Military families in the United States are facing enormous challenges. Since 2001, more than 2.6 million troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and now face rates of suicide, depression, and unemployment that have sounded the alarm for action. Though there is wide community support for veterans and their families, the system is fragmented. There are a multitude of services available to the nation's veterans, but the disjointed nature of how they are provided by federal agencies, and a wide variety of state and community-based organizations makes it difficult for veterans and their families to navigate the systemand receive the services they need.
The federally funded programs fluctuate based on presidential and congressional priorities and national emergencies. The landscape is dotted with nonprofit organizations, corporations, educational institutions, volunteer groups, public agencies and private foundations. Each provides an array of services or programs designed to meet specific needs of the United States' approximately 22 million veterans.
A collaborative that builds on the strengths of the community can be the most effective solution to this fragmentation by combining resources, identifying promising programs and strategizing for collective impact. Innovation will not be made by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) alone. Nonprofits and community-based organizations have limited resources and focused scopes. Each operates in isolation. A model of public-private partnerships that brings together a diverse cross-sector of stakeholders has the potential to effect large-scale change.