After Action Network: One-stop shop for Veterans


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Like many worthy causes, the After Action Network (AAN) was borne from adversity.

AAN is one of many Veteran-led organizations serving the Veteran community. Founded in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2017 by Marine Veteran Joe (Joey) Williams, AAN is a comprehensive, data-driven, resource, referral network that also serves as the local Community Veterans Engagement Board (CVEB)     

Williams served honorably for seven years in the Marine Corps, including multiple overseas tours, but his career was cut short after numerous leg injuries. No longer serving alongside his fellow Marines was a devastating blow, not just physically and emotionally, but also his sense of morality. Williams openly recalls struggling “to cope, and became addicted to painkillers, leading to clinical depression, aggressive suicidal tendencies, and a disconnect from myself: who I was and where I was going in life.”

After several attempts with traditional mental health treatment, he was able to find a new purpose and a new path to continue serving his brothers and sisters.  

“I just fell in love with art, and that saved me,” he said.

Joey (far left), is the founder of the After Action Network. A referral resource that helps Veterans.

Joey Williams (far left), is the founder of the After Action Network, a referral resource that helps Veterans.

Williams poured himself into his artwork, becoming his own most effective method of therapy. He earned a degree from the Kansas City Art Institute, and launched his initial nonprofit Operation Art, which helps Veterans connect with – and enroll in – high quality art institutions.

Always a Marine seeking the next mission, Williams grew AAN out of the roots of Operation Art in 2017 to expand easy and effective service referral to the community. 

Williams remembered his own out processing in 2011, and how he was overwhelmed by the TAP briefings.

“It was 10 hours of drinking from the firehose and I just wanted to get out,” he said.

Overwhelmed is a common feeling when transitioning from service member to Veteran. Many factors can contribute to this feeling, with the overwhelming and dispersed amount of resources, services, and benefits available throughout their journey

Veterans and Military Families have a deluge of available resources at the federal, state and local levels, as well as an abundance of nonprofit and for-profit programs aimed at supporting them. Undoubtedly, Veterans and their families benefit from this support system. However, the lack of integration throughout the public and private sector can lead to feeling like “drinking from the firehose.” 

This is where AAN stepped up and stepped in. 

“That’s why we started After Action Network,” Williams said. “To coordinate the overwhelming amount of community resources. Our platform customizes a portfolio with catered resources for each Veteran.” AAN’s platform serves as “a one-stop shop network of networks, focusing on social services” for not only their community, but communities across the country.

AAN has developed multiple programs in addition to Operation Art, including career development and entrepreneurial advancementSupported by Aunt Bertha, a social care network through AAN’s After Action Database, Veterans and their families can find “everything from job placement services to utility assistance, food pantries, child care, and much more!”

Working directly with “VA social workers, instead of a Veteran traveling ten miles and taking two buses to get to the VA, they can refer to AAN and possibly find the services needed right down the block,” Williams said.

Sharing its successes

“We have a lot of goals,” Williams said. “[Such as] help[ing] implement the AAN database systems to other VSOs… build[ing] common-bonding activities between Veterans and civilians, and getting Veterans to engage with their community more and not self-isolate.”

AAN’s data-driven approach to community resource integration is one of many examples of community leadership among our nation’s Veterans, families, caregivers, and survivors.


Disclaimer: The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products or services on the part of the VA.  

Author

Douglas Webb

Douglas Webb is a Coast Guard Veteran and has been with the Veterans Experience Office since 2015. His previous positions include supporting the MyVA Task Force, Veteran and Military Aide to Members of Congress, and VA Pension Management. He is currently living in Charleston, SC with his family.

Comments

  1. Timothy Votaw    

    This site has problems posting comments. I wrote a intelligent and cogent comment on behalf of combat veterans’ care in the VA, then did the stupid, ridiculous and error-ridden Captcha addition question EXACTLY right (how in hell can a half-way intelligent person not add 27 & 17 and NOT get 44? And lo and behold, somehow 44 is wrong, says it. So, my comment gets trashed upon returning, never to be found. How does that work, IT staff??

    If you’re going to throw commenters that kind of curve, at least arrange the stupid, asinine and ridiculous Captcha feature so the poor wretch can return to his comment when his correct answer gets rejected and make another attempt to play Russian Roulette with the stupid… ahh, you know. FIX IT!!

  2. steve long    

    Diversity at the mostly non veteran VA trumps “those that have borne the battle and their widows and orphans” what a shame for the 1/6 of those deployed actually in combat with their lives on the line. And the medical staff battling covid. Not the pretenders. No wonder the waits are so long for treatments.

  3. Veranda Barnette    

    I was assulted in the Navy in 1987 in the country of Bahrain. Nothing was done. I’ve sufferd
    with 3 attempts of suicide. The last I woke up on a ventilator. I promised my mom I would utalize the VA mental health. It took 5 years for to find me disabled. In debt with student loan my credit is in the can. I really feel that the Navy owes me from the time I was assulted. I really need a lawyer that feels as strong as I do about this matter. I never will forget that bus ride in Bahrain. It changed my life forever.

    1. Adam Stump    

      Every VA facility has a designated MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues. This person can help you find and access VA services and programs, state and federal benefits, and community resources. Every VA facility also has providers knowledgeable about treatment for the effects of MST. For more information about services available, you can speak with your existing VA health care provider, contact the MST Coordinator at the nearest VA Medical Center (https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp), or contact the local Vet Center (https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=vet_center). Learn more from VA’s MST internet site at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/mentalhealth/msthome/index.asp.

  4. Patrick Bryan    

    Seems most here are only geared to Post 911Vets, we the Pre 911 seem to not matter anymore, what ashame, why can’t we be treated equally????

    1. joseph williams    

      Patrick we help veterans of all eras. if you need anything let me see where we can help. -Joe@afteractionnetwork.org

  5. SW    

    Amazing, he had all this transition assistance help and felt overwhelmed. When I got out of the service I had NO help, I was on my own. Apparently he never learned how to separate the chaff from the wheat and only concentrate on the truly important items. Why on earth didn’t he speak up at these out-processing meetings and let them know it was information overload?

    1. joseph williams    

      Thanks for the kind words. The information overload is true, but also taking those classes a week or two before you EAS. yea im not paying attention and wish it was more post EAS.

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