Task force to focus on veterans issues in Pennsylvania

Task force to focus on veterans issues in Pennsylvania

Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, August 22, 2016/Categories: News and Views

Lt. Gov. Michael Stack and former-Adjutant General Wesley Craig announced Monday the formation of a task force that will look at veterans issues in Pennsylvania and recommend changes to services, ways to help veterans in need, and bridge the gap for veterans looking for government help or benefits.


“You have to be a resource that—not only tells people you have this benefit, or you have this educational benefit, or this mental health benefit that you may need immediately—but then that we make sure that that veteran gets to that service,” Lt. Gov. Stack told members of the media Monday after the task force’s first meeting.


The task force is comprised of 21 members and is geared toward bringing together public and private resources, information, and strategies to address veterans’ issues – including but not limited to employment, housing, mental health, legal, and food security.


Noting there have been similar task forces focusing on veterans issues in the past, Lt. Gov. Stack noted this group will be different.


“Too many times we’ve seen on these task forces the frustration of saying ‘we can’t find the veteran’ or saying ‘we can’t get them into the program’; a lot of the folks on this commission are familiar with these problems and these veterans,” he added. “I think we have the right group of people here to ensure that when a veteran needs a service, they’re going to get it.”


Craig—who is the chairman of the task force—explained the importance of serving veterans is based in how positive a light government wants future soldiers to view the benefits of service.


Pennsylvania currently has more than one million living veterans whose service stretches from WWII to the current time.


“It’s the ones who fall through the cracks that always concern me,” he said. “Whether they end up with a drug problem, or can’t seem to get employment that seems to work, or they have problems at home, which lead to other problems—you always try to work on them and you want to try and save as many people as possible.”


Task force member Bob McMahon, a Vietnam veteran and the current mayor of Media, said the thing that will make this task force different from previous iterations is the communication it will have with the veteran community.


“Communication with the veterans and communicating with the people that can help the veterans,” he said.


One of those who are working to help provide services is Widener University Commonwealth Law School located in Harrisburg, whose use of students doing clinical and pro bono work provides area veterans with access to no or low cost legal services.


Dean of the school and task force member Christian Johnson said veterans often need legal assistance in obtaining or keeping benefits or navigating bureaucracy to get the services they need.


“Often times if you don’t have an individual that takes responsibility for those cases and carry it all the way through, the veteran will get discouraged and not push forward and get the benefits he is legally entitled to,” he said.


Lt. Gov. Stack said he hopes the task force will be ready to issue its first report in a year’s time.