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King County unveils Regional Veterans Initiative to helps vets understand available benefits

Four of every ten veterans say they have little or no understanding of their benefits or how to access them. Increasing knowledge of those benefits, facilitating access to those services, and improving coordination across service systems are the goals of a new Regional Veterans Initiative unveiled today by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

"Uneven coordination across federal, state, local and nonprofit systems means vets often aren’t connected to the services they need – and have earned," said Constantine, as part of his 2013 State of the County address. "As regional leaders we are in a position to supply those connections."

King County is home to an estimated 127,000 veterans and military personnel, and a range of programs and services are available to help veterans and families in need.

To better connect veterans and their families living in King County to those services, the Regional Veterans Initiative will bring together the funders, service providers, veterans organizations and other stakeholders to develop action steps.

The Executive named three accomplished local veterans to act as his special advisors for the initial planning:

• General Peter Chiarelli, U.S. Army (retired), former U.S. Army Vice-Chief of Staff.

• Col. Grethe Cammermeyer (retired), former Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard.

• Leo Flor, a former Army Infantry Officer and local veterans advocate.

The advisors will work with the Executive and staff of the Department of Community and Human Services to reach out to regional leaders in the veterans’ community to identify needs, gaps, and opportunities for policy, planning and resource collaboration. They will also work with members of the two current volunteer boards – the King County Veterans Program Advisory Board and the King County Veterans Citizen Levy Oversight Board – to gather input from veterans and family members.

A key component of the initiative is exploring the creation of a Veterans Coordinating Council to be comprised of the core stakeholders involved in funding services for veterans and their families. This council could help provide regional leadership for cross-system collaboration and resource coordination across all levels of government and with local service organizations.

The advisors will forward their recommendations and a King County Regional Veterans Initiative Action Plan to the County Executive and the County Council in June 2013.

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