Who are we? The Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative is a structured network of public, private and government agencies working together to reduce suffering and improve the lives of veterans and military families in LA County.
Why are we here? In 2014, USC CIR’s State of the American Veteran: Los Angeles County Study painted a daunting picture of the stumbling blocks that veterans face accessing and utilizing community-based support programs in LA County.
Los Angeles veterans, much like veterans all over the country, are often unaware of available services, where they are located, how to apply for them and, most importantly, whether these services will be helpful for their specific problems. The lack of coordination among community agencies, the fragmentation of services available and the redundancy of certain programs all contribute to the difficulties that veterans face when trying to access critical resources needed in transition. Addressing this requires a complex community-based approach that can collectively work together for the good of veterans and their families. The Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative serves as a collective-impact model for addressing these challenges, coordinating large-scale community responses and supporting public and private agencies as they work together to reduce suffering and improve the lives of veterans and their families throughout LA county.
The Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative is a structured network of public, private and government agencies working together to reduce suffering and improve the lives of veterans, service members and military families in LA County. This is achieved through strategically improving their access to services, reducing barriers and coordinating care, and influencing policy to improve their lives.
Veterans living in Los Angeles County will know where to access the services and care they need for a successful transition from military to civilian life. A comprehensive and coordinated system will welcome, introduce, and connect service members, veterans and their families to a seamless infrastructure of resources to fully address their needs.
Founded at New Directions in February 2010, the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative (LAVC) originally existed as an informal group of people who met to discuss the programs and activities of their organizations. It was clear that the way forward needed to involve a more structured network to educate community practitioners on best practices, collaborative efforts and shared measurement. This was particularly important in a large urban environment like Los Angeles, where lack of information and coordination are the adversaries in delivering critical resources to veterans and family members in need.
The USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) began administering the LAVC in March 2012. In the first three months, CIR surveyed the members to determine their expectations, needs and commitment to collaborate. Universally, the feedback was that a face-to-face meeting was needed where the collaborative agencies could provide information on community resources, networking and opportunities to work with other agencies to solve issues. A follow-up survey identified five topics for working groups: (1) behavioral health, career advancement, families and children, housing and homelessness, and legal and re-entry. LAVC members selected the working group they wanted to attend and voted on co-chairs, who then identified and worked toward specific action items. By the end of 2013, the collaborative had steadily gained new members and expanded its working groups to include higher education and faith.
Around the same time, collaborative members identified the need for more focused data to drive practices and planning. In response, CIR conducted the first comprehensive study of a large urban military population to identify the biggest challenges facing veterans in Los Angeles. The State of the American Veteran: The Los Angeles County Veterans Study began surveying more than 1,500 veterans in fall 2013. The resulting data helped the LAVC prioritize local challenges. For example, the study found that more than half of post-9/11 veterans did not know how to get the care they needed. The LAVC created an engagement and access working group to develop a strategy that could help veterans navigate the resources available to them.
This working group launched a platform that could provide real-time navigation via text-messaging. A joint effort of the LAVC, 211 LA County and Mayor Eric Garcetti, Text2Vet is an engagement tool at veterans’ fingertips. Available 24 hours a day, veterans are now able to text and connect with a veteran peer navigator who can link them to people and resources to help navigate their transition back into Los Angeles County.
The LAVC continues to grow and improve upon its collective impact efforts. Most recently, the LAVC embarked on a process that will encourage the further development of new strategies and enable members to learn and adapt their current efforts. The Community Initiative Grant will give LAVC members funding for pilot projects to try out new ideas with a specific purpose of sharing failures, successes and lessons learned to a larger community.
The collaborative is now the center of gravity for veteran initiatives and social change in Los Angeles and recognized as a national best practice for communities struggling to serve veterans and military families in their city. To date, the LAVC has had a real and measurable impact on the social and emotional well-being of veterans and their families throughout Los Angeles County. Click here to find out more.