Ask any transitioning service member or Veteran about the greatest stress in their lives. Chances are, securing a good life for themselves and their loved ones is at the top of their minds. To meet that goal, however, service members and Veterans need more than a bundle of independent benefits. They need an integrated network of social support, access to resources supporting their mental and emotional health, a path to education and training for a good job and advocates to help them find that job.
VA recognizes that Veterans are one of America’s greatest sources of talent. VA and other agencies have a vast array of benefits, resources and services that can support Veterans, but the road to accessing them is not always clear or easy to follow.
VA’s new Office of Transition and Economic Development recognizes that Veteran economic well-being is not a just about employment, nor does it have a single solution. It involves education, employment, housing, health and much more.
Transition and Economic Development convenes partners within and outside of VA and among numerous additional federal agencies to provide Veterans access to the benefits and programs they need for a seamless transition from military service to civilian life.
“VBA and TED are part of a vast collaboration ecosystem that provides more than $100 billion in benefits to Veterans and their families,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D. “This new office puts focus and support on the programs and services that can truly make a difference in the economic well-being of transitioning service members and Veterans.”
One of the office’s first actions will be to host an Economic Development Partnership Round Table and Claims and Benefits Clinic in collaboration with the San Juan Regional Office and the Department of Defense at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.
Given the complex economic challenges associated with life in Puerto Rico and the traditional issues impacting transitioning service members, Veterans and their families, the Economic Development Partnership Round Table will serve as a forum to engage with federal and local Veteran service organizations and other non-government organizations to create an economic development opportunity plan for the Veteran community of Puerto Rico. The discussion will also cover issues concerning the local National Guard and Reserve population, active-duty service members and their families so VA and its partners can deploy resources most effectively.
At the same time, service members, Veterans and their families are invited to attend a Claims and Benefits Clinic, hosted by the San Juan Regional Office and the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Buchanan, from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., where VA representatives from across the department will provide VA briefings, answer questions and give personal assistance with VA claims and other benefits.
In the days following the round table and claims clinic, Transition and Economic Development will host a series of Veteran empowerment activities, to include a Transition Assistance Program Benefit Briefing for the U.S. Coast Guard, and a Hiring our Heroes event with the local Chamber of Commerce. The Small Business Administration is also hosting a “Boots to Business” seminar for aspiring Veteran entrepreneurs. Partners will also come together for a service project to repair 5-10 Veteran homes that were damaged by Hurricane Maria.
“TED’s goal is to empower service members, Veterans and families living in Puerto Rico in every aspect of their lives,” said Transition and Economic Development Acting Executive Director Wendy Torres. “We’re here to bridge the gaps and link partners together to provide coordinated and targeted support that can truly advance the economic well-being and financial freedom of these men and women and their families.”
Look for more information about the Office of Transition and Economic Development, or Puerto Rico Here to Serve events at https://benefits.va.gov/sanjuan/events.asp.