Serving those who’ve served

usa-soldierKing County is helping local military veterans make the transition from military to civilian life through its model Veterans Services program.

More than 127,000 veterans of the U.S. Military live in King County and, since the 1950s, the County has made it a priority to serve those who’ve served. Early on, the County’s programs provided services to indigent disabled and homeless veterans with funds provided by Revised Code of Washington 73.08.010, which authorized a dedicated property tax as a source of funding. Continuing in that tradition, the residents of King County passed the Veterans and Human Services Levy in 2005, and renewed it for six more years in 2011. With the levy, additional resources were made available to address the needs of low-income veterans, military personnel and their families – including families of men and women who are currently deployed.

According to Richard Garmong, King County Veterans Program Business Outreach Coordinator (and manager of the County’s annual King County Veterans Career Expo), the biggest challenge with servicing veterans is that “most don’t know either who to ask or where to go for help.” Adding to the challenge, many veterans are hesitant to ask for help.

The services the County provides are intended to better educate veterans, and cushion the changes veterans experience while transitioning to civilian life.

The County works with federal and state veterans programs to provide connectivity not only to employers, but also to community veterans programs – including services to address basic needs when necessary.

King County’s Veterans Program (KCVP) addresses those needs through a number of tailored programs, including Case Management, Outreach, Shelter and Housing, Financial Assistance, and Employment Services.

Case Management: With the Levy, the KCVP moved to a case management model. Rather than providing a veteran in need with assistance for housing and utilities, a model to support longer-lasting changes in a veteran’s life were implemented. Three primary focus areas were designed to help move these veterans toward a more self-sufficient life style; housing, stabilization, and employment and education. An electronic client records system was created to support the program, and it allows tracking of assessments and monitoring of client progress on identified goals. At intake and every six months, an assessment evaluates particular needs along a number of domains, including housing, employment, income, life skills, mental health and substance abuse.

Outreach: The Levy allowed the KCVP to expand its geographic service area with a second office in Renton, and a business coordinator has been providing outreach to employers to connect veterans with employment opportunities.

Shelter and Housing: The Program contracts with the Salvation Army’s William Booth Center to provide 40 shelter beds for male veterans who do not have stable housing arrangements. The Center provides a clean, safe and drug-free living environment that supports clients as they work their case plan goals and secure permanent housing. Priority placement is given to employed and work-ready veterans.

KCVP also contracts with the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program and the Compass Center. The latter includes four beds for female veterans, and the center’s services support case management, computer training and additional support through the VA Medical Center. The KCVP social worker coordinates services and housing for veterans in these programs.

Additionally, the KCVP assists eligible veterans in obtaining Section 8 housing vouchers, allowing a person to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities. The program partners with the King County Housing Authority to provide two vouchers each month.

Financial Assistance: The emphasis of the KCVP under the new Levy is to now provide holistic case management services. However, traditional short-term financial assistance continues to be used as a tool to help support eligible veterans. Some of the ways this assistance is used includes housing, utilities, food vouchers, work-related expenses, medical expenses and employment services.

Employment Services: With the success of the Levy-funded Activity 2.6C: Aerospace and Veterans Employment Training Initiative, Levy dollars continue to allow KCVP employment services out of the KCVP Office at WorkSource Renton. These best practices services include resume assistance, job counseling and placement, career testing and skills assessment. Counselors and clients complete an assessment and develop a plan; which may include removing initial barriers to employment. The service continues for up to one year after job placement, supporting employment retention and wage progression.

The County also created its Vets 4 HIRE Fellowship Program to support military servicemembers and veterans in making successful transitions from military to civilian employment, and to provide a pipeline of skilled veteran talent for positions within King County.

Additionally, the County has now held three annual career expos for veterans and military spouses. WorkSource, King County Veteran Services and the Washington State Convention Center collaborate each year to bring these job seekers and more than 120 area private- and public-sector employers together at the Convention Center.

The County’s Veterans Services web site provides program plans and reports, detailed eligibility information, contact information for both the Seattle and Renton offices, and information about applying for services. Help us spread the word!