Resources Dwindle as Needs Increase By Hannah Sinoway, M.S.Ed.
Our Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) relies on program partners to get the needs of our clients met. Our Veteran Transition Managers (VTMs) work with thousands of partner organizations across the nation and through powerful advocacy and critically important relationship building, we prevent our clients from falling through the cracks and help them regain control of their lives, their livelihood and their future. Whether we are connecting homeless veterans to housing support and resources or disabled veterans with critical financial assistance while they wait for VA disability claims to come through or access to life saving mental health support, our clients come to us because we are able to make these crucial connections and we fight tirelessly until our clients are linked-up with the programs that best fits their needs.
Across the board we are seeing a reduction in funding with both veteran specific and social service programs which prevents our ability to ensure that our clients have the support that they need and have earned. And as resources dwindle, the need increases. This reduction in funds can have a detrimental impact on the lives of veterans and their families. In 2018 we have seen oversaturation and budgetary constraints across the spectrum from some of our go-to programs like Salute, Inc., Pen Fed Military Heroes Fund, Operation Second Chance, SSVF housing and support programs, HUD-VASH vouchers in some areas, the Florida Veterans Foundation, Project Vet Relief, Warrior 360 and many Catholic Charities programs. This results in fewer clients being seen, dramatically increased wait times and the scope of services dwindled, all of which make accessing needed resources an ever increasing daunting task for our clients. The longer a veteran has to wait to access necessary resources, the more urgent their situation often becomes placing them at high-risk for other areas of their life to begin to crumble as they wait for help.
As funding dries up we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the scope of services programs are able to provide, making accessing vital resources for clients increasingly more difficult for our VTMs. The Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) grant which provides funds for veterans and families that are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness is a prime example of this. SSVF programs are often equipped with prevention funds and are able to intervene before a family becomes homeless, however, the majority of these programs are now lacking that critical funding and are only able to step in after a family has been evicted and is literally street homeless, which causes a cascading negative impact on the entire family. Prevention funds from programs like SSVF can make the difference between a veteran and their entire family, sometimes including small children, being housed or living on the street.
RRRP has been experiencing its own version of oversaturation and has been in a Stop-Gap serving only the most at-risk clients since March 17 due to increased volume and decreased capacity. With funding drying up with many program partners, our VTMs have to work harder and have to be increasingly more creative to get clients connected with the support they need, thus diminishing capacity to take on new clients at a sustainable rate. A Stop-Gap protects our VTMs from burnout and it also protects our current clients to ensure they continue to receive the high level of support they require. Our VTMs are spending more time on many of their cases, which is a reflection of the increased complexity in the issues veterans are facing, the level of expertise and experience our VTMs have and the lack of available resources, which makes tackling these complex cases more time consuming.
For many of our clients in desperate need of various forms of support, accessing the VA isn’t an option or a pathway they are able or willing to take. And for some of our clients the VA simply does not have the necessary resources or programs in place to effectively assist. Many veteran specific programs exist precisely because of this gap in services and when funding dries up some veterans have nowhere to turn for help. Increased funding and support can literally make the difference between a veteran and their family accessing the resources necessary to improve and sometimes save their lives. Without targeted and generous funding many of our nation’s heroes’ lives hang in the balance.
By Hannah Sinoway, M.S.Ed. Sr. Veteran Transition Manager, Operations & Outreach Lead