There are tens of thousands of organizations set up to help veterans, but they have their limitations when it comes to reaching those they wish to help. The sheer number of organizations alone can cause confusion on who does what, and who they cater to. It's with that in mind that America Serves is working to clear things up.
The new America Serves effort, launched by Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), allows those veteran organizations to share data which in turn allows them to refer a vet to an organization that might better fit their needs. In essence, even if an organization doesn't offer assistance to a particular vet, they can still give them a hand by pointing them in the right direction. That can be an invaluable lifeline, particularly when the veteran is in the process of leaving the military and heading to a location that doesn't have a heavy military/veteran population.
"When they transition they may not always be transitioning around a local installation," says Nick Armstrong, IVMF's Senior Director for Research and Evaluation. "They may be going to a new city, or a new community. And not knowing who to turn to and who to trust for those services can be a challenge in how to navigate that."
Along with helping the individual vets, America Serves also gives a big assist to the organizations themselves. IVMF's Program Evaluation Manager Gilly Cantor says that the results so far have put a spotlight on weak spots in those communities.
"It helps them really understand what capacity the community has," Cantor says. "One of the outcomes that we track is that there are 'no services available.' That's such an important point that previously might not have been known if you aren't looking at this regularly with everyone at the table."
As the effort continues to spread into more and more communities, Cantor and Armstrong say America Serves will keep updating and sharing their data on both the national and local levels. For those interested in keeping track of it, or seeking out more information in their communities, they recommend visiting AmericaServes.org.
You can hear the full interview with IVMF's Nick Armstrong and Gilly Cantor below.