Terry R., a 73-year-old veteran, walked into the King County Veterans Program (KCVP) Tukwila office and said:
“Paul sent me because I served in the Air Force in the sixties and I need some help… I don’t even know if I’m an eligible Veteran as I’ve never needed to reach out for services before.”
Paul, a KCVP Social Service Professional, had met Terry at the Maple Valley Food Bank. Paul’s presence at the food bank is part of a new outreach effort. Over the past year KCVP has been laying the groundwork to extend service through new outreach-focused social service staff, enabling KCVP to support clients outside of office-based settings, as well as those who walk in KCVP’s doors. A piece of this new outreach, that launched in June, focuses on supporting geographic areas of King County that hold a high veteran population but have few veteran specific services available.
Creatively removing barriers to service
After Terry walked through the doors of KCVP Tukwila, KCVP staff started the standard process of checking for documentation of service. Terry was asked if he had documentation of his time in service such as a DD-214, Statement of Service, VA ID card, etc. Terry explained that he served nearly fifty years ago and since he never needed to access Veteran services, he didn’t have any of those documents. Terry even wondered whether or not he was considered an eligible Veteran. Often when a veteran does not have service documentation, KCVP will reach out to the Veterans Administration (VA) for verification of service. However, in Terry’s case, because he never enrolled with the VA, there was no record of him.
The KCVP Tukwila Program Supervisor sat down with Terry to get a better understanding of Terry’s time in service and find a way to show proof of service in order to access KCVP services. Terry went on to describe his enlistment at Military Entrance Processing Station, his Basic Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and his Military Occupation Specialty training in the Airforce. It was clear that Terry was able to articulate his military experience in a way that a non-veteran would not be able to. With this knowledge, the Program Supervisor made one last ask to Terry to try and find any kind of service documentation.
“Terry do you have photos of your time in the Airforce,” said the KCVP Tukwila Program Supervisor.
Terry lit up and exclaimed “Absolutely I have some pictures!” Terry provided photos of his time in boot camp, proving he was a veteran and eligible for KCVP services.
Individualizing service for each veteran
Terry’s lifelong spouse had recently contracted Lupus. Unfortunately, this significantly impacted the household income as less money was now coming in and more medical expenses were stacking up. Despite his best effort to maintain financial stability by staying employed into his seventies, the loss of his employment due to impacts of COVID-19 quickly led to a downward spiral of financial crisis. Terry’s bills continued to stack up to include utilities, medical bills, and eventually a foreclosure notice on their home. Terry began seeking out community resources for assistance which included visiting the Maple Valley Food Bank for food assistance. Upon learning about Terry’s story, the Maple Valley Food Bank made sure to connect Terry with Paul the next time he was at the food bank.
A KCVP case manager worked with Terry to get him the services that he needed. Since enrolling in KCVP services, the program has been able to help stabilize Terry’s household by providing financial assistance to support catching up on his car payments, utility bills and medical bills. Most importantly, through partnership with the Northwest Justice Project, a Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy-funded civil legal aid partner, a negotiation and payment plan was arranged with his mortgage provider to avoid foreclosure.
KCVP is also working diligently to assist Terry with securing online employment so that he can work from home while also providing care for his wife.
“You guys have been Awesome… you’ve really gotten me over a bump and treated me with the utmost respect.” -Terry R.
Reaching veterans where they are
KCVP staff provide a physical presence each week at the Maple Valley Food Bank, the Auburn Senior Center and the Auburn Veterans of Foreign Wars. KCVP staff are out in communities (following safe social distancing guidelines), meeting veterans where they are, to connect veterans to services who might not otherwise know that help is available.
Terry is one of many veterans that KCVP has reached through their new outreach efforts that find veterans where they are and connects them to services with respect, care and dignity.
Contact KCVP to learn more about available services:
2106 2nd Avenue, Seattle WA 98121
Walk-in hours: M-F, 8:30 – 12 am | 1 – 4:30 pm
645 Andover Park W, Tukwila WA 98188
Walk-in hours: M-F, 8:30 – 12 am | 1 – 4:30 pm