Veterans

Veterans from The Mission Continues getting their orders in the morning at the National Day of Service in Homewood. The Mission Continues participating in the National Day of Service in Homewood. Photo by Sean Means

The Heinz Endowments believes strongly that southwestern Pennsylvania’s more than 220,000 veterans — about 50,000 of whom have served in Iraq or Afghanistan — are huge and undervalued assets in our region, and their well-being and reintegration and that of their families are just one example of a national challenge that we are attempting to address.

In our veteran-focused grantmaking, we work to connect veterans with opportunities to lead and serve in our community. We are committed to making systems that care for veterans and military family members transparent and accountable, where the health and wellness of veterans supersedes the needs of any organization or individual. We work to refocus shallow stereotypes of veterans as broken or in need by highlighting their formidable talents. We partner with organizations that challenge them in positive ways.

We focus primarily but not exclusively on post 9/11 veterans to increase the amount of proactive and preventive resources available. The Pew Research Center’s October 2011 report, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” identified 44 percent of the post-9/11 veteran population as “at risk” as they leave the military. But this confirms that 56 percent of returning veterans reintegrate into civilian life seamlessly. Also contrary to popular perception, the overwhelming majority of the 44 percent identified as “at risk” do not struggle with significant mental health, physical health, or housing crises. Rather they are struggling, in large part, because of this faulty perception. This results in an inability to penetrate closed social networks, a misunderstanding of how their well-earned skill sets can be leveraged by employers, and a desire to serve without valued and vetted opportunities to do so.

The opportunity to support veterans and military family members is huge. One in 10 current residents of our region has served in the armed forces. They are all surrounded by families and friends. Collectively, this represents a large part of our Pittsburgh community and creates an incredible moment to leverage this resource to strengthen our city and its revitalizing neighborhoods.

Rethink Vets

Black man in military clothes featured on the RethinkVets website.  Next to him are the words, "Veterans don't want our sympathy. They they've earned our support."RethinkVets is the work of a coalition of organizations committed to changing inaccurate, preconceived notions about our returning troops. Led by The Heinz Endowments, these organizations rallied together to reshape public perception through this awareness campaign. Not just because our veterans deserve the benefit of an open mind, but because these misconceptions devalue the immense asset that veterans bring to our community.

Less than half of 1 percent of the U.S. population has served in our country’s military. That means the percentage of individuals and families with personal connections to a veteran also is small. Unfortunately, people who don’t have close relationships with veterans too often make inaccurate assumptions about them. We want to bridge the gap between veterans and those who don’t know who our military service members really are. We are providing facts and telling true stories about our veterans as unique individuals with unique experiences, who provide unique benefits to our community.

Hear our veterans stories in their own words. Watch this video highlighting local vets talking about the military-civilian divide.

Learn more at www.RethinkVets.org

 

Highlighted Grantee
Group graduation photo of veterans who participated in the Community Leadership Course for Veterans. Most recent graduates from the Community Leadership Course for Veterans. Photo courtesy of Leadership Pittsburgh
Leadership Pittsburgh

With more than three decades of cultivating and training civic leaders in the Pittsburgh region, Leadership Pittsburgh is now offering its expertise to post-9/11 veterans through the Community Leadership Course for Veterans, which prepares participants for using their skills and experiences to improve their communities as well as their own lives.

PAServes

Launched on Oct. 1, 2015, PAServes – Greater Pittsburgh is celebrating its second anniversary and highlighting its successful track record of transforming and empowering veterans, service members and their families through a coordinated network established to meet their diverse needs. The program brings together service providers from across Allegheny, Westmoreland and Butler counties, creating a coalition of public, private and nonprofit organizations that offers a range of support for members of the veteran community. So far, 51 organizations participate in the network , which continues to grow and has been called “a social work dream” by a top VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System official. Pittsburgh Mercy Health System is the PAServes’ Coordination Center for the Greater Pittsburgh area. Read more.

 

 

Needs Assessment: Veterans in Southwest Pennsylvania

In 2015, the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C., think tank specializing in national security issues, released the results of its comprehensive evaluation of veterans in the Pittsburgh region. The Heinz Endowments-supported study, “Needs Assessment: Veterans in Southwest Pennsylvania,” found that immediately after leaving military service, many of the region’s 235,000 veterans struggled with issues such as education, access to benefits and economic security. They also differed dramatically in how they felt about veterans benefits and their own well-being, depending on whether they served before 9/11 or after.

 

 

Uniform Champions

Uniform Champions: A Wise Giver's Guide to Excellent Assistance for Veterans by Thomas Meyer was published this year by The Philanthropy Roundtable. This is a follow-up volume to their first guidebook on this topic, Serving Those Who Served.  Uniform Champions chronicles the most successful funders in this area and what they've learned through real-life experience about the best ways to boost men and women entering civilian life after military service.

Read The Heinz Endowments case study in this publication: Assets Not Victims.

Read the entire publication on The Philanthropy Roundtable website.

h Magazine article

"Fixing our Heroes' Welcome," by Jeff Fraser. Issue 3, 2015. No one said that coming home would be easy for veterans, but too often organizations that try to help end up making the transition more complicated. A new public-private network is providing veterans with streamlined access to needed services and better support of their readjustment to civilian life.



The Heinz Endowments sponsored a series of community forums for veterans and service members in southwestern Pennsylvania, asking them what resources and opportunities they needed. These videos highlight local veterans talking about the military-civilain divide.  Listen to the challenges they faced returning to civilian life. Then, read the blog post telling the experiences of two PAServes intake specialists, veterans themselves, as they work to connect veterans to needed services.