Texas Veterans Commission looking to expand rural reach

FOX 7 Austin checked in with the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC), which is the largest state veterans organization in the country. 

The Texas Veterans Commission's mission is to help the more than a million and a half of veterans who call Texas home. 

Texas Veterans Commission's executive director and veteran Thomas Palladino joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

Mike Warren: As we go into this new year, what are the TVC's priorities for 2023? 

Thomas Palladino: Well, during the pandemic, we expanded our ability to serve veterans by doing more remote and virtual services. So because we did that, we now can see veterans in person and virtually. So that's expanded our reach, which means more veterans and their families can access the services that we provide for them. So we need to expand our ability for those veterans to reach us in the rural areas, especially in the areas of VA disability claims, women veteran issues and veteran entrepreneur services. 

Mike Warren: Are you seeing more veterans by nature of being able to deal with them remotely? 

Thomas Palladino: Absolutely. We'll see you. The VA disability claims, for an example. So we have about 145 claims benefit advisors spread across 40 different office locations throughout the state. And the waiting rooms are filled up. Veterans make a point. We now can make appointments in person, but besides that, we can do it virtually. And I would say over half the veterans want to be seen virtually. And the number of veterans that ask for those services has increased.

Mike Warren: Are the challenges for veterans out there changing at all? Are they? Or are they pretty consistent? 

Thomas Palladino: Well, you're always going to have veterans seeking someone to represent them, filing disability claims and accessing the VA health care system. And now the number of veterans that want to help want to receive assistance, starting their own businesses with our veteran, not for another program has increased in there where the number we have more women veterans in any state in the nation over 200,000. So in those areas have increased. The areas that we're moving into, we're trying to expand services is in the veteran homeless population with our Veteran homeless initiative, which we work with other agencies in order to give access to our veterans in and near of homelessness and to improve their state and homelessness and suicide prevention. The mental health services across the state.

Mike Warren: And the way you're doing that is by working with local organizations and helping with funding things like that, and they connect with the veterans themselves.

Thomas Palladino: That's right. So we coordinate services with other state agencies and local governments in both those areas of homelessness and suicide prevention is some of that is linked, and we work with them in order to give referrals for veterans that need that assistance and to enhance the services in those areas. Now we have a military veteran peer network, which is 40 of the MVP coordinators, we call them across the state, and they actually get recruit veterans in order to provide peer to peer counseling for those veterans that don't want to go into, you know, clinical services, which we can also refer to that. So we expanded in that arena as well.

Mike Warren: It is a very important mission, and it is going on strong. We got to wrap it up for now, but Thomas Paladino with the Texas Veterans Commission, thank you so much for joining us and for what you're doing.