Five years ago we started Unite Us because we had a vision that Veterans, active duty Military, and their families could all get streamlined access to services that they needed. The manner in which they received these services would be through accountable networks of healthcare and social services, who are digitally connected and working together in an efficient, technology-backed service delivery system. This vision came to us not through a dream but through reality. There is a harsh reality of transitioning from service to civilian life because you find yourself asking questions that range from “where should I find employment and housing?” to “how am I going to support my family?”
Fast forward to today, where we are seeing this vision come alive through public, private, and non-profit organizations integrating as a community and working collectively as “providers,” who together are serving our nation’s military connected population as one; resulting in positive and accountable outcomes. One of these “providers” is naturally the VA; working alongside private healthcare providers, social services, and local government services to do what is best for the Veteran and their family.
I’m reflecting on this because of recent news of the VA leadership change, which may have come as a shock to some, or a no-news event to others. What’s poignant about this is that it illustrates the continual efforts by policy makers to improve the VA from the top down. While senior leaders are important, we need to continually focus on what we need to do together now, as communities, and help the VA deliver coordinated services along with its local community partners. It’s important to remember how much the VA needs the surrounding organizations that are providing social services (and in some cases, private care) in the heart of the community, and technical infrastructure to support coordination between them, and the ever changing needs of the population.
Whether it’s a single payer model, or privatization, Veterans will continue to need services at different times in their lives. Not just Healthcare services, but social services as well - and most often, simultaneously. This is no different in our work in the broader healthcare industry, working with health systems to solve the same problem for medicaid, medicare and other populations in need. These social and community services are not only paramount to ensure Veterans receive the care they need (i.e.employment, housing, benefits, legal, financial assistance), but are the largest determinant to their overall health and well being.
Is policy the sole driver of change? In short - no. But combined with building long lasting partnerships and invoking the policy improvement that is needed, we can further increase our collective impact and change lives. The VA cannot do this alone and the news from Washington does not change that statement.
As a reservist in the Air Force, I'm not eligible for the VA. I receive the care and services I need from my community. I’m one of millions that can tell you; it is not just about the VA, it’s about the Veteran. By incorporating the VA into these coordinated models, we can surround every Veteran in need with the right collective infrastructure to ensure they have access to the best services, VA or not.
Thank you to all of our current partners today, including the VA, who are working together to improve the lives of Veterans across the country, and we look forward to the new partners that will join our communities in the near future. These networks provide the infrastructure needed to support Veterans and Military families for decades to come. It’s about the legacy of service, not short-term leadership changes.
Let’s keep up the amazing work we are doing to make real lasting change.