New Web Site Helps Veterans and Service Members Find Resources

May 21, 2009
Contra Costa Times

SAN RAMON, Calif.—Veterans and service members across California who struggle to locate mental health programs, a job, benefits information and other resources will now find a one-stop shop in cyberspace.

Sponsored by county mental health agencies, a new Web site, www.veterans.networkofcare.org, aims to mend a fractured system for veterans who don't know where to turn. California is the second state, after Maryland, to get it.

In 10 languages, the site allows them to search through a jobs database, join in social networking and create personal health records. It includes a symptom checker and a vast library of articles on veterans' issues. But its core is a county-specific, searchable database of resources in topics ranging from mental health programs to job training to sexual issues.

Developed by San Rafael-based Trilogy Integrated Resources, the site is part of a larger project, called "Network of Care," to streamline the search for health and human services. The need for a site for veterans became clear, said Bruce Bronzan, a former Fresno-area state assemblyman who founded the project.

"A very typical scenario is a soldier comes home, they don't have a job, they start to experience problems in their lives and they don't have anywhere to go. Many are reluctant to go to a VA service," said Bronzan. "This is the only place you can find everything, all federal services regardless of the department, all state and local services."

Contra Costa was among 10 counties to provide seed money for the site. Donna Wigand, the county's mental health director, said she suspects the agency sees more and more veterans, but often they don't tell. "Technically, VA is supposed to provide ongoing care, including psychiatric, and that's not happening," she said. "I know they end up on our doorstep."

Phil Munley, Contra Costa County veterans service officer, said the site should help Web-savvy veterans, but he cautioned that the county-run offices are the places to go for a one-on-one assessment of VA benefits and help filing claims.

"It's legalistic and cumbersome," he said. "They need someone who is going to be able to break those letters down and explain what's going on."