Veterans

Supporting Our Veterans in Many Ways

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No question, the military is a big part of San Diego County. Chances are you know someone who is in the military, someone who has been in the military or you are in the military yourself.

We honor them on Veterans Day to show our gratitude for the sacrifices they’ve made. But some veterans need more than that. Sometimes, they need help re-adjusting to civilian life or they need housing, employment or health services. Maybe all those things.

The County offers a number of services specifically geared toward those who served our country.

The Office of Military and Veterans Affairs helps veterans, dependents and survivors file for the benefits they may be entitled to from federal, state and local agencies. The Kearny Mesa office helps prepare claims for a wide range of benefits, plus it gives out information and referrals for public assistance, medical care, educational benefits, Cal-Vet loans and more.      

Veterans in the outlying areas might have difficulty getting to the Kearny Mesa location and that’s where Vet Connect comes in. Veterans can get in-person benefits counseling certain days of the month at the El Cajon, Pine Valley, Ramona and Rancho San Diego Libraries. The Julian Library offers tele-video benefits conferencing.

The County also opened a Military and Veterans Service Office at the North Inland Live Well Center in Escondido in September. It helps veterans obtain benefits as well but this office also houses about a dozen community organizations so it can serve as a one-stop shop for veterans.

Housing is a big concern for some veterans and their families. In partnership with the Veterans Administration, the County’s Department of Housing and Community Development administers the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Program. VASH is specifically designed to help homeless veterans get housing. Currently, the County is providing VASH housing vouchers to more than 300 veterans.  

The County also has a special program for veterans who get in trouble with the law. The Veterans Moving Forward program at the Vista Detention Facility houses veteran inmates together in what is compared to military barracks and gives them tailored in-custody treatment and rehabilitation services. The program won the San Diego County Taxpayers Association highest award, the Grand Golden Watchdog Award for cutting recidivism and saving roughly $550,000 a year in incarceration costs.    

Veterans Court takes into account mental illness related to military service and allows those veterans accused of misdemeanors or felonies to get treatment so they can re-enter society.  

Another service for veterans is Courage to Call. This peer-to-peer support program links veterans to essential services. When veterans call, they get someone on the line who understands the unique needs of those in the military. Courage to Call offers services to active and former military members, their families and loved ones.

Sometimes a buddy can make all the difference for a veteran who suffers from stress related to their war time experiences or maybe just needs a little companionship. County Animal Services works with Pets for Patriots so veterans or anyone who serves in the military can rescue a homeless pet at a reduced rate. Sometimes, the adopter feels they are rescuing each other.

Jobs play a big role in helping veterans re-enter civilian life. The County’s Department of Human Resources actively reaches out to veterans and it gives job applicants credits for military service. Last fiscal year, 12 percent of the County’s new hires were veterans.  

The Registrar of Voters also seeks out veterans, active military and their family members and tells them about employment opportunities as seasonal election workers.

For veterans who like to enjoy the outdoors, County Parks and Recreation honors the State of California’s Distinguished Veterans Pass. Pass holders can get up to seven nights of free camping in a one year period and parking fees at day use parks are waived.   

County Parks is also holding its first Warrior Hike in honor of Veterans Day. There are actually three hikes geared toward different skill levels. The guided tours all take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14 at El Capitan Preserve in Lakeside.

Chairman Bill Horn and the County Board of Supervisors are also hosting the 2015 Year of the Veteran Conference. The free event takes place from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at the North Inland Live Well Center. The conference will highlight the County’s military and veteran services, and the presentation of the first ever Salute to Service Award. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP. The conference will also be streamed live on County News Center.        

 

Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact