[Editor’s note: This is a response to the guest piece entitled “Is VA Sufficiently Tapping Into Private Sector Assets?” by Taylor Baldwin Kiland. –Brandon Friedman]
Because of the size and scope of the Department of Veterans Affairs, it may come as a surprise to learn that we may not have every service a Veteran, their family or a Veteran advocate needs. Today there are a multitude of organizations and services available to Veterans and their families, and VA has made it a priority to find and collaborate with the most relevant, sustainable and creditable ones out there.
Recognizing the importance of non-profits in assisting Veterans and their families, VA created the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Gateway Initiative. Started in 2009, this office assists non-profits seeking to work with various offices within VA around issues such as homelessness, employment, higher education, mental health care, caregivers, reintegration, therapeutic recreation, and others.
One of the most important areas where NGO’s offer important support is community reintegration. A key factor in a Veteran’s successful reintegration is the ability to find and maintain employment. VA has a very successful occupational rehab program, called Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) service, which helps Veterans with service-connected disabilities obtain and maintain employment or become more independent. VA’s team of VR&E counselors partner with several non-profits to help Veterans meet a wide range of needs that complement their rehabilitation work.
The NGO Gateway Initiative Office can provide consultation, Veteran data, and share opportunities for collaboration between VA and non-profits. The outcome of these collaborations is that they enhance VA’s service quality and growth for Veterans, their families, and survivors.
If you have any questions about the NGO Gateway Initiative office, feel free to contact me.
Doug Carmon is the NGO Ombudsman to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.