Resources at the ready for veterans and their families

By: 
CAROLYN DRYER, Editor

Photo by Carolyn Dryer
Kelly Mills, program manager for community development at the Luke Air Force Base Military and Veteran Success Center, and Frank Molinar, with Richer Lives/Ready Warriors, discuss the topics they were presenting at the Peoria SUPPORT veterans and military families resource seminar July 17 at Rio Vista Recreation Center.

The crowd numbered fewer than 30 people, but the resource professionals were ready to impart their wisdom during a veteran and military families resource seminar July 17 at Rio Vista Recreation Center.

Peoria SUPPORT (Services United to Provide People with Opportunities, Resources and Training), coordinated by Senior Human Services Coordinator Debbie Pearson, gave the microphone to several individuals, who outlined the kinds of services their organizations provide to veterans and military families.

First up was Kelly Mills, program manager for community development at the Luke Air Force Base Military and Veteran Success Center. Mills gave a statistical report about the number of student veterans who attend the 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District: 5,000 to 16,000. She said most veterans are thriving, but veterans are two to four times more likely than civilians to suffer from mental and physical health problems. Veterans also experience a lack of employment options, she said, noting that 50 percent of veterans feel disconnected from their communities and most do not have access to base services after discharge.

Mills said the Military and Veteran Success Center transitions 100 to 200 military veterans and spouses each month. The center’s East Valley location focuses on employment and homelessness, while the West Valley location focuses on transitioning military, employment and Veterans Administration claims.

The process through the center begins with the veteran entering the transition program, going through an assessment, being paired with a success coach, developing a plan, then being handed off to various resources with regular follow-up. The result usually ends with success, Mills said.

“We do the calling with them,” Mills said, but veterans are held accountable, and the center makes sure they are able to continue on their own.

The city of Surprise has the most veterans who go through the center, while Peoria is fourth.

Finances and benefits continue to be No. 1 on the requests for help, Mills said, with education next, and employment No. 3. She said those are the three biggest areas the center continues to support. She said, in March there was a spike in family and social support, and in April, almost 1,400 assessments were completed.

Most West Valley cities offer funding support for the center, along with Luke Air Force Base, the 161st Air Refueling Squadron, Maricopa County Community College District and ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve). Mills said the center would like to start a conversation with the Veterans Administration. She said the center works with other similar organization across the country. Mills can be reached at 480-384-9874, and by email at Kelly.mills@riosalado.edu.

Frank Molinar, a certified financial adviser for more than 30 years, took seminar attendees back in time to 2007, the year he said a convergence of things happened. A lot of military deployments were taking place, and when military personnel returned home, they found their vehicles being repossessed.

“At the same time,” Molinar said, “my son was going into West Point.”

That was when he went under contract to provide resources and training for veterans, “purely for selfish reasons.”

“Impressing on them what they needed to know — that was fun,” he said. “Financial literacy — this stuff is way too important to be boring. It impacts every area of our lives.”

In the process, he said he realized how much the military veterans needed the information he had to give, but still, to them, it was boring. So, he had to help them dismantle the challenges.

“The military has a different way of doing things,” Molinar said.

Yet, he knew for each individual and couple, he had to teach them to organize and “stop  the bleeding.” Some couples were $150 in the red each month, but one commander and his wife were bleeding out at the rate of $2,647 per month.

“We rolled up our sleeves, rolled up our pants legs, cut some stuff and we fixed it,” Molinar said.

He has met with 1,837 people and is up to 3,800 hours of counseling. He uses a military mindset, which starts with preparation in advance. He helps couples secure the perimeter, get rid of the bleeding, build the wealth and exit. He said one way to stop the bleeding is to spend half of what you make and most people will get financial dominance within 18 months.

Once people are living well below their means, they’re on the way to becoming a wealth investor, he said.

“The problem with the American Dream is maybe we’re not dreaming big enough,” Molinar said.

He extended his offer to veterans, corporations, small or large companies for training. He can be reached at frank@richerlivesreadywarriors.org, or by phone at 480-949-3012.

Harry Miller, outreach specialist/public contact with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix, gave a summary of the benefits veterans can receive through his office. Miller is a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and has been with the VA 18 years.

Miller told attendees that traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are “more common today than you’ll ever know.” To learn more about benefits, he said to visit www.ebenefitsva.gov. Other websites to visit are www.va.gov and www.vets.gov.

Closer to home, Dr. Adam McCray, a clinical psychologist, said he counsels veterans at his office with the West Valley Vet Center, Suite 170, 14050 N. 83rd Ave. in Peoria. McCray said he was “always amazed by the number of support services out there.”

He talked about why veterans are not getting the services and support they need.

He said, “After their military service ends, veterans are left in a resource vacuum that can create uncertainty.”

They question what they should do; go to school, get a job, raise a family? Who am I now I am out of uniform? Who can I rely on to assist me? How do I access the help I need in answering these questions?

McCray said barriers to engagement, which involves taking an active role in building the kind of life he or she wants to live, can be attributed to:

- Lack of knowledge of what’s out there
- Problematic beliefs that become self-fulfilling prophecies:
   • Help is a sign of weakness
   • I can’t trust anyone to help me
   • I am helpless, my life is hopeless

McCray said veterans have a fear of failure and avoid vulnerability.

“In my world, we help the veterans learn adaptability,” McCray said, and help them “develop a different mindset.”

He said the public needs to understand PTSD; there are some misconceptions about PTSD in our culture.

One audience member said PTSD needs to be removed from the military because it can happen to anyone — military and civilians.

To contact McCray, veterans and their spouses can reach him at Adam.McCray@va.gov or by phone at 623-398-8854.

Following McCray’s presentation, a panel discussion ensued with audience interaction. To learn more about Peoria SUPPORT, contact Debbie Pearson at 623-773-7042 or by email at Debbie.pearson@peoriaaz.gov.

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Peoria Times

Peoria Times
7122 N. 59th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301-2436
Ph: (623) 842-6000
Fax: (623) 842-6013

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