The following military and veteran peer programs were featured in the Poster Session and Technology Café on Day 1. We invite you to visit the websites of these programs to learn more about the exciting work being done around the country for service members, veterans, and their families.
A Few Good Leaders (AFGL), LLC. provides counseling services for disabled veterans with certified peer support specialists throughout Pennsylvania. AFGL serves all individuals living with and recovering from mental illnesses. AFGL employs veterans who are leaders within their communities who serve by offering hope, empathy, and understanding. AFGL can serve the non-veteran and veteran population with transferable knowledge, while still maintaining specialized intelligence specific for veterans. The objective of the agency is to empower individuals living with disabilities through empathy, employment, and education.
Buddy-to-Buddy is a field-tested, evidence-informed program that supports veteran mental health and wellness through veteran-to-veteran peer support. The program was developed in 2009 in partnership with the Michigan National Guard to address the unique needs of citizen soldiers. In 2013, the model was expanded beyond the National Guard population to serve Reserve units from all branches, and veterans from all eras. The program leverages existing military culture to overcome the stigma around asking for help that is so prevalent in the military. It also serves critical functions in preventing mental health crises by intervening in the psychosocial circumstances that place many Veterans at risk. Buddy-to-Buddy now supports over 130 trained veteran volunteers throughout Michigan as they provide outreach and support to service members and fellow veterans. As a community outreach model, Buddy-to-Buddy targets veterans who would otherwise not connect to systems of care and matches them with the right volunteer. The volunteer meets with the veteran, most often face-to-face, identifies the appropriate resources, ensures warm hand-offs and provides follow up. Buddy-to-Buddy has a proven track record in both recruiting volunteers and assisting service members and veterans, often working with veterans with multiple and complex concerns over time. Since the program’s inception, volunteers have attended over 3,000 veteran-related events to provide outreach and recruit other volunteers. They have recorded over 15,000 hours of service and assisted 3,824 service members and veterans. The top three issues identified by Buddy-to-Buddy volunteers are mental health concerns, financial issues, and employment.
Clay Hunt Act: Pilot Program for Community Outreach
Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System is one of the pilot sites for implementation of Section 5 of the Clay Hunt Act. This implementation is Peer led, with an objective to reduce Veteran suicide and improve access to quality mental healthcare through development of community partnerships, which includes a Veteran’s Advisory Board. Due to the rurality of Arkansas, access to are beyond the Little Rock area is challenging, and innovative processes are needed to accomplish this task. CAVHS thus collaborates with 6 Community Action Boards who volunteer their time in assisting Veterans enroll and navigate the VA system. We collaborated with VA Voluntary Service to develop a VA Navigator training program for our community partners and a protocol for capturing volunteer hours. In addition, 71 community outreach teams have been identified and are partnering with CAVHS in efforts to raise awareness of available VA services and resources for Veterans in crisis. We have developed a process to track unique Veterans enrolling in CAVHS as a result of these expanded outreach efforts. To learn more, please contact Jennifer Bullock, LCSW at Jennifer.Bullock2@va.gov or Jen Hollis, CPSS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clay Hunt SAV Act Pilot Project, VA Mid-Atlantic Healthcare Network
Hampton VA Medical Center was selected to represent the VA Mid-Atlantic Healthcare Network as one of five sites ordered by the Clay Hunt SAV Act of 2015 to establish a pilot program utilizing peer counselors to assist in the transition of separating service members with mental health issues in returning to the civilian community and VA care. The centerpiece of the Project is the Veteran “X” Program, a program based on a fictional transitioning service member that has a number of social issues commonly faced by transitioning service members. The program participants serve as a recovery team for the fictitious Veteran “X”, so while they are seeking solutions for Veteran “X”, they are becoming empowered to resolve their own issues.
Components of the Project are:
- Development of a Veteran Peer Network in the community to link transitioning service members to services at VA and the community
- Establishment of Community Outreach Team and Veterans Transition Advisory Group to support the efforts of the Veteran Peer Network
- Training of Veteran Peer Network to provide Veteran “X” programming to transitioning service members
- Developed relationship with Naval Medical Center Portsmouth to pilot Veteran “X” Program for transitioning service members
- Developed relationships with community mental health providers to develop Veteran Peer Network
- Completed Peer Specialist Certification Training for local candidates for Veteran Peer Network
- Completed Veteran “X” Program Facilitator Training for VA and community peer providers
QRF or Quick Reaction Force is a program partnered with the Medical College of WI, the VA, University of WI, and Marquette University to develop tools to reach veterans of the Post 911 Generation. Two years into a five-year program this grant has focused on several Smart phone APPS that brings peer support to tools used in today’s social environment. A detailed QRF Peer Training Program has been developed with this joint group of medical professionals, educators, and veterans to provide the tool addressing the unique issues of today’s veteran returning home. This program was recently selected by a large county mental health system as qualified peer certification necessary for the ability to bill third parties. This is a major step to self-sustainability in the Veteran Peer Community.
Growing Veterans operates several small farms in Washington state, where veterans and civilians work alongside each other to grow healthy food, make friendships, and provide peer support to one another in an informal context. We developed a Peer Support training to help veterans and their civilian allies gain the confidence to support others. Our Peer Support Training is innovative in that it was designed by the peers themselves (in consultation with educators and mental health professionals), emphasizes using one’s own story to encourage and motivate positive change in another, and aims to foster a culture of peer support among its participants. Our training also incorporates the best practices delineated by the Defense Centers of Excellence as essential to a successful veteran/military peer support program. We are in the beginning phases of developing a Train-the-Trainer component, so that individuals all over the country can learn our Peer Support model and teach it in their own communities. We want to change the culture of America into one where individuals supporting each other is the norm, and where negative mental health stigma is non-existent.
Kognito is a health simulation company that believes in the power of conversation to change lives. Our simulations engage individuals in role-play conversations with virtual people and prepare them to lead real-life conversations that measurably improve social, emotional, and physical health. Our approach combines the science of learning, the art of conversation and the power of gaming technology. Kognito simulations have been utilized by 300+ clients including government organizations, non-profits, academic institutions, associations, and foundations to prepare more than 500,000 healthcare professionals, teachers, military families, veterans, caregivers, peers and the general public to harness the power of conversation. Kognito is the only company with health simulations listed in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). Our existing portfolio covers topics such as mental health, PTSD, substance use, chronic disease, provider-patient communication, and suicide prevention.
Lean In Circles
Lean In Circles were launched 2013 to encourage women to pursue their ambitions, and change the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do.
Circles are typically comprised of 8 to 12 members, and when grouped with other Circles, become Chapters. Circle participants meet monthly to encourage and support each other in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust. There are currently more than 29,000 Circles in 147 countries.
In September 2015, Defense Secretary Carter published a DoD Directive supporting Lean In Circles throughout the military to aid in the retention of women, and support the development of women into leadership positions. A Force of the Future initiative, the directive sanctioned use of government facilities and time for circle meetings. After 1 year, there are 115 circles and 2000+ members participating in-garrison, on ships, at all service academies, and deployed locations worldwide.
In May 2016, the VA’s Center for Women Veterans partnered with Lean In to formally support the Lean In Women Veterans Chapter. As the fastest growing sub-population of veterans, women veterans face challenges never before seen by veterans in our nation’s history. LIWV is working to change this, and connect women veterans to their local communities.
We provide the materials and support to run a successful Circle, including online spaces that make it easy for members to stay up-to-date and connected.
We want all women to have the confidence and know-how to achieve their goals. This starts with an active and supportive community. Each day we’ll encourage an open exchange of ideas and information. We will also share Lean In Stories—short narratives of moments in life when we choose to “lean in” or “lean back” intended to inspire, teach and connect us.
We offer a growing library of free online lectures on topics including leadership and communication. Produced in partnership with the Clayman Institute for Gender Studies at Stanford University and other well-known experts, these lectures offer women practical skills they can apply in their daily lives. To learn more, please contact Lt.Col. Erika Cashin at email@example.com.
Initiated in 2014 at the White House Joining Forces Summit on Caregivers, the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) directly addresses the RAND Hidden Heroes report findings of isolation, health challenges and workplace strain among those caring for our service members and veterans with wounds, illness or injured. The secure, personalized and mutli-modal programs and services of MVCN are available to caregivers of all eras, all relations, across all locations 24/7 to reduce isolation by increasing connectedness, engagement, knowledge, skills, hopefulness and wellness.
- The MVCN caregiver-only, Online Peer Community, Peer Mentor, and Peer Support Group Programs, are based on evidence-based, best practices of like those used by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to support to over 60,000 survivors.
- The MVCN vetted Resource Library and Master Calendar are accessed by thousands of caregivers and their providers daily.
- The MVCN innovative, platform has facilitated over 900,000 caregiver supportive connections. It’s unique, customized tool with a sophisticated algorithm, CRM and LMS, offers caregivers access to a peer mentor/matching process that considers their personal priorities, personalizes their experience, and provides supervision.
- The MVCN tool is free for partner MSOs/VSOs, and eliminates costly, time-consuming, administration of the peer support process while ensuring highest quality assistance and accountability.
The Military Veteran Peer Network (MVPN) is a collaborative program between the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Veterans Commission. The lifeblood of the MVPN program is the Peer Volunteer. Peer Volunteers, who support the efforts of MVPN Peer Service Coordinators employed or contracted by the Local Mental Health Authorities across Texas, focus their time and energy to provide peer support to increase access to clinical mental health services.
Peer Volunteers work to reduce the stigma associated with the impacts of military-related traumas, providing resource connection to community-based organizations who provide services to veterans, and serve as role models for Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) in accessing clinical mental health services. Peer support is a critical bridge to span the gap between isolation and loss of identity that occurs after taking off the uniform.
MVPN Peer Service Coordinators provide focus of effort to the Peer Volunteers within their catchment areas to create opportunities for one-on-one peer support and support groups. Additionally, they are trained and certified by the TVC to fulfill the contractual obligations of their positions to ensure standardization of knowledge while acknowledging the need for community-specific activities for peer support.
PATRIOTlink™ is a cloud-based resource navigation platform designed by service providers, for service providers, to make finding and leveraging resources as easy as possible for nonprofit or government service providers assisting veterans and their families.
PATRIOTlink™ is a tactical solution that facilitates integrated efforts among support organizations to ensure service members, veterans and their families get the holistic support they need to successfully transition back into civilian life. The PATRIOTlink™ platform is different than other resource navigation platforms because COSF understands that the success of PATRIOTlink™ hinges on the quality and integrity of the data, and the ease with which service providers can efficiently and effectively find the resources their service members, veterans and families need.
PAVE is a peer support program that connects incoming student veterans with student veterans already on campus in order to help them navigate college life, identify challenges they face, refer them to appropriate resources on or off campus, and provide ongoing support toward their academic and personal goals.
The main goals of the program are to:
- Ease the transition from the military to the university
- Improve student veterans’ sense of connectedness to the university
- Create a safe haven and source of support
- Identify mental health issues and other concerns in a timely fashion and connect student veterans with appropriate resources
- Improve student veteran academic performance
- Increase student veteran retention rates
The PAVE Program is a part of the University of Michigan’s Military Support Programs and Networks (M-SPAN), a suite of programs addressing mental health and wellness for service members, veterans, and military families. It is a collaboration between the University of Michigan Depression Center and Department of Psychiatry and Student Veterans of America. PAVE is currently implemented on 42 campuses across the country and has trained over 600 Peer Advisors. A web-based platform allows schools to train new Peer Advisors; provide online feedback; and track the work that is being done, including types of concerns identified and gaps in services. Ongoing consultation and implementation support is provided to partner campuses by the PAVE team. A rigorous evaluation to measure satisfaction and outcome metrics is also part of the program.
PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program
We honor the memory of PFC Joseph P. Dwyer and his legacy of service. Our mission is to EMPOWER each Veteran and their immediate family members to find PASSION, PURPOSE & HOPE as they transition from Military to Civilian life. We focus on: peer support, social activities, community service, and volunteer work. We are a unique collaboration between several programs working to create a unit at home. For more information, contact Alex Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
POS REP, short for Position Report, is a mobile proximity-based peer support platform made expressly for the military veteran community. Inspired by the suicide of Marine Corps Veteran Clay Hunt, POS REP connects veterans to nearby veterans, events and certified peer support specialists in the palm of their hand.
POS REP, in partnership with Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles and University of Southern California’s Cohen Veterans Clinic, was recently awarded a three-year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) technology demonstration grant to test the feasibility of providing on-demand peer support services to 260 veterans throughout the Los Angeles region. Veterans leaving VOA’s Hollywood Veteran Center, a residential treatment facility, will be provided an opportunity to test the POS REP mobile app connecting them instantaneously to nearly 30 trained and certified peers embedded in the community. These certified peers will be supervised by the USC Cohen Veterans Clinic which offers veterans same day mental health services absolutely free of charge.
SVA’s mission is to provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation. The heart of SVA is the student-led chapter. SVA supports a network of over 1,300 schools and over 500,000 student veterans. At the individual level, SVA empowers veterans to be informed consumers of higher education and make the most of the transition to civilian life. SVA has awarded over $1 million to 111 SVA Scholars since 2011. Thanks to corporate sponsors, SVA is supporting new scholars every semester.
Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2010 with the mission of enriching the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activity. Team RWB has over 113,000 members (70% veteran and 30% civilian) spread across 203 chapters and communities located throughout the world. In 2015, Team RWB’s 26-person staff and 1,900+ volunteer leaderships organized over 32,000 events and facilitated 271,000 interactions. Team RWB’s two programs are the chapter and community program and the leader development program. The chapter and community program organizes local, consistent, inclusive athletic, social, and service activities to enrich lives. The leadership development program aims to educate, inspire, and train leaders to build the most effective and professional volunteer-led organization. In 2013, Team RWB began to conduct research on the effectiveness of their programs. Our research focuses on the impact of Team RWB on life enrichment, the civilian-military divide, and leader development.
Disasters are our business. Veterans are our passion. Team Rubicon unites the skills of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy disaster response teams. Team Rubicon is quickly becoming an industry leader in disaster response and provides opportunities for continued service. Through this service volunteers rejoin a community, regain a purpose and redefine an identity.
The Mission Continues is a national non-profit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. For nearly ten years, we’ve deployed post 9/11 veterans on new missions in their communities, so that their actions will inspire future generations to serve. We work hard. We lead. And we achieve transformational change.
Our unique ‘Operations’ model across the country engages veteran volunteers to address critical challenges facing underserved communities. Through veteran and non-veteran Service Platoons, we execute large-scale projects that achieve transformational change. In addition, our veteran Fellows embed with local non-profit organizations to have deep impact over a period of years. We create a positive impact for both veterans and communities while inspiring future generations to serve.
The Mission Continues seeks to change the national conversation about veterans so that this generation leaves a positive legacy of service and personal success.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national peer based emotional support organization providing comfort and care for the families of America’s fallen heroes. Founded in 1994, the mission of TAPS is to provide care to all those who are grieving the death of a military loved one. TAPS provides surviving families with comfort, healing, and hope through an established peer mentoring network, casework assistance, a 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline, online live chat programs, in-person care groups, and connections to community resources focused on grief and trauma. Survivors connect in-person with others through TAPS grief seminars and retreats for adults, and TAPS “Good Grief Camps” and campouts for children. Many also find a way to honor and remember their loved one through our Team TAPS running programs and make new memories with teams4taps, our major league sports partnerships.
VA Amputee Peer Mentorship Program
Amputees ranked physical therapy and peer support as the two most important factors for recovery in a survey done at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2008 (Pasquina et al, 2008). The VA Amputation System of Care (ASoC) has been partnering with the Amputee Coalition to provide a standardized Amputee Peer Mentorship Program to Veterans in VA since 2011. Currently VA has 157 certified amputee peer mentors including 155 males, 2 females; 9 mentors with upper limb amputations and 18 mentors with multiple amputations.
A peer visit is offered to Veterans with a new amputation or those facing an amputation. Peer Mentors provide support, education and resources and are positive role models. They have “been there” and have lived with their amputation for at least 12 months. Success of a peer mentor visit lies in the ability to match amputees based on the level and etiology of amputation as well as age and gender. Amputation Rehabilitation Coordinators match Veterans with mentors and are a key part of the program. To learn more, please contact Cindy Poorman at Cindy.Poorman@va.gov.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program (CPSM) is a foundational part of VA’s Caregiver Support Program, helping family caregivers of Veterans apply their experience, knowledge, and wisdom to support one another. CPSM was developed to empower and facilitate connections among caregivers with similar experiences to help build relationships and to provide one another with mutual assistance. Nationally, 264 caregivers have participated in CPSM from culturally diverse backgrounds. Over the past year, Peer Mentors have contributed more than 4620 volunteer hours. CPSM is currently being expanded to offer peer support through local VA Medical Centers, providing opportunities for more face-to-face support. Seven VA Medical Centers are participating in local Peer Mentoring, with plans for expansion over the next year. Caregivers of Veterans of all eras are eligible to participate in CPSM, both as Mentors and as Mentees. Mentors are required to participate in training before being assigned to a Mentee.
VA Peer Support Services
Peer support services provide assistance to Veterans who have mental health conditions, substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders engaged in VA mental health treatment programs. Individuals who have experienced similar life challenges can often be a great source of support to others. This is particularly evident among Veteran populations with mental health conditions, who have the shared experience of military service. Many current peer support providers are OEF/OIF/OND Veterans. There are currently over 1,000 paid Peer Specialist positions in our VA Medical Centers, supplemented by over 100 volunteer Without Compensation (WOC) peer support staff providing services in various mental health programs. Peer Specialists serve as role models to Veterans by sharing their personal recovery experiences while they teach and demonstrate skills that facilitate recovery. They assist Veterans with goal setting, problem solving, and symptom management using a variety of recovery tools. They empower Veterans by helping them identify their strengths, supports, resources, and skills. They advocate on behalf of Veterans in order to eliminate the stigma of mental illness. They identify social supports in the community that promote the integration of Veterans with mental illness into their local communities. To learn more, please contact Daniel O’Brien-Mazza at Daniel.OBrienMazza@va.gov.
The purpose of this three-day training is to certify Veteran peers to be Veteran Treatment Court Mentors and provide each individual with the behavioral health education, innovative tools and technical assistance to develop their own local Mentoring Programs and increase capacity within an existing Veterans treatment court serving Justice- Involved Veterans. Trainings are provided in areas of applying the Sequential Intercept Model in approaches for Veterans Jail Diversion, suicide prevention, family resiliency, inter-personal communication, substance abuse, PTS/TBI, domestic violence awareness, resource coordination, systems navigation, public policy overview, program management, mindfulness and more.
Vets4Warriors, 855-838-8255, is the national non-crisis support line for anyone who has served or is currently serving our nation in uniform and their families. Our military, veterans and their families face many challenges in daily life, some which can escalate into serious harm to their well-being. There are many sources of help; however, the process of identifying and connecting to this support can be daunting. For thousands, a call or live computer chat to Vets4Warriors provides the vital connection needed to address issues being faced before escalating into a crisis.
Vets4Warriors is staffed – 24 hours a day – by a team of highly-trained veterans providing confidential, personalized peer support. Our veteran peers draw on their military backgrounds and knowledge of the support available. Vets4Warriors works together to solve challenges in real time by providing an empathic and respectful ear and by connecting those reaching out for the resources they need exactly when they need them. Over 70% of those reaching out want follow up contact.
Vets4Warriors employs a “no wrong door” approach assuring the caller they have connected with the right number. Our veteran peers remain with the caller until the challenges are resolved or a healthy path forward is determined.
WWP Peer Support Groups are small, community-based groups that are led by and designed for warriors to connect with one another, discuss personal challenges, and lend support. They often lead to new friendships, provide a renewed sense of community, strengthen bonds through shared experiences, and introduce new solutions to challenges. We currently have approximately 30 active groups across the US (including Puerto Rico). Each group is encouraged to have a greater involvement in their community and often work together with other nonprofits and VSOs to serve their areas.
Our nation’s service members place the highest trust in their fellow warriors on the battlefield. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Peer Support Groups ensure that trust continues long after military service has ended. These small, community-based groups are led by and designed for warriors to connect with one another, discuss personal challenges, and lend support. They often lead to new friendships, provide a renewed sense of community, strengthen bonds through shared experiences, and introduce new solutions to challenges.
WWP has approximately 30 active groups across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, and that number is growing. Each group is encouraged to become involved in their community and work together with other nonprofits and veteran service organizations to serve their areas. Peer Support Group leaders are extensively vetted and trained in effective group leadership. The journey the group leader has gone through makes them an ideal pillar of support and role model for other warriors as they continue in their recovery and transition.
zero8hundred is a San Diego community initiative to transform the transition experience for service members and their families. Every year, 20,000 military members stationed in San Diego County leave the service, and a third of them stay in the area. They are assets to our region, but can also face challenges with transitioning to civilian life. zero8hundred uses a Veteran’s Wellness Framework with four pillars: Education and Jobs, Basic Needs, Mental and Physical Health, and Personal Connections. The challenges of transition are managed through proactive interaction with Peer Navigators and a comprehensive web portal. Through a unique partnership with the armed forces, zero8hundred is offered during mandatory transition classes at six military bases in addition to select community venues. Service members and spouses in these classes have the option to sign up for periodic interaction with Peer Navigators. Once they opt-in, they become zero8hundred “VIPs” (veterans or spouses in process), and Peer Navigators proactively call them from 9 months before until 12 months after separation to discuss transition challenges and link them to a broad range of vetted resources to help them succeed. zero8hundred’s web portal (zero8hundred.org) is a valuable one-stop tool for those who prefer to self-navigate to services.