Op-ed: Supporting veterans starts locally

As a grateful nation pauses to honor women and men who served in the military this Veterans Day, I call on community members to reflect on how to best support local veterans.

I recently held six public forums with veterans across Washington’s 2nd Congressional District. Representatives from the VA, service groups, state, county, and local government spoke about the services they provide veterans. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to concerns from veterans and connect them with organizations in their communities that work to address their problems. Hearing directly from local veterans helps me better represent them in Congress. Veterans shared their comments and concerns on issues including suicide prevention, wait times for medical appointments and Agent Orange exposure.

I know that collaboration and communication are essential to helping veterans. Bringing people with needs together with organizations with resources to address those needs is the best way to solve veterans’ problems. These forums would not have been possible without the veterans who attended to share their concerns and ask questions, the representatives from various organizations who serve veterans, and the generosity of the groups that hosted the events, including American Legion Post 163, American Legion Post 76, American Legion Post 7 and VFW Post 7392.

The array of services available to veterans in Northwest Washington is vast. Are you a veteran in Bellingham who is worried about affording her rent? Whatcom County Veterans Services may be able to help with temporary financial assistance. Is a member of your family leaving the military and struggling to find work in the civilian job market? Worksource Everett conducts mock interviews and supplies business attire. Are you friends with a veteran in Oak Harbor who has trouble getting to health care appointments? Disabled American Veterans operates a van to take veterans to and from the Seattle VA. The work these groups are doing to support local veterans is vital–and too often unrecognized.

There is far more work to be done. By working together at the federal, state and local levels, public officials and community groups can solve other challenges facing veterans, like lack of transportation, difficulty translating military experience to civilian skills, and challenges navigating the VA. My office is also available to help you one-on-one. From 2015-2016, my team provided personal assistance to 260 veterans, an average of 2.5 veterans served per week.

Over 56,000 veterans live in Washington’s 2nd Congressional District. I am committed to working with local organizations and volunteers to make Northwest Washington a welcoming home for all who have worn the uniform of the nation’s armed forces. If you are a veteran seeking assistance with housing, transportation, health care, education, employment, or any other issue, I encourage you to contact the following organizations.

Contact Information for Local Organization Serving Veterans:

Rep. Rick Larsen

–Op-ed by Rep. Rick Larsen

U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

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