Veterans Medical Leadership Council President Colonel Sam Young, US Air Force (Retired), talks about how the VMLC enhances the health and welfare of veterans in Maricopa County.
Ted Simons: Veteran's day is coming up, and our next guest is from a nonprofit organization that celebrates Veterans all year long. The Veterans Medical Leadership council helps Veterans with a variety of financial and health care needs. Here to talk about the VMLC is the president, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Sam Young. It's good to have you.
Sam Young: Thanks very much, Ted. Good to be here.
Ted Simons: Let's start with the basics, the Veteran's Medical Leadership Council, what is it?
Sam Young: It's kind of -- it's just name. But, essentially, it's a volunteer organization consisting of volunteers who are Veterans. Who have served during time of combat, and have come together to kind of give back to those Veterans that need some assistance. It started in 1999, was put together, essentially, through the V.A. medical center, volunteers, to kind of help articulate and encourage initiatives to help Veterans, and ultimately, to help sponsor the parade, and then follow on to help the troops that have fallen on hard times.
Ted Simons: Was it the kind of thing where not, not necessarily outside voices, these are Veterans for the most part here, but, was it a kind of thing to maybe just get a different viewpoint on things there at the V.A.?
Sam Young: People have been there, and done that. It's very hard to articulate what the military is about. And in the civilian communities. So, there was some identification with that. And of course, large Veterans medical center, which handles about 87,000 patients. So, Veterans can, can kind of talk different language.
Ted Simons: Indeed, and they can help with fundraising. How much that goes on there with the V.A. that the patients and the programs, how much of that falls outside of State and Federal funding?
Sam Young: Well, a large part that has to do with the individual needs of the People. Say, for example, paying of utilities. Or people, somebody's car that breaks down. Or sometimes, you need to put food on the table. Or you need to -- the clothing or whatever it happens to be. So that's, that's one category for the actual Veterans themselves. And then you also have, have other initiatives, for example, in the state home we were able to put together a project to, to remodel the outside patios, so it was safe. And we came together to help do that. There are little initiatives like that, but as you indicate, things outside of the Federal and State Government.
Ted Simons: Things that fall through the cracks there, and that go, that occur in the day-to-day living.
Sam Young: That's correct.
Ted Simons: And some of the programs, you refer to this, the returning Warrior Program. That deals with things like jobs, getting your car fixed. These sort of things.
Sam Young: Yeah, the Returning Warrior Program is, you know, with, with, with 9-1-1, and certainly with Iraq and Afghanistan, we started to find some of the Veterans that were coming back. They were in need of support. So, has that number grew from 3,000 to 6,000 to 9,000 to 15,000, we put together a program called Returning Warriors, and it's fairly unusual in that we deal directly with the social workers at the V.A. hospital. Now, it's all anonymous. We don't want to know who needs help and who doesn't. But, the social worker, worked with that particular Veteran to see what their needs are, see what funding is available for them. And we provide a little bit of a financial safety net. The fact that there is only 18 of us, we're able to cut a check and, and, you know, in hours to help somebody that may be evicted. Or somebody that they are shutting off their utilities. Or their car is broken and they cannot get to work or can't make a medical appointment or something like that.
Ted Simons: How common are those kind of things?
Sam Young: Very common. Just in the first six months, we were able to raise and, and spend over 200,000 dollars just this year. So, we consider Veterans, whether it's, whether it's Vietnam, whether it's Iraq, Afghanistan, you know, we reach out to all of them, but we rely primarily on the social workers at the V.A. medical center. Works a great partnership.
Ted Simons: And for some, of course, they need more assistance than others. Support to homeless Veterans. I know you are involved with that, and everything from dental care to maybe just providing a way to have reunion with their family.
Sam Young: That's right. We work with U.S. air. We got -- a Veteran from World War II that was in Iwo Jima, and he wanted to participate in a flight to the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. But he could not go because he needed a caregiver. So, we were able to fund the caregiver to escort him to satisfy a lifelong dream for him.
Ted Simons: Wow, that's fantastic. As far as community advocacy, we first met at the dedication for the Herrera way on 3rd street. 3rd street?
Sam Young: Yes. Those kinds of things you are involved with, as well.
Sam Young: Yeah, we really reach out and touch, whoever needs help. For example, the stand-down, there is a stand-down run by a, a specific organization, and we help to support financially and we volunteer to go down and this last year, they helped almost 1300 Veterans that were, essentially, living on the street, homeless or those that needed assistance; whether it's a haircut, a good meal, registration through the V.A. Whatever it happens to be.
Ted Simons: And does the state, the state veteran home, that needs improvements, too. That needs some help, and you provide support.
Sam Young: We go to them and we say, how you help, essentially? We were able to help in one case when they needed kind of like the special insulated covers. For the meals. You know, so we try to give back wherever we can. And in some cases, we can make a difference.
Ted Simons: And I noticed, as well, that women Veterans were a focus, and sometimes people forget that, there are needs there, as well.
Sam Young: There is roughly 46,000 female Veterans, in the state, and a lot of times, the homeless female Veterans kind of go unnoticed. We were involved with a place called Emily's Place, and essentially, that was to, to take an existing facility, and paint some walls, and work with the city, and also, Veterans first to put together that for some of the homeless women.
Ted Simons: And biggest challenge now, what are you seeing out there?
Sam Young: The challenge is that the conflicts are not on the front page any more. But, the Veterans are.
Ted Simons: Yes.
Sam Young: And there is 365-day a year requirement. So, this coming Friday, we have what we call a, a heroes won it all luncheon where we celebrate Veterans and the service that they have done, and we're going to spotlight the, the Grand Marshals, they have served in Korea, World War II, Iraq, Afghanistan. And also some of the active duty folks. We have invited almost 100 active duty types to come and to just have a Patriotic event.
Ted Simons: Where will this be?
Sam Young: At the Arizona Biltmore, and people are interested, we have our website. www.arizonavmlc.org. And we would love to have them and we expect 500 people in attendance.
Ted Simons: And it is interesting, a great point that when the wars rage, the knowledge, the interest, the attention is there. When things quiet down, those Veterans are still there, but the interest seems to fade.
Sam Young: You are exactly right.
Ted Simons: Well, good luck with the organization. It sounds like you are fighting a good fight, as it were, and continued success. Thank you very much for joining us.
Sam Young: Thank you.
Colonel Sam Young:President, Veterans Medical Leadership Council;