Financial Hardship, Emergency Assistance & RRRP By Vadim Panasyuk, MSW
Since 2012 IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) has worked with and supported over 8,000 veterans and their families nationwide assisting with a wide variety of needs and making over 10,000 connections to critical programs and resources. While requests for assistance range from veterans seeking assistance resolving benefit issues or seeking employment assistance to dealing with barriers accessing mental and general healthcare, financial hardship remains the most prevalent need among our clients. So far in the first quarter of 2018, 40% (100) of all referrals made involved emergency financial assistance. 62% of these cases involved veteran families where at least one child was living in the home. 92% of these cases needed additional support resolving issues which directly contributed to the financial hardship in the first place. 57% of these clients reported being unemployed and 7% involved veterans at severe risk of homelessness.
Financial needs dominate requests that we receive and over 3,000 of all referrals to date were made to directly address the acute financial hardship of a client. Typically these clients reach out to RRRP with a variety of financial needs ranging from rental and mortgage assistance, past due car and insurance payments, utility bills and seeking access to food and clothing. To address this our Veteran Transition Managers (VTMs) connect veterans to programs offering emergency financial assistance, credit restoration, and budgeting services. Although financial assistance is often the top line need that brings a client to RRRP, once our VTMs engage in the case management process we discover that there are often underlying issues that led to financial instability in the first place. An example of this involves veterans that sustained physical and/or mental health related injuries during their time in service. Upon returning home from deployment or transitioning out of the military, obtaining and maintaining employment or achieving success in school can often be difficult and sometimes impossible to accomplish, thus creating significant financial strain on the entire family.
Some of the challenges we hear most about from veterans experiencing a financial hardship is their difficulty in navigating the application process, understanding whether they qualify and locating the relevant documentation proving their hardship. The majority of emergency financial assistance available to veterans depends on wildly varying eligibility requirements which include the veteran’s status of discharge from the military, VA disability rating, income level and is often pre-conditioned by a plan for sustainability. RRRP drastically simplifies this process for the veteran and becomes a critical link in the service delivery chain. This is precisely where our blend of effective case management and referral services backed by 6 years of relationships and institutional knowledge shines most. RRRP’s ability to identify and access these critical and life saving resources is often the very catalyst that helps our clients get their lives back on track.