MIAMI — The Veterans Affairs Department has hired 100 former service members nationwide as outreach specialists to help get Iraq and Afghanistan veterans into programs aimed at easing their transition back to civilian life.
They frequent job fairs, welcome-home events and other places where troops back from the wars might congregate to look for those struggling to adjust. The goal is to persuade them to visit one of 230-plus vet centers operated by the VA nationwide. The centers offer free services from job hunting assistance to marriage and mental health counseling.
The VA says more than 340,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have either received services from vet centers or at least been contacted by outreach efforts.
Alfonso Batres, head of counseling at the Veterans Affairs Department, says that experience from the Vietnam War showed that veterans feel comfortable talking to other veterans.
The current philosophy is to make contact with vets as soon as they return and the outreach specialists are part of that early intervention.
Initially, 50 positions were created across the country. As officials realized more veterans needed outreach, they doubled the number, but there are no immediate plans to increase the total.
On the Net:
VA Vet Centers: www.vetcenter.va.gov/.
VA Web site for returning service members: www.oefoif.va.gov/.