Veterans Affairs undergoing overhaul to improve outreach efforts – Newton Daily News
Improving social media and providing information about benefits are cornerstones of Jasper County Veterans Affairs’ plan to connect with clients. More than 2,500 veterans live in Jasper County and Veterans Duty Officer Keith Thorpe told Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting that the VA was having great difficulty trying to connect with them.
“A lot of these vets don’t know about the services we provide or even that we exist,” Thorpe said.
This lack of engagement by veterans with the ministry can stem from a combination of limited public awareness and the many difficulties veterans have in dealing with military agencies in the past. Supervisor Brandon Talsma, a veteran himself, agreed with this assessment and shared some of his own experiences.
“I was away for over nine years before I found the Jasper County VA office,” he said.
So, in addition to the services already provided by the department, the VA will work with its new secretary, Alyssa Flood, to update and manage social media and new outreach efforts.
Flood, who has a background in graphic design and has worked with several nonprofit veterans in the past, will help the department create a new plan to connect with local veterans.
“We’re glad you’re here, and I’m sure Keith is happy you’re here,” Talsma said.
One of the new programs is a social hour hosted by the VA at PJ’s Deli, which allows veterans to meet with Jasper County duty officers, commissioners and other veterans. The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on November 6 at PJ’s Deli in Newton.
All pastries and refreshments will be provided by the VA office. Flood hopes the event will be just the first in a series of events organized by the department in the coming months.
“Ideally, an event like this will move from town to town across Jasper County,” Flood said. “Much of our current outreach work is focused on Newton, so going out into small communities will be very important, especially for vets with disabilities or unable to travel long distances.”
Flood has already set up a new Facebook page where information about events and services will be posted and easily accessible to the public.
And while new programs may be coming to the VA, that doesn’t mean their current job will suffer. According to the quarterly report delivered at the Supervisors’ Meeting, the department is currently providing transportation for several veterans to and from medical appointments in Des Moines and Iowa City.
The VA also offers various emergency assistance programs for veterans and their families with clothing, food, shelter, medical bills, and utility bills. Other programs also offer financial counseling and pension services.
Contact Abby Knipfel at 641-792-4687 ext. 6531 or [email protected]