Bennet Introduces Bill to Create National Veterans Foundation to Improve Collaboration Between Public and Private Resources

Foundation Based on Proposal in Report Prepared for Bennet by Participants of His Colorado Veterans Forum in Colorado Springs and Denver

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a bill to create a National Veterans Foundation, modeled after work being done in Colorado Springs to facilitate greater collaboration between public and private agencies, as well as service providers that support America’s veterans.

“With all troops from Iraq set to return by the end of the year and an Afghanistan withdrawal planned for 2014, we need to make sure America is ready to meet the needs of our new and existing veterans,” said Bennet. “This new foundation would help increase communication between public and private resources that already exist to support veterans and military families. It only makes sense to connect different resources working toward the same goal of better serving those who have served our country.”

The National Veterans Foundation would be similar in structure and composition to the National Parks Foundation, which is the national charitable partner of the National Parks Service. It would support communities attempting to adopt a “blueprint” model to better organize the public and private resources available for service members and veterans, provide the technical expertise they need to help with strategic planning, and better connect them to donor resources of which they might not be aware.

The Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and other federal and state agencies have programs supporting our nation’s service members and veterans. Gaps in service exist between these agencies because of the limited statutory mandates for each.  A growing number of private and non-profit service providers are already filling some of those gaps. However, gaps still exist, and the large number of organizations and providers make it difficult for service members and veterans to successfully identify and obtain the assistance for which they are looking. 

In addition, the lack of communication between groups makes it difficult to get the most out of possible public-private partnerships. Such partnerships could stretch resources further and prevent gaps in coverage.

The Foundation would support communities and community-organizing entities undertaking strategic efforts to improve their services for veterans and military families, like the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG).  PPACG has developed a Network of Care website that serves as a centralized, web-based information resource for military families and veterans.  The website is one component of a larger strategic planning initiative that attempts to bring community leaders, military installations, local businesses, and non-profit service providers together to provide a community-based system of care.  Without this type of collaboration, in some communities, veterans can fall through the cracks in the systems that support them.

The foundation would not take the place of existing organizations supporting our nation’s veterans. The VFW, DAV, American Legion, and a host of other veterans services organizations and social service organizations help provide support services.  Rather, the foundation could help communities better utilize public and private organizations and help the private sector to better connect with the many organizations doing good work.

Last night, Bennet spoke on the floor about the need for a National Veterans Foundation to ensure we are ready to support all our veterans. Click here to watch the video.

Specifically, the National Veterans Foundation would:

  • Provide planning and implementation grants to communities trying to improve direct services for military families and veterans;
  • Provide technical assistance and strategic planning best practices;
  • Better connect communities to existing public resources (at DOD, VA, and DOL) and existing private resources (NGOs or other organizations already working in a particular space).
  • Provide analytical support and map resources across the country;
  • Connect communities to the philanthropic community and donors looking to support service members and families;
  • Educate the public and raise awareness about the specific challenges that face our military families and veterans; and
  • Provide a clearinghouse of information (in partnership with existing web portals) for corporate entities and community organizations to use when they are looking to support military families and veterans.

The Veterans Foundation is a key highlight in the “Better Serving Those Who Have Served,” report, which was prepared for Bennet by experts in the public and private sectors who participated in his Colorado Veterans Forum in Colorado Springs and Denver in August. Bennet commissioned the report to ensure that Colorado and the United States are ready to support the influx of troops returning from overseas as the country winds down two wars.

In August, Bennet hosted a “Colorado Veterans Forum” in Denver and Colorado Springs that brought together veterans advocates, health experts, service providers and others in the veterans community from across the state to discuss how to make Colorado the best place to live and work for veterans. The forum participants discussed issues including VA Healthcare and Claims; Veterans of Previous Wars/Developing a 30-Year Plan for Tomorrow’s Veteran; Education, Employment, and Economic Opportunity; Transitions for Post-9/11 Veterans; Quality of Life for Families; and Whole-of-Community Collaboration.