One major difference between military life and civilian life is the way resources are handled.
“In the Army, everything is right there,” said Ruth Burger, who was honorably discharged from the Army four years ago. “If you don't know where something is there's always someone who can tell you. As a civilian you're on your own.”
That feeling of being on their own is changing for military personnel, dependents and veterans in the Pikes Peak Region with the launch of a six-month pilot program designed by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments to be a one-stop resource shop.
Launched Nov. 13, Peak Military Care Network has as its mission: “To connect the needs of our community's military service members, veterans and their families to the highest quality resources by providing a central source for information, navigation and integrated services.”
“This site will be the place to go if you need counseling, employment or help caring for a special needs child, for example,” said Kate Hatten, military care network executive director. “One of the first steps we took to create the program was assessing needs, challenges and opportunities. We looked at what we do well for our military and what more we need to do.”
Dallas Jamison, council of governments senior policy and communications advisor, said that so many of the resources needed by the military have a silo mentality. Keeping resources separated from each other often results in gaps in support and duplication of services.
Burger explained it with an analogy. “It's the difference between having to drive all over town to shop for necessary items or shopping in a store like Walmart where everything is under one roof,” she said, adding, “I wish there had been something like this when I was discharged. I know that even four years later I'm still going to find this useful.”
Her husband, Tony Burger, was also discharged at the same time as she was and also could have used the network earlier. Both Burgers are in college and have two children.
One of the key features of the site is the drop box where anyone can create an account to store electronic copies of important documents.
“This could be things like school transcripts for your children, medical records, military forms and other items that would be difficult to replace if they get lost,” Hatten said. “The drop box is secure and password protected. It can be accessed anywhere in the world and you don't have to be connected to the military to use it.”
Other features include pages of medical information on such things as posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and depression, for example.
Kevin Walda of Veterans Upward Bound is one of the service providers listed on the network. His organization provides college preparation courses for veterans who want to attend local colleges.
“We have thousands of veterans not completing their four-year degree under the GI Bill,” he said. “The Bill only covers 36 months of education and if veterans aren't ready and have to spend part of that time in remedial classes that don't go toward their degrees they won't have time to finish. We offer them a year of ABCs and 123s and tutoring to get them ready for college. Think of it as kind of a boot camp for college.”
The nationwide program, which has 50 locations across the country, is free and open to veterans who are low income and first generation college students.
“As a network provider, we have a tool for recruiting new clients,” Walda said. “We can also use the network to refer our clients to other resources they might need … the network does the vetting for us.”
For more information about Peak Military Care Net, visit www.peakmilitarycarenet.org.