The military community, veterans’ advocacy groups and corporations gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, DC last Thursday for the launch of PATRIOTlink®, the nation’s first cloud-based service referral for veterans, service members, and their families. Initially a pilot project by the Code of Support Foundation, the launch signaled the completion of two years of research, technology innovation, and input from collaborators to create a unique platform that pairs users with a myriad of resources, including housing assistance, mental healthcare, transportation, and career help.
Code of Support co-founder and Chairman, Major General Alan B. Salisbury (Ret.) said that the organization was motivated to establish the technology tool is to prevent veterans from “falling unnecessarily through the cracks” of the daunting quest to be matched with fast and relevant resources. Noting the difficulty in gaining access to support needed for themselves and family, Major General Salisbury said that the Foundation wants to support “the quality of life (veterans) have earned.”
“A lot of people we see are really in a crisis,” said Kristina Kaufmann, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Code of Support Foundation, adding that the organization’s alliances and partners helped fine-tune the process and platform content, including the American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network. Melissa Johnson, Program and Services Associate for the Network, shared how easily and quickly the network connects veterans with resources, including identifying local caregivers, transportation assistance and rent and mortgage help.
One of the unique aspects of PATRIOTlink is that every service provider goes through a vetting process so that only organizations that offer free services, maintain financial accountability, have the capacity to deliver services, and are responsive to veterans and caregivers seeking assistance. This matrix allows the organization to match the right services with those using them in a timely and efficient manner.
Code of Support Foundation Board member Rory Brosius knows first-hand some of the intricate issues that impact veterans and service members, especially access to health care. In addition to her volunteer leadership on the nonprofit, she comes from a military family and currently serves as Military Families Advisor for the Biden Foundation. Brosius is also the former Policy Deputy Director for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces initiative. “The landscape of (veterans’) services is so vast and deep,” Brosius opined, which can lead to “decision paralysis.” PATRIOTlink, according to Brosius, “is a total game changer,” which will ease the burden on those navigating potential services.
During the panel discussion, moderated by Leo Shane, III, Deputy Editor of Military Times, speakers delved into the technology behind PATRIOTlink, spotlighted how partners have helped enhanced outreach efforts to veterans and their families, and how the Code of Support would like to engage government agencies and companies in the future.
Yasamin Sekandari, Project Manager at Noblis, discussed how her company approached the creative and technological process for designing and developing the PATRIOTlink platform. Members of the Noblis team constructed “custom built technology” to enhance the users’ experience, using validated data provided. The result is a streamlined platform that allows users to search for local resources for their immediate and long-term needs. The technical team ultimately spent more than 2,500 hours to develop PATRIOTlink.
Terri Tanielian, Senior Behavioral Scientist with the RAND Corporation, emphasized the strategic approach used to vet and verify the services providers. What began as a potential pool of 40,000 service providers, whittled down to around 4,000 that meet all criteria, including unique geographical requirements.
Lelia Jackson, Director of the Office of Community Engagement for the Veterans Health Administration, said that PATRIOTlink is an invaluable resource to veterans and their families, in part, because the platform doesn’t address just one need, but it integrates services spanning healthcare to homeownership issues.
In addition to Noblis, Inc., Kaufmann acknowledged the companies that supported the initiative’s development and implementation, including the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, GuideStar and American Express Serve2Gether.
When asked what’s next on the horizon for PATRIOTlink, Kaufmann said that the focus is on engaging more users, raising awareness through media and marketing campaigns, and solidifying additional partnerships through MOUs and alliances with the Federal government and nonprofit organizations. The foundation hopes to pay for program costs through corporate sponsorships and co-branded initiatives.
To find local cost-free veteran and caregiver resources or for more information, visit http://www.patriotlink.org.
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