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Support for Sonoma County's Military Veterans

Author: Ross Liscum
August, 2014 Issue

Vet Connect is a veterans-helping-veterans group formed to connect veterans to the services they’ve earned through their military service.

With the unfolding national scandal involving the lack of timely medical care being provided by the Veteran’s Health Administration (VA) to our veterans, I thought it important to shed light on a related problem here in the North Bay.
Through my many discussions with veterans, as well as leading community members, we concluded there was a general lack of knowledge about what services are available for our veterans here in Sonoma County.
There are approximately 33,000 veterans residing in Sonoma County. Of those, the local VA Clinic on Brickway Boulevard, located within a few blocks of the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, has provided a variety of services to approximately 8,900 (about 27 percent).
One recent program, sponsored mainly by PG&E along with a handful of local Vietnam-era veterans, is a bus and taxi voucher program overseen by the local Red Cross office. Approximately $12,500 was raised for this program, which will provide vouchers for transportation to the VA clinic in Santa Rosa, as well as to the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
Many veterans don’t have transportation available to them to get to their medical appointments at the VA. One example is a Desert Storm-era veteran named Justin, who used bus vouchers to get from his shared apartment in Petaluma to the Santa Rosa VA Clinic. When the vouchers ran out earlier this year, he would ride his bicycle—a more than 30-mile round trip! Over the past six months, he’s had more than 40 appointments at the clinic. This voucher program is a much-needed safety net for Justin and many other vets in similar situations.
The vouchers are distributed through the Santa Rosa VA and Vet Connect, a veterans-helping-veterans group formed to connect veterans to the services they’ve earned through their military service. Vet Connect, Inc., is a one-stop location for all veterans and their needs. It offers assistance with VA medical benefits and claims, legal issues, job placement and housing. Vet Connect meets each Tuesday at the Santa Rosa Veterans Building between 9 a.m. and noon, and at the veterans buildings in Guerneville the second Thursday, Sonoma the third Thursday and Petaluma the fourth Thursday of every month, all between noon and 3 p.m.
The organization’s sole purpose is to reach out to all former military service members and their families and to assist them in obtaining access to services and benefits due them for their service to our country. Sonoma County Vet Connect, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit association of veteran volunteers; federal, state and local government agencies; and select nonprofit service providers. It’s part of the Sonoma County Continuum of Care program, whose mission is to eliminate veteran homelessness in Sonoma County.
Another veterans’ service is Hearn House, which is operated by the North Bay Veterans Resource Center. This home supports a 15-bed transitional housing and behavioral health treatment program for male veterans with a history of mental illness and/or substance abuse. The veterans reside at Hearn House for up to six months while they receive intensive case management and individual and group therapy to address life barriers in a quiet and meditative environment. This is a structured residential program, where all veterans meet with their primary counselor on a weekly basis and attend three or more group meetings per day. The program runs on the concept of increasing responsibility and freedom over time, as earned through demonstrated behavioral consistency.
Hearn House is owned and was developed by Community Housing Sonoma County (CHSC). For 20 years, CHSC has been a leader in the development of service-enriched housing communities. Since its inception, CHSC has helped develop 214 units of affordable rental housing, with 106 set aside for supportive housing. The CHSC board of directors includes veteran representation (full disclosure, I sit on this board) that’s dedicated to the development of affordable housing for veterans in need.
Military issues and veterans’ rights are of great importance to me. If you know of organizations that are working for the benefit of active or retired service members, please let me know and I’ll try to help you get the word out.
Semper Fi
Ross Liscum, a local real estate broker with Century 21 North Bay Alliance in Santa Rosa, is a Marine Corps veteran who served in the infantry in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and spent his time, through 1985, in the Marine Corps Reserves attaining the rank of First Sergeant.


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