Courtesy D.C. Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs

D.C.'s veteran programs provide blueprint for America's cities

Eric Dehm
March 13, 2018 - 9:33 am

There are a number of organizations working every day to provide assistance to veterans. VSOs like the VFW, American Legion, AMVETs and DAV come to mind immediately, with countless others striving to do whatever they can to help our community.

But what is your local government doing to help vets? 

Nearly every major city has some sort of veterans office that provides assistance to us, quite a few small towns do too. For the most part, they provide critically important information to help veterans.You'll find forms to apply for civil service jobs, links to the aforementioned VSOs and so on.

Read also: Benefits in My Backyard for information about your local VA benefits

If you live in Washington, D.C.? You'll find all that and more, a lot more. 

The D.C. Office of Veterans Affairs (DCOVA) has several intriguing, and they say effective, programs up and running that are designed to help vets in a direct and active way. They host veteran-only job fairs and a pilot program called "VetsRide," that offers free taxi rides to vets who need to get to medical appointments as well as educational or job opportunities and even hold DD-214 upgrade clinics. 

If something like this taking place in "the swamp" comes as a surprise to you, Marine Corps vet, and Director of DCOVA Ely Ross says, it shouldn't. In fact, Mayor Muriel Bowser is the daughter of a veteran, and the city itself has strong ties to the military community.  

"This is a very veteran friendly city," says Ross. "...there is this belief, I think nationally, that D.C. is just Congress, it's the President, it's everybody else (politicians) that lives here. But there's actually 30,000 veterans who live here, 14,000 active duty military and all of their families."

Finding a way to serve each and every one of those veterans, military and family members is the sole focus of DCOVA. They've developed an outreach strategy that they say has allowed them to reach a wide variety of veterans, from those running a succesful business, to those who are currently homeless. Ross believes that's the key and could greatly benefit other locales that follow D.C.'s lead.

"It's stitched together a community that's incredibly diverse," Ross says. "And it allows us to develop programs, events and initiatives that speak directly to what veterans need. So, I do think there's a blueprint here, both for cities, and for states, even counties, because Washington D.C. is all three at the same time." 

You can hear Ross's full interview from ConnectingVets Morning Briefing radio show by clicking play below. To listen later, click share and select download from the available options.