New Online Service for Veterans

October 4, 2011
Snohomish County Tribune

EVERETT, Wash. - Veterans navigating the thick and confusing web of resources available to them now have a one-stop shop online.

Last week, Snohomish County launched a free Web site called Network of Care for Service Members, Veterans & Their Families at http://snohomish.wa.networkofcare.org/Veterans.

The site provides a directory of resources, searchable libraries, social networking opportunities and ways to keep up with legislation pertinent to service members’ needs. The site also provides job listings for jobs specifically open to veterans and handpicked news articles.

Snohomish County’s website is the only one of its kind in Washington. More than 30 people attended last week’s launch at the County Campus in Everett. The speakers included Mike Gregoire, husband of Gov. Chris Gregoire.

People like Andy Leech, the Everett office director of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, said an online hub that organizes information like this one is sorely needed.

Leech spends his day assisting active and retired military personnel with their needs and “I still find it challenging to find out where to go,” he said. “And if it’s difficult for me, imagine the challenge (for them).”

The county’s human services department receives about 1,500 visits from military personnel seeking help each year, said Cammy Hart-Anderson, chemical dependency, mental health and veterans services division director.

“There are more than 60,000 military personnel, active and retired, living in Snohomish County. About 3,000 are indigent or low-income,” Hart-Anderson said.

“The site helps veterans find the information they need without having to make an appointment to meet face to face or to travel downtown to an office,” county human services department director Ken Stark said.

“The site helps connect the latest generation of veterans past and present to services. They are less likely to join a local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, so they could miss out,” Hart-Anderson said.

The backbone of the site comes from the California-based company Trilogy Integrated Resources, which runs similar Web sites in California and Maryland.

The Web site’s simplicity “belies how big it is,” Trilogy president Bruce Bronzan said.

“Trilogy wants the site to be a portal for the military community,” Bronzan said, “and allows military personnel to keep their information private. A lot of veterans don’t want to go to Veterans Affairs offices, especially for mental health issues, or the office could be too far away,” Bronzan said.

County Councilman John Koster brought the idea home with him after seeing a live demonstration at the National Association of Counties national conference in Portland.

“It took about 90 days to get the idea online,” Stark said. “The site costs less than $40,000 a year to run, and the cost largely is for maintaining the database of services.”