OLYMPIA –The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs has been awarded the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This is WDVA’s sixth Pillars of Excellence Award since 2014.
The award recognizes outstanding state programs that support veterans within their states. This year’s award is for WDVA’s innovations in the development of the nation’s first Vet Corps program. WDVA launched the Vet Corps in 2009 in response to an influx of returning veterans enrolling in Washington State colleges and universities after significant changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Vet Corps is funded through an AmeriCorps grant, co-managed by Serve Washington, which provides 50 Vet Corps members with a stipend and education award at the end of their service.
“Here in Washington State we wanted to be sure that military personnel transitioning from active duty to our higher education campuses had the level of support and sense of belonging that they needed," said WDVA director Alfie Alvarado-Ramos. "The Vet Corps provides peer support and guidance to help veterans navigate their veteran benefits and the sometimes complex landscape of higher education systems.”
The Vet Corps promotes systemic change through Veteran Navigators strategically located in higher education settings who develop opportunities for volunteerism and educating faculty and administration in veteran cultural competencies.
The Vet Corps helps veterans be successful in their post-secondary education by providing a peer-to-peer mentorship program on college campuses, tapping into the knowledge, skills and abilities of veterans by engaging them in AmeriCorps national service positions, and enabling veterans to make a positive difference in their communities.
A recent independent evaluation shows that the Vet Corps Program is making a difference as veterans in schools served by the program took more credits, had higher fall to spring retention rates, and higher completion rates than non-Vet Corps Member sites.
WDVA’s Vet Corps program serves to enhance and collaborate with existing college services and currently receives a $630,000 AmeriCorps grant, increasing the availability of veteran services on over 50 different college campuses throughout the state.
Washington State has received a Pillars of Excellence Award each year since 2014, with two awards in 2014.
2017: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/35871/state-level-veterans-affairs-departments-work-hand-in-hand-with-va-to-delivery-crucial-benefits-and-services/ (Public / Private Partnerships, WestCare Foundation)
2016: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/26148/va-renews-commitment-to-state-departments-of-veterans-affairs/ (Incarcerated Veterans Initiative)
2015: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/16972/seven-state-veterans-affairs-departments-recognized-for-innovations/ (Veteran Transition Support)
2014: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/35871/state-level-veterans-affairs-departments-work-hand-in-hand-with-va-to-delivery-crucial-benefits-and-services/ (Eliminating Veteran Homeless and Benefits Enhancement Program)
More information on the WDVA Vet Corps program can be found at http://www.dva.wa.gov/program/vet-corps