Network of Care Being Created to Aid Veterans

March 26, 2011
Grand Island Independent

OMAHA, Neb. When a soldier is preparing for deployment and needs special military information to get ready, Network of Care can provide it.

When that soldier’s wife needs to find someone to watch their children while she’s working and he’s deployed, Network of Care can provide a local listing of day cares.

When that soldier returns home and may need to look for a new job, needs to debrief about the war experience or needs to address post-traumatic stress disorder, Network of Care can provide the direction to those services.

Network of Care is a “highly interactive, county-based web portal that can be used by military service members, military families, veterans, and those who support them ... to quickly access a wide variety of important information relating to the local, state and national social services,” says a Network of Care fact sheet distributed by the National Association of County Officials.

Trouble is — not every state has Network of Care.

California piloted the website 10 years ago. Oregon and Maryland have since added it. Texas will go live in the coming months, said Hall County Supervisor Pam Lancaster, who is championing the effort for Nebraska and other states.

When Lancaster was elected state president of the Nebraska Association of County Officials last year, the duties that came with the office included being involved in the National Association of County Officials.

When national association President Glen Whitley announced two national initiatives — one promoting how county government works and the second being a veterans and military service task force — Lancaster knew immediately she wanted to serve on the military task force.

“My priorities are God, family and country and my husband is a Vietnam vet, so this is a good fit,” she said.

As the national association’s Veterans and Military Services Task Force began its work, it identified three key issues for all soldiers and veterans — education, employment and health care. As the chairwoman of a central and western Nebraska work force initiative, Lancaster chose to be on the employment committee of the task force.

“The thing that we found that we do particularly well in Hall County and Nebraska is that our Workforce Development works very closely with our veterans service officer,” Lancaster said.

That local relationship is so strong and so cooperative it was modeled as a best practice in a nationwide webinar that featured Hall County in January. Veterans Service Officer Don Shuda, who serves Hall, Howard, Nance and Sherman counties, helped lead the presentation with Bob Krall of Workforce Development.

They described financial benefits available to veterans and the local “priority of service” for veterans in which employers give employment preference to a veteran.

“These people are disciplined, they are ready to serve, they have served their country so they are ready to serve an employer well. They are great employees,” Lancaster said. “But some of them also need education and that can work through Workforce Development, too.”

The webinar also addressed employment barriers, such as medical or mental health care, and retraining.

“The problem is we don’t have a connect with all the young veterans coming back,” Lancaster said. “That’s the biggest thing that Don and Bob Krall see — we do reasonably well with older veterans seeking out assistance if they have needs, but the young veteran ... is just happy to be whole and home again. They don’t necessarily ask anything of their country.”

Lancaster sees the Network of Care as a way to cure that access issue. She has talked to U.S. Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns about getting the website up and running in Nebraska.

“We are finding that connecting with these young people is a huge problem,” Lancaster said. “People are falling through the cracks.”