Collaboration is key in helping veterans transition into civilian life

blogimage_NCServesDuring the past 10 years, 44 percent of American veterans have had difficulty re-entering civilian life, according to the Pew Research Center. And in North Carolina — home to more than 770,000 veterans and 116,000 active duty service members — a new partnership between the North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs’ NC4VETS initiative and NCServes is helping local veterans navigate this difficult transition by streamlining access to the services they need.

NCServes started as a regional initiative in Charlotte, becoming North Carolina’s first coordinated network of public, private, and non-profit organizations working together to serve veterans, transitioning service members, and their families. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte is considered a “magnet city” for veterans looking for higher-paying jobs and a lower cost of living. To comprehensively address the needs of these individuals, organizations across the business, non-profit, and government sectors are united through an online platform that allows them to securely communicate and share information.

The program is managed by a Coordination Center, a team of employees that reviews each individual’s profile (which includes his or her eligibility for specific programs) and identifies the most appropriate provider to serve him or her. NCServes not only helps veterans by ensuring they are connected with services for which they are eligible, including housing, employment, education, and health — It also increases efficiency for service providers, saving them time by handling the referrals, centralizing records, allowing for easier follow-up, and collecting data on the success of services. The initiative prioritizes a key strategy that we refer to in our Toolkit as Commit to Information Sharing. The use of information sharing by NCServes is similar to the successful FosterEd initiative profiled in our Case Library, which developed an educational case management system that served as a mechanism for stakeholders to securely share and track the educational strengths and needs of individual foster children.

By partnering with NC4VETS, and with financial support from the Walmart Foundation, NCServes will be able to expand its model across the state. “NC4VETS has tremendous reach, and by partnering regionally with NCServes’ community-based networks, we have a winning formula to attract veterans and help them make North Carolina their new home,” explained Ilario Pantano, North Carolina Veterans Affairs Director, in a recent announcement of the partnership. The program will initially expand to the Research Triangle area, with plans for implementation in all 100 North Carolina counties during the next three years. According to Jim McDonough, who oversees the NCServes program, “The public-private partnership with NC4VETS will ensure resources are aligned at the state and local levels.”

Intersector collaboration has proven to be an effective model for streamlining service delivery to veterans. The Augusta Warrior Project (AWP), which we profile in our Case Library, is one such collaboration in the Central Savannah River Area, home to over 66,000 veterans. AWP recognized a lack of awareness among veterans of the resources available to them to help them transition into civilian life, leaving them unable to access crucial services. Like NCServes, AWP takes a proactive approach to identifying veterans’ needs, coordinating local resources, and connecting veterans, largely through developing partnerships with other non-profits, local businesses, and governmental agencies.