Tyler, TX — The Mayor’s Veterans Roundtable was established in May 2011 to develop and implement a Community Blueprint for supporting and enhancing Veterans services in Tyler. The focus of the Roundtable is on employment, education, housing, medical care and mental health.
“Since the creation of the Veterans Roundtable, significant progress has been made toward enhancing the relationship between Veterans, their families and the Tyler community,” said Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass. “The members of the Roundtable have worked tirelessly to ensure Tyler’s Veterans have the resources they need available to them. I am very pleased with the progress that has been made in one short year.”
Smith County is home to nearly 18,000 veterans as well as a Super Armory and the Texas Veterans Home that opened in November 2011. The economic impact of Veterans to the Smith County economy is estimated to be $60.8 million annually.
“The Roundtable has increased community awareness of Veteran’s needs,” added Bass. “It is truly promoting the City of Tyler as a place that really cares about their Veterans.”
Employment advances completed by the Roundtable include:
· Establishment of a social media presence, including Facebook. Began posting Veterans information.
· Promoted local job fairs being held throughout the year and communicated with local businesses about hiring Veterans.
· Held first ever Veteran Entrepreneurship Boot Camp on April 28, 2012, to educate Veterans and their families about business ownership. This will become an annual event.
In the area of education, the Roundtable has:
· Established communication with Tyler Junior College, The University of Texas at Tyler and Texas College regarding Veteran issues, such as creation of a Veteran Center on each campus and a Student Veteran Association Chapter. (A Center is open at Tyler Junior College and a Veterans Center is projected to open at UT Tyler in September 2012.)
· Promoted Veterans Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits, which cover various trade school programs.
· Promoted the Green Zone as a resource center for Veterans.
· Completed an assessment of available childcare assistance for the Veteran student.
· Expanded the Roundtable membership from the original twenty, as more people in the community have become aware of what we are doing and wish to help.
In the area of housing, the Roundtable has:
· Identified that there is an inadequate supply of affordable housing for Veterans in Tyler. In a recent homeless survey, 16 percent were recognized as being Veterans.
· Researched potential transitional housing in Tyler and are in the process of developing a “Veteran Housing Continuum of Care Plan” including a faith based initiative to address Veterans housing issues.
· Successfully advocated for a HUD/VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) case manager to be assigned to Tyler to manage local Veterans housing vouchers.
In the area of healthcare, the Roundtable has:
· Advocated to the VA Health Care System to improve the availability of health care access for the Veterans in Smith and surrounding counties.
· Performed a “Blitz” of Veteran enrollment for health care benefits to substantiate the need for an increase in health care providers and larger facilities in Tyler. This resulted in approval for the expansion of the local clinic from 5,000 to 50,000 square feet. A location for an ancillary site is currently in progress until the construction of the new clinic is completed. Also advocated for the addition of an urgent care clinic.
· The Roundtable has obtained approval from the VA to create the East Texas Veterans Memorial on the site of the new clinic. This will house the Vietnam Memorial that was previously at Bergfeld Park.
· UT Health Science Center recently became involved in Traumatic Brain Injury research.
The Veterans Roundtable has created a Blueprint to address gaps in services in a way that is specific to the Tyler community. The goal is to provide a forum to learn and share best practices and to bring key stakeholders together to collaborate in assisting those who have served our country.
“There is universal support for our warriors and families, and nonprofit services have grown and improved in Tyler and in communities across America,” added Mayor Bass. “Still, there remain significant gaps that can only be filled by more focused planning and coordination.”
“Veterans have service and sacrifice for others in their DNA and the Veterans and Community Roundtable gives them the opportunity to continue to serve in making things better, not only for our veterans and their families, but for the entire community,” said Major General John T. Furlow, U.S. Army retired.