical of the follow-up assistance provided by DAV #86 is that which was given to the family of a local veteran attending the March 30 Stand Down.
The veteran’s family consists of the veteran, an E-4 rank U.S. Army Supply Specialist, her husband and five children, two of whom are “on their own.” After serving three years in the Army, she and her family lived in Georgia and Jacksonville prior to moving to Palm Coast, Florida. In the Palm Coast area she secured employment at local retailers, began taking online courses, and volunteered with community service organizations. Forced to quit her position at a local retailer following a work-related accident, the family found themselves “making it” in a one-salary household. When her husband’s position was eliminated and with the down economy at the time, money was non-existent and the family was left homeless.
Unaware of her earned VA benefits, the family was befriended by a knowledgeable VA officer who found them shelter while working with them to secure benefits. Since that time, her husband has found another, lower-paying job, the veteran continued taking courses toward a baccalaureate degree, and in late 2013 the veteran and her family moved into a veteran-backed rental home. Although she is still without a job, the veteran will soon graduate from college with an accounting degree and will be searching for a position where she can put her skills to work. She also wants to continue her community service to “give back to those who might be less fortunate.”
Meanwhile, all three children are flourishing. The oldest of the three children at home graduated high school, is now in the National Guard, and taking college courses to pursue his passion in IT. With a real penchant for music, English and computers, he feels an IT background is appropriate. The second son is attending a local high school, and enjoys writing and film/TV production, which he is contemplating for a career. The third child is a daughter who, because of an illness, is being home schooled. Presently between ninth and tenth grade, she is a talented artist and writer who’s created her own “superhero/spy” series of comic books. She also is contemplating a military career.
Jim Booe DAV #86 officers and other personnel have met with the veteran several times, ensuring that she is exploring all avenues for VA assistance to which she is entitled, including job placement assistance for her earned degree. Undoubtedly this veteran is exemplary—as a role model and example to others entitled to VA benefits. She is a compelling success story for her “get-the-job-done-right” attitude, her leadership in times of crisis, and her caring and compassion for others. From President Obama down to the local Jim Booe DAV #86 Chapter officers and members, the VA is committed to our veterans. We congratulate her initiative, resolve and determination, and look forward to working with other veterans to ensure their success.
For more information: DAV #86 Chapter Commander Alfonsa Phillips Phone: 386-439-2122,