United Way’s Powered by Purpose Speaker Series Addresses Critical Needs for Florida Veterans

In a heartfelt initiative to educate the community, United Way’s Powered by Purpose Speaker Series aims to bring issues facing the community to light. CEO Meredith Egan, a passionate advocate and recent spouse of a veteran, shared that 29% of all veterans living in Florida are classified as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). Recognizing the challenges local Veterans face in navigating services, Egan aims to address critical gaps in support for this deserving community.

The event featured notable guest speakers, including Kris Hasenauer from Emerald Medical and Survival Meds, Cynthia Ryan, Executive Director of the Veterans Council of Indian River County, and Melissa Arndt of Indian River County Veteran Services.

Emerald Medical, with locations at the Indian River Mall and in Port St. Lucie, plays a vital role in serving veterans, first responders, and law enforcement. Notably, they offer mental and behavioral health services, including PTSD support groups, and collaborate with numerous nonprofits, with almost all staff having a military background.

Indian River County Veteran Services was highlighted as a crucial free service, acting as a liaison to help veterans and their dependents access benefits. 

The Veterans Council of IRC was commended for its comprehensive case management and holistic approach, providing after-action plans for each veteran seeking services. Additionally, they organized a town hall with the head of the VA clinic to address veterans’ concerns about the quality of care offered locally.

Key points discussed during the event underscored the pressing issues faced by veterans:

  • Lack of awareness about available benefits among veterans.
  • Unique physical and mental challenges for veterans reentering civilian life, such as early dementia among Iraq/Afghanistan veterans from head injuries and hormonal deficits.
  • The importance of all veterans registering with the VA – currently, only 45% of all vets have registered, and only 15% have utilized the GI bill.
  • Alarming statistics reveal that 22 veterans die by suicide every day.
  • The need for a comprehensive toolbox to address the diverse challenges veterans face, given that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
  • The unfortunate reality is that many veterans who retired or were discharged during COVID ended up homeless.
  • Barriers to access, including high staff turnover administering benefits and bureaucratic red tape.

The Powered by Purpose Speaker Series aims to bridge these gaps, beginning with a discussion on how to best provide essential support, resources, and advocacy for veterans in Indian River County. Other topics include seniors, youth career readiness, health, and homelessness.

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