Ted Simons: The Arizona department of veterans' services is reaching out to veterans across the state, asking for feedback on services, including benefits and care. The department is also busy planning its next veteran’s women's expo. Here to talk about all this is Stephanie Michael, the minority veterans program coordinator at the Arizona department of veterans services, and Kelly Anne Beck from the Arizona coalition for military families. Is it back or beck?
Kelly Anne Beck: It is Beck. B-e-c-k.
Ted Simons: Got you. This expo, what is it all about?
Stephanie Michael: The state holds annual women's expos and this one’s in Yuma. It is great way to celebrate and honor women veterans in Arizona.
Ted Simons: And when is this?
Stephanie Michael: September 30th, a Saturday, at Arizona Western college in Yuma.
Ted Simons: And not the first one you have had; correct?
Stephanie Michael: That is correct. In April, we had it at Grand Canyon University and we had one in Kingman recently in July and this is Yuma in September.
Ted Simons: As far as the survey is concerned, is this relatively unique?
Kelly Anne Beck: This is very unique. This is the first time in our nation we have done this. No other survey has been done like this. What we are trying do is get an assessment of what the needs are for the military and veteran community here in Arizona all over the entire state. It is statewide initiative.
Ted Simons: It is veterans only? I understand family members and others might be involved.
Kelly Anne Beck: Veterans, service members, family members, providers and even community helpers. Anybody within that community. We encourage people to take the survey, finish it and share it with someone as well.
Ted Simons: Sample questions?
Kelly Anne Beck: It is really anything from employment status, to what are daily stressors, barriers keeping people from getting services they need. It is an assessment on a statewide overview of everything. So we can get service members, veterans, and their families to the right resource at the right time. Through the survey, we are able to see what services people are utilizing and maybe services they need but we don't have so we can get them.
Ted Simons: I am sure some veterans could write a book about services. Is there a limit?
Kelly Anne Beck: It takes 30 minutes to complete the survey. The way we look at it is there is not a limit we just want to take all this information because not only can we learn statistics about veteran and military community but do the needs assessment.
Ted Simons: As far as the expo is concerned, it sound like a networking opportunity, place for folks to get together and share experience and stories.
Stephanie Michael: We will have an amazing guest speaker. Joanna Sweat. It is great way to meet other women veterans in the community. We are an amazing list of exhibitors. VA, valley for vets, Yuma vet center, variety of people coming out to do beauty and nail. Just a way to celebrate and pamper women.
Ted Simons: If a woman is watching right now she is a veteran and says what is this all about what can she expect?
Stephanie Michael: She can expect education. A lot of women don't know what they are eligible for and that is gray way to find out state and federal. We will talk about women's health like military sexual trauma, menopause, just different things that affect women.
Ted Simons: how long are these expos going on?
Stephanie Michael: For a couple years. Director Wright had a vision to help women and serve women and that is what they are here do it.
Ted Simons: Back to the survey, I notice the be connected suicide prevention program you are looking for information to help with that aspect of services. Talk about that.
Kelly Anne Beck: The be connected program is really trying to get service members and veterans to those resources that are available to them. So that is another statewide initiative with several different partners working throughout the state. What we want to do is make sure this statewide survey is making it so we can see what locations throughout the state need resources we don't have that we want to help fund. It will help with funding aspects. Seeing this is a resource that is really being utilized we want to get that funding or for example in those rural areas where we see a lot of our veterans living we want to get resources in those areas as well.
Ted Simons: Be connected is not necessarily a suicide prevention program. It is just part of the program.
Kelly Anne Beck: it is a suicide prevention program that doesn't look like one. There is a support line that is there. What that program is for is to make sure sometimes veterans say I had to get to the point in crisis I needed help. This is really a support line where people can call in and get any type of service they want. Even for example, if someone is thinking I am a female veteran. I just want to connect with other veterans and they are able to call the line and there is a matching portion where they can go online and get matched to resources so they don't get the point of feeling isolated and not connecting.
Ted Simons: Avoiding that isolation is important. We have talked about that in the past. You find ways to help people connect to state and federal aid and services and such?
Stephanie Michael: Yes. We talk about be connected and the different state programs we offer. I can speak as a community problem I have used be connected for myself. We get tons of different questions to the state department and sometimes I don't know all the answers. I have used be connected and I can say a hundred percent it works and it is great resource.
Ted Simons: It sound like these resources and getting these programs together are improving quite a bit over the years.
Stephanie Michael: I have been with the department for six years and I think we are doing great.
Ted Simons: And this is an anonymous survey, correct?
Kelly Anne Beck: Yes. Just so people feel open and honest and don't feel like people will hear about had issues. People are open and honest and we have had nearly 3,000 people fill out the survey and people are feeling comfortable about being honest with the issues they faced.
azveteranssurvey.org is the website. We have had 3,000 fill it out and our goal is 5,000.
Ted Simons: And September 30th in Yuma?
Stephanie Michael: Yup. Arizona Western College in Yuma.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us. Tomorrow on Arizona horizon it's the journalist roundtable, Governor Ducey still won't say if he supports the president's pardon of Joe Arpaio, who the governor calls a friend. And republicans continue to eye Jeff Flake's U.S. Senate seat. That's tomorrow on the journalists' roundtable. I am Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Arizona "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station.
An event celebrating women veterans is set to take place Sept.30 in at the Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona. The event will include guest speaker Joanna Sweat as well as pampering services and discussions concerning women’s health.