A new program launching this month will support active-duty military service members as they transition back to civilian life and relocate to communities across Wisconsin in the pursuit of work.
VetWorks Wisconsin is a joint effort between the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Wisconsin Veterans Network and Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. Officially kicking off March 22, VetWorks Wisconsin will provide transitioning service members and their families with assistance in employment, education, housing, legal services, veterans benefits and medical care.
“This new program not only puts Wisconsin on the map as the state where service members and their families can experience the highest quality of life and overall well-being after their military service, but it also provides employers with an opportunity to connect with the most highly skilled labor force in the country,” said Saul Newton, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce. “VetWorks Wisconsin meets the needs of service members and their families, and addresses the critical workforce needs of Wisconsin's employers.”
Military service members taking part in the program will be matched with a volunteer sponsor who lives in the community they are moving to. Service members are matched with their volunteer sponsor up to one year before leaving the military. They remain with the program through graduation, up to 12 months after leaving the military.
Wisconsin Veterans Network, a nonprofit organization based in Milwaukee, will also connect service members with available resources and services in their communities around the state. The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce will work with employers to meet their workforce needs and ensure positive employment outcomes for transitioning military members and their families.
“The goal, ultimately, is a reduction in the rate of veteran suicide in Wisconsin by eliminating many of the stressors that could be potential triggers for self-harm,” said Quentin Hatfield, executive director of VetsNet. “By connecting a service member with a volunteer sponsor/mentor who can help them build a homecoming plan and identify the resources they need for themselves and their families, we ensure that the soon-to-be veteran knows they have a team at home to pave the way for smooth transition to civilian life.”
VetWorks Wisconsin is an extension of the Expiration Term of Service-Sponsorship Program, a program established in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to sponsor service members through the transition process from military to civilian life. VetNets served as the community integration coordinator for the state of Wisconsin.
In 2021, VetNets was able to serve 427 veterans in 31 Wisconsin counties. The organization aided in categories ranging from homelessness, rent and energy assistance, employment, food insecurity, health and mental health services and education benefits.
“VetWorks Wisconsin bridges that process (of leaving the service) for our military and their families and empowers them to be successful once they call Wisconsin home, all while growing our workforce and attracting new talent to Wisconsin,” Newton said. “When we support and empower Wisconsin veterans and their families, our communities are improved and our economy grows. Everyone wins."