United Way program answers questions for large veteran population

KOKOMO, Ind. -- A one-of-a-kind program in the state is helping veterans get access to their benefits and other services they might need.

The program, called Mission United, provides veterans with answers under one roof.

According to Jeff Young, the president and CEO of the United Way of Howard & Tipton Counties, there are only 22 Mission United programs in the country. Each one is located near a military base.

The Grissom Air Force Base is located 15 miles north of Kokomo, and Young said there is data that estimates one out of every six adults in Howard County served in the military.

"Mission United will serve all who served," said Young. "Whether they spent 25 years in the armed forces or three days."

The program began as a pilot in the later part of 2017, but in recent months, leaders decided it would be a permanent program. Young said the hours spent on helping veterans has increased, and he anticipated the case manager spending 1,200 hours addressing veterans' questions in 2019.

The decision came at a good time, as the community lost its part-time VA clinic in March of this year. It had only been open for less than a year.

"With one place closing, we’ve probably increased the activity, and we expect it to continue to grow," said Young.

The program works closely with the local veterans' services office and the Jackson Street Commons, a 27-unit apartment building that's exclusively for veterans.

Veterans looking for answers can call 765-457-HELP or visit the United Way located at 210 W. Walnut Street in Kokomo. A case manager will talk with the veteran to find out what their three biggest needs are and perform a screening to see what kind of programs they may qualify for that include financial assistance or other aid.

Army and Navy veteran Ken Heuck said the program should be a big help, as he's seen how challenging it is to easily find answers.

"You got to go track some of the information down," Heuck said. "It’s like being a detective. You got to figure out where to go and who to talk to."

Some of the issues Mission United can address include employment and financial services, legal assistance, education, food, health care, and housing.

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