TexVet: Connecting veterans with lifechanging information and resources
The convergence of Texas A&M University’s strong military history and selfless service core value led Texas A&M University Health Science Center to make military health one of its three priorities. The Health Science Center focuses on research, education and patient care within its military health priority, but it also includes a program, called TexVet, that has a direct impact on veterans in Texas.
As a program within the Texas A&M Health Science Center, TexVet is a specialized information and referral program that connects Texas military members, veterans, their family members and those who serve them with trusted information and services that are most important to them. These include educational benefits, legal assistances, employment resources, mental health resources and peer groups.
Evaluating veteran resources
“TexVet is unique because our focus is specific. We provide trusted information and resources to the veteran community,” said new director, Carrie L. Sconza, MS Ed. “All information and resources listed on our website are verified against our standards document, Standard of Trust. The veteran community trusts us, and we work hard not to let them down.”
The document reduces the likelihood veterans will run into predatory for-profit agencies, such as payday loans, that seek to profit from veterans instead of help them. TexVet hopes to “turn back the tide” of the overwhelming data and misinformation that threaten veterans daily.
The program also actively works to minimize the impact of obstacles most commonly faced by veterans. Sconza identified three major issues: military and veteran suicide, lack of veteran mental health information and services, and lack of services to rural veterans.
To address the first two, TexVet offers mental health crisis resources to veterans via access to the Veterans Crisis Line. This hotline connects users with qualified responders within the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Also, TexVet received a grant from Health and Human Services to continue its work with veteran mental health. This year, the program will host the 4thAnnual Mental Health Symposium, where various Texas A&M researchers who made an impact in the military and veteran community will be showcased.
Unique needs for veterans in rural areas
TexVet also works to minimize the issues that arise for veterans living in rural areas. This isolation caused by limited access to public transportation, quality high speed internet and lack a general infrastructure all compound to make finding quality information difficult.
“One of the things I enjoy the most is traveling through the rural areas of Texas, speaking with the veteran community and working with them to identify their needs and connect them to services,” Sconza said.
TexVet works with veterans to find the best and most trusted information and resources available, then categorizes the resources by county and service type. The program reports more than 1,300 verified nonprofit listings and more than 311,850 web-based referrals per year. TexVet also provides community centers and other local resource providers the ability to print their own resource and information guides to give veterans without reliable access to the internet.
Making veteran communities healthier
“Veterans are a part of these communities, and we work together to make sure their specific needs are met,” Sconza said. “Making these communities healthier benefits everyone.”
Sconza, who retired from the U.S. Navy in 2011, brings more than 25 years of service and a passion for identifying veteran needs and connecting them to the appropriate services. Before she joined TexVet, she worked for the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC), a strong partner of TexVet.
“TexVet supported TVC, and I admired the service they provide to the veteran community,” she said. “I have spent a majority of my life in service to the military and the veteran community, which allows me to bring the leadership, knowledge and skills from those experiences to TexVet.”
“Less than one percent of the population choose to serve our country and, if needed, make the ultimate sacrifice. They choose to keep our country safe, place themselves in harms way, and be separated from their families for long periods of times,” Sconza added. “We take care to connect veterans with trusted benefits they have earned. They are not given. They are earned.”