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State program makes transitions easier

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:31PM June 5th, 2014

Washington state’s Military Transition Council briefed Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee regarding its efforts to help transitioning military service members complete their higher education goals through the state’s public colleges during its quarterly meeting Tuesday at American Lake Conference Center.

Inslee issued the executive order in January 2013 that created the WMTC. The council supports “transition assistance programs at Washington’s military installations ... (and) collaboration between federal, state, and local agencies and private and nonprofit organizations that share responsibility for providing transition assistance to service members and their families.”

One of the council co-chairs, Alfie Alvarado, director of Washington state’s Department of Veterans Affairs, said the council focuses on the service members and specifically what their future holds after the military.

“Washington state leads the way for what’s taking place outside of the gate, and what’s going on inside the gate,” Alvarado said.

The council is a way to bring together organizations and corporations to develop programs and make changes to policy that will help veterans make smoother transitions into the civilian sector.

Whatever the route a veteran chooses after military service, the council offers ways to make it easier.

From higher education at universities and trade schools, to starting small businesses or entering the workforce, the council is holding a new open meeting every quarter to focus on a different “track” and the programs that support them.

The council met Tuesday at the American Lake Conference Center on JBLM to discuss the second track on their agenda — higher education.

“This is a great day today,” Hodges said speaking to the approximately 150 people attending the meeting. “Since last year, the folks here have doubled. Other folks are trying to replicate what we’re doing here.”

Presenters then spoke about current programs, including WDVA programs like Vet Corps and the Veterans Supportive Campus Initiative.

Both have come together with the council to help inform institutions about resources, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, best practices for veterans and to bring veterans together with peer mentors.

Representatives from universities said they benefited from relationships with the council and its programs.

“We are figuring out what we need to do to come together as institutions,” said Sabrina Jones, director of military programs at City University of Seattle and co-chair for the higher education track, “and how we are going to define success for our veterans’ programs.”

She said that by coming together with the WDVA programs, the council and other institutions, they have started to create things like an asset map of all veterans’ success centers and resources so vets can located them easier.

Peter Schmidt (Veterans Supportive Campus Initiative) and Jason Alves, (Vet Corps Program), say that they don’t have any hard data to prove their programs are working yet, but say they have seen firsthand that veterans are more likely to graduate because of these programs.

“It really has been a collaborative relationship between the Vet Corps and the Veterans Support Campus Initiative,” Schmidt said “I tell you, the peer relationships for veterans are changing lives.”

They added that WDVA programs had provided services to 12,239 veterans and military family members at 45 colleges statewide, the Warrior Transitions Battalion, Sarge’s Place (a housing project for transitioning vets) and JBLM. The council then gave its year-end review.

They said they been able to connect with the Navy to tailor programs and will be starting with the Coast Guard in the next few months “We eventually want all military components to be involved,” said Mary Forbes, assistant director for veterans services at the WDVA.

Forbes added the council is making progress toward meeting goals like lowering veterans’ unemploy- ment rates and gaining higher salaries for veterans, which they would like to be the best in the nation.

Transitions services manager at JBLM, Robin Baker, said the council is also working on getting metrics for its programs to show the council’s efforts are benefiting veterans.

Not only did council members and representatives speak on what they’ve done over the last few years, but also voted to approve future programs, like one proposed by the Washington state Office of Financial Management, Human Resources Division.

The approved program will provide training to public-sector employees on the benefits of hiring veterans, and should be ready by next spring, said Robert Hume from the State Human Resources Division.

“We shouldn’t hire veterans because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s a business imperative,” Hume said.

The next council track meeting will focus on the topic of careers, Sept. 9, Baker said.