Admiral Mullen goes to Boise, ID

Admiral Mullen at Boise State UniversityAs part of his continuing Conversation with the Country, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went to Boise, ID last week.

In talking about the Sea of Goodwill, he talked about how Warrior Gateway can help connect the military community of Idaho with all those government program and benevolent organizations that are there to support them.  A quick search reveals that currently Warrior Gateway has 81 organizations within 100 miles of Boise ID.  We’re looking forward to working with the community there to grow our presence and become the premier resource in Idaho to connect individuals to organizations.

Read more about his visit here or watch the video from KTVB.com below.

 

New VA bill established to assist post-9/11 veteran caregivers could fall short

On 5 May 2010 President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, Public Law 111-163. The bill, first of its kind, intends to provide direct assistance to veteran families. However, recent press releases indicate that the bill is in distress. Many articles are quick to fault the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) after the organization missed the 31 January 2011 deadline to start carrying out provisions of the bill, and before that, the 1 November 2010 implementation plan milestone. The VA signed the long-awaited implementation plan on Wednesday 9 February, but the contents of that bill may be falling short of its mark. For instance, only about 10 percent of the intended post-9/11 caregiver population (est. 850) are said to be eligible for assistance.

New benefits – restricted to caregivers of the critically wounded and seriously ill of the post-9/11 veterans – outlined by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, include: monthly stipend (based on the average home healthcare costs in the veterans hometown), health care coverage, travel expenses (including lodging and per diem while accompanying veterans undergoing care), respite care, and mental health services/counseling.

Among those supporting the bill are the following political figures:

  • Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Chairwoman, Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Jeff Miller (FL), Chairman, House Committee on Veteran Affairs

While some of the enhancements are currently available, many will require an issuance of regulations, whereas others will remain unavailable. To date, the VA has given no timeline as to when the services will be available to caregivers. However, under the law, the VA must report to Congress within 2 years about the possibilities of providing the enhanced benefits to all post-9/11 caregivers.

The Warrior Gateway can assist those that are affected by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 by providing veteran caregivers a place to find assistance services located in their hometown. The free-of-charge Warrior Gateway directory currently has over 100 caregiver assistance organizations available for veterans of all eras.

Please feel free to post comments about this blog and suggest other topics you would like to see covered by the Warrior Gateway Government Relations Blog.

2011 Federal 100 Award

Recently, I was honored to be selected as one of this year’s Federal 100 award winners. The Federal 100 award is given out each year and recognizes individuals in government and industry who made significant contributions to the federal IT community in the previous year.

In case you missed it, here are the highlights from the past year that helped us win this prestigious award:

  • In March, we launched our flagship web portal: Warrior Gateway after only 40 days of development;
  • In May, we received the MarkLogic Innovation Award for our innovative use of MarkLogic Server in building information applications
  • Over the summer, we built the Gateway Information Network platform – Allowing others to build websites, portals and applications that use our data completely free of charge
  • In November, we launched our first partner on the Gateway Information Network: Challenge America, whose resource directory is powered by our platform

Here is the BENS Press Release – Federal 100 Award, the article about the Federal 100 awards and the official list of 2011 Federal 100 Award Winners.

I would like to thank our supporters and my team for helping me win the Federal 100 award and I look forward to an exciting 2011.

Thanks!

Year In Review and Look Ahead to 2011

What started as an idea in 2009 became reality in 2010. The launch of the Warrior Gateway in March of this past year showed how new ideas, innovation and collaboration could positively impact our transitioning military community. Our growth in 2011 will continue to show how our unique approach will help connect individuals with non-profits and government service providers as well as educational and employment opportunities. The following Year in Review message showcases what the Warrior Gateway has accomplished in a very short time span as well as our plans to continue to make the Warrior Gateway the best resource it can be.

A Unique Idea is “Born”:

When the Warrior Gateway launched it was described at the time as an innovative web portal. It was, at launch, both a job search tool and an online directory for the military community to find local service organizations that could satisfy their unique needs. How the Warrior Gateway stood out as different:

  • Empowered users by allowing them to share their experiences with organizations they’ve utilized, good and bad
  • Provided members an additive benefit by learning about those experiences in their search for reliable information

In addition, we used the best design principles modeled after successful sites like Google Maps, Yelp and Craigslist to make sure users could find what they were looking for quickly and easily. The easy-to-use design was popular with our users and for the portal to continue to grow we hit the road to spread the word.

Bringing the Gateway to the Community:

This past year, the Warrior Gateway team went to communities across the nation to introduce people the strength of a free and interactive online resource directory. We attended more than 40 meetings, panel discussions, conferences and other events including:

Throughout 2010 we were mentioned in a variety of publications. The Warrior Gateway was mentioned in 17 news media outlets. Some of the major publications were:

  • The Washington Post
  • The New York Times
  • The San Francisco Chronicle
  • The Associated Press

Our approach was also praised by high level figures such as Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Craig Newmark, the founder of Craig’s List, who saw the value of its helpful and innovative approach.

Helping to bring together the Sea of Goodwill:

While we focused on introducing the Warrior Gateway to transitioning military members and their families in cities such as:

We have also reached out to industry partners, government leaders and the media to highlight the military community’s need for immediate access to quality services in their area and to help grow the Warrior Gateway. Our approach of working with the Sea of Goodwill community to find the best collaborative approaches to address the needs of those in transition helped Warrior Gateway make significant progress in a very short amount of time.

The Way Forward: Predictions for 2011

As the Warrior Gateway grows this year, our ability to help grows as well. We are excited to announce that this year we will be:

  • Launching the Gateway Information Network
    • A network of national, local and government websites that collaborate to share information to ensure there is no wrong door. No matter where military community looks for information, they will find consistent, relevant and accurate answers
  • Expand the Warrior Gateway
    • To ensure service members and their families can transition smoothly, we plan to extend into the areas of education and employment
    • We will stand up a Gateway Volunteer Corps, for those who want to volunteer their time to help the Warrior Gateway grow in their community
  • Reach for new goals
    • We will continue to connect veterans and their families to the best resources in their areas and increase the number of organizations in the service provider directory with a year end goal of at least 100,000!

You can also help veterans and their families today!

Come check out WarriorGateway.org! If you have visited a service organization in your area – rate them and share comments on your experience. If that organization is not in the Directory – add it. It is completely free and easy to do!

Follow us on Twitter:http://twitter.com/warriorgateway

Visit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/warriorgateway

Wounded Warrior Task Force Testimony

Today I had the opportunity to present to the Wounded Warrior Task Force.  In case you don’t know what the Task Force is all about, you can read more here.

One of the objectives of Wounded Warrior Task Force as stated in their mission statement is to provide advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the effectiveness of wounded warrior information resources.  Since I was only given two minutes to present, I had to make my comments brief so I focused on two subjects near and dear to the Warrior Gateway: open information sharing and public-private partnerships.

A recent search on the web for the term wounded warrior resources returned over 300,000 results.  A recent web search for the term post traumatic stress returned over 5 Million results. Wow!  That’s a lot of results to look through.  And yet with all these resources, here at Warrior Gateway, we consistently hear that wounded warriors, veterans and their families aren’t finding what they need.  While we continue work to give you a voice and make it easier for you to find and connect with the local organizations and program in your community, I hope that the Wounded Warrior Task Force looks at what the government can do better to share information and partner with organizations like Warrior Gateway to better serve our military community.

-devin

Here is the full text of the testimony:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Task Force, thank you for the opportunity to present today.  My name is Devin Holmes and I am the Executive Director of Warrior Gateway.

After returning home from active duty, our wounded warriors often face a new battle at home.  And yet, while the treatments for their injuries in some cases are complex, when they come home to their communities, their desires are simple and straightforward.  They want to recover, find their new normal life, and enjoy time with their family and friends.  And yet so many of them still ask that simple question:  “Where do I go for help?”

I would like to share with you an excerpt from an email we received a couple of months ago from a veteran in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl struggling with post traumatic stress:  “My family is in need of help.  I am a disabled OIF veteran married to another veteran with multiple deployments.  We have 3 children.  I wanted some information before my family breaks apart.”

We know from examples like the one I just read that we are failing our wounded warriors. There are simply too many fragmented and silo-ed information resources both inside and outside the government.

I would like to encourage the Task Force to focus their efforts on the following:

  • A full and detailed inventory of the information resources both inside the DoD and VA and outside the government
  • An assessment of which of these resources are openly sharing their information with other resources
  • And for the DoD and VA, an inventory of which of these resources have created public-private partnerships with non-governmental organizations

I would also encourage the Task Force to examine and make public the following:

  • How are both the government and non-governmental information resources evaluating those programs and organizations providing services to our wounded warriors
  • How they measuring effectiveness
  • Are these evaluations and measurements made publically available to our wounded warriors and their families
  • Do our wounded warriors and their families have a voice in providing feedback as to the effectiveness of the programs and organizations listed in these information resources

Our goal should be to share information and work together so that no matter WHERE our wounded warriors look for information, the answers they receive will be immediate, accurate and consistent regardless of where they ask that question “Where do I go for help?”

Thank you.