State Will Step Up Efforts to Respond to Needs of Women Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are 16,545 veterans in Connecticut who are women. Some among them struggle with issues such as unemployment, homelessness and mental illness, and many more are unaware of the support services available to them.  That was the impetus for legislation approved this year by the General Assembly and recently signed into law by Gov. Malloy, requiring the Department of Veterans' Affairs to establish, within available resources, a Connecticut women veterans' program. 3D Connecticut Flag

The new women’s veterans program must:

  • reach out to women veterans to improve awareness of eligibility for federal and state veterans' benefits and services;
  • assess women veterans' needs for benefits and services;
  • review programs and research projects and other initiatives designed to address or meet Connecticut women veterans' needs; and
  • incorporate women veterans' issues in strategic planning on benefits and services.

The program must also annually submit recommendations for improving benefits and services for women veterans to the veterans' affairs commissioner and the Veterans' Affairs Committee of the legislature, beginning January 15, 2016.

Under the law’s provisions, a “veteran” is anyone discharged or released (under conditions other than dishonorable) from active service in the armed forces - U. S.  Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force -and any reserve component of these branches, including the Connecticut National Guard operating under certain Homeland Security missions.

Jackie Evonison, the women veterans’ outreach coordinator with the American Legion Connecticut, told legislators considering the program that many female veterans are unaware of available services or don’t feel they’re qualified to receive

In 2012, there were   more than 2,600 women veterans residing in Hartford County, according to data included in a report from the Aurora Foundation. Women veterans face substantial and unique challenges readjusting to civilian life, the report pointed out, especially in the areas of housing, mental health, health care, employment and homelessness:

  • In Hartford County, approximately 8 percent of the population are veterans; females are 5 percent of this population (approximately 2,619 women vets in Hartford County).
  • Female veterans are almost four times more likely to become homeless than women who have not served in the military.
  • Only one of the three veterans’ housing facilities in the county house female veterans.

As a group, female veterans are younger than their male counterparts, with an average age of 48, compared to 63 for men. More than 80 percent of the female veterans are working age, compared to 55 percent for men, according to published reports.

Commissioner Sean Connolly of the state Department of Veterans Affairs said the mission of the program will be “to see what kinds of programs are out there, develop recommendations for improving benefits, and determining whether new programs and projects are necessary to meet the needs of our women veterans.”


University of New Haven Named a “Best for Vets” College

The University of New Haven (UNH) has been ranked among the nation’s best colleges for veterans.  The 2014 “Best for Vets Colleges” list, developed by Military Times, places New Haven among the top 80 institutions in the nation, ranking at number 59.  UNH is the only higher education institution from Connecticut to earn a place on the list.

In addition to ebfv-colleges-2014valuating schools’ veteran-focused operations, the publication considered more than a dozen different measures of academic success, quality and rigor, as reported by schools and the Education Department, to develop the rankings.

Representatives of about 600 schools responded to the Best for Vets: Colleges 2014 survey, comprising of 150 questions that delved into school operations in unprecedented detail, according to the publication.

The results indicated that many more schools are tracking the academic success of their military and veteran students — but the majority still do not.  Last year, fewer than 11 percent of school representatives responding to the survey said they track completion rates for current and former service members. This year, more than a third said they track similar academic success measures for such students, the publication’s website pointed out.660556

Military veterans of UNH (MVUNH) is a Student Group formed to both support current UNH Veteran student and encourage a UNH "Veteran friendly" campus to attract new Veteran students.  The university’s purpose is to create a community of veterans who will use their knowledge and experiences to educate the university community and advocate on behalf of student veterans.  Members meet once a month to discuss current events and provide new information.

The newly renovated and furnished Veterans Success Center on the UNH campus serves as common place for students to study, gather for MVUNH club meetings and relax.  The Center has four computers with access to printing, a microwave and refrigerator available to student veterans to use during breaks between classes.  The Veteran Success Center is heralded as a great place to meet fellow veterans and find out about veteran programming on campus and within the community.

In an effort to strengthen support for student veterans, Veteran Services and the University of New Haven have created a Student Veteran Emergency Fund.  Entirely dependent upon donations, the Student Veteran Emergency Fund has been established to assist student veterans who encounter an unforeseen financial emergency throughout the semester, including a delay iLove Your Country1n benefits, BAH and book stipends from the VA.

The University of New Haven is also a partner of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, located in West Haven.  VITAL is a VA initiative aimed to support student veterans on campus in their successful transition to academia and in completion of their educational goals.  The University also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans.

Nationwide Effort by Newman’s Own Foundation to Help Veterans; Local Initiative Lagging

When Westport-based Newman's Own Foundation launched a national fundraising competition aimed at supporting the work of veterans organizations across the country – coupled with plans to contribute an additional $180,000 to the most successful efforts - the inclusion of a Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN) job training initiative for veterans was encouraging.

With the deadline just hours away, however, the local CPBN effort is ranked 23rd among the 28 participating organizations, having raised a total of $691.

A select group of military service nonprofits – a total of 28 organizations across the nation - were invited to raise money and compete for additional funds.  The Honoring Those Who Serve Challenge is a fundraising initiative developed to help charities gain awareness, recognition, and most importantly, cash.  It is an element in the Newman’s Own Foundation’s commitment to military personnel, veterans, and their families, providing a public awareness platform and funding support to organizations that help those who serve.

As of November 10, a total of $388,922 has been raised by 28 participating nonprofit organizations.  The Challenge began on Monday, September 30, and closes on Veterans Day, Monday, November 11, at noon.  Only charities pre-selected by Newman’s Own Foundation were eligible to compete and win – among them Connecticut Public Broadcasting’s Veterans Vocational Training Program.

The CPBN program is free to veterans to train for a career in media arts and video production at Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network’s Learning Lab in Hartford.  Veterans learn from award-winning professionals in television, radio and new media production.  Participants gain experience working on digital projects and productions, ranging from live broadcasts to studio operations to web services.  Completion of the program leads to industry-specific certifications in digital arts or video production and includes portfolio development and business connections.honoring those who serve

The charity that raises the most money during the Challenge wins a $75,000 grant. Second place will receive $50,000, and third place will receive $25,000.  Another $30,000 is being given throughout the campaign, through weekly bonus challenges.  As of November 10, the leading organizations were the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services and Easter Seals ($122,194), Operation Finally Home ($53,331) and Hero Dogs Inc. ($41,531).  All the participating organizations in the Competition – operated through a specially designed Crowdrise website - will keep the money they raise, regardless of whether they receive the additional prize money contributed by Newman’s Own Foundation.

To carry on Paul Newman’s philanthropic legacy, Newman’s Own Foundation turns all net profits and royalties from the sale of Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. To date, Paul Newman and Newman’s Own Foundation have given over $380 million to thousands of charities around the world.

Among a range of programs supported by Newman’s Own Foundation – including the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT and an array of nutrition programs nationwide, the organization has been a consistent supporter of veterans initiatives and public broadcasting.  Earlier this year, the organization announced a series of grants totaling $2.4 million over two years to 13 public broadcasting stations and organizations. The grants represent an ongoing commitment to support open dialogue and promote civic engagement.ct-vets-control-room

Funds were used by some stations to generate increased donor giving through challenge grants. In other cases, funds will be directed to programming or special projects, such as National Public Radio’s Military Voices Initiative, where the experiences of military personnel, veterans, and their families are recorded and broadcast.  Among the affiliates included were Connecticut Public Broadcasting and WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield. 

This fall, Newman’s Own Foundation committed $7 million in grants over three years to support United States military men, women, and families through its “Honoring Those Who Serve” program. The grants will be awarded to more than 50 nonprofit organizations that help military personnel, veterans, and their families successfully manage deployments and the transition from active duty to civilian life.  The current Challenge that concludes on Veterans Day, along with $300,000 in grants for nonprofit organizations that assist female veterans with career development, are segments of the overall commitment.

“There is no greater sacrifice than serving and defending our country,” said Robert Forrester, President and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation. “We have a responsibility to support our military men and women, since they protect the freedom and privileges we enjoy as Americans.”

The grants will help military serviNewman's Own Foundationce organizations across the country that deal with issues such as health, housing, education, career development, and family support. When veterans return home, they face vast and complex challenges. According to the Department of Defense, the military suicide rate hit a record high in 2012, increasing nearly 16 percent over the previous year. Over 60,000 veterans are homeless.  The unemployment rate for Gulf War-era veterans was 9.9 percent in 2012, compared to 8 percent for all Americans.

“Recalling Paul Newman’s service in the United States Naval Corps in World War II, we have been committed to supporting military nonprofits for over twenty years,” said Forrester. “Paul felt that we can all make a difference by helping others, and there is no better time to announce our military grant commitment.”   The actor and philanthropist who founded Newman’s Own passed away on September 26, 2008.

For more information on Newman’s Own Foundation, visit Any questions regarding the Veterans Vocational Training Program can be answered by contacting Donna Sodipo, Director of Education Services at

UPDATE:  At the end of the challenge, a total of just over $670,000 was raised during the Honoring Those Who Served Competition, including $741 for the Veterans Vocational Training Program at CPBN.

Veterans Education and Career Training Gains New Focus in Connecticut

With veterans returning from active duty in increasing numbers and seeking to pursue higher education or achieve a place in the workforce, efforts are underway in Connecticut to respond.

The Veterans Vocational Training Program (VVTP), is a new initiative of Hartford-based Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN).  The program offers veterans,free of charge, two different programs of study.  Media Arts, which focuses on the Adobe programs Photoshop, Illustrator, and In-Design, is offered during the Fall 2013 semester, which begins on August 26.   The other program seeks to develop the talents of budding video producers and editors.

Both programs incluveteransde 90 hours of classroom instruction, professional portfolio development, and an additional 60 hours of hands-on learning. In addition, the VVTP helps potential employers connect with veterans seeking specific employment opportunities.

There will be an Open House for veterans to learn more about the program on July 18 at5:30 PM at CPBN, located at 1049 Asylum Avenue in Hartford.  Inquiries about the program can be directed to Major (ret) Tim Krusko, Program Manager, at 860-275-7337 or email  Questions can also be directed to CPBN’s Director of Education Services, Donna Sodipo at or 860.275.7337.  Individual tours of the facilities are also available.

The initiative has quickly developed a wide range of partners that will help CPBN provide veterans with a real-world education while increasing their employment opportunities. CPBN is also reaching out to colleges and universities for referrals of veterans who might benefit from the VVTP as a no-cost way to supplement or enhance their current media education experience through hands-on learning. The VTTP is not restricted to Connecticut residents.

The Fall 2013 semester starts August 26, 2013 and ends December 19, 2013.  The Spring semester will run January 13 through May 12, 2014.  The goal is to have 85 percent of program participants successfully employed after completing the program.

In a separate effort, the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, which includes 16 higher education institutions in the state, recently held a one day, state-of-the-art training for over 100 campus participants from throughout Connecticut that focused on military culture and serving student veterans.

Offered by the Center for Deployment Psychology, the training was designed to increase competency in the concerns, challenges, culture and experience of service members and veterans attending college. Mental health professionals as well as non-clinical university staff specializing in student affairs, financial aid, disability services, housing, campus security and oveterans learning labthers attended.

The training covered:

·  Culture and Experience of Service Members & Veterans on Campus

·  The Deployment Cycle and its Impact on Students

·  Reintegration on Campus

·  Outreach Strategies and Group Exercise

·  Overview of Treatments for PTSD on Campus

The training was offered free of charge to every non-profit public and private college in Connecticut.  It funded by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation and was offered through a collaboration of the American Council on Education and the Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  The event was part of an ongoing effort coordinated by CCIC “to help campus representatives learn best practices and gain an understanding of resources available to make the campus experience successful for those who made the commitment to protect and serve our country.”

The VTTP is made possible through the generous corporate sponsorship of organizations and businesses including the Wounded Warrior Project, Newman’s Own Foundation, Walmart Foundation, the SBM Charitable Foundation, Farmington Bank Community Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Wounded Warrior Project awarded CPBN with a $250,000 grant for the economic empowerment of wounded warriors and their family members. CPBN is currently seeking additional grant programs to help grow the program beyond the first year and replicate it in other parts of the country.

The VVTP program is a component of CPBN’s soon-to-be-completed $3.5 million Learning Lab, which will also offer education programming aimed at Hartford public school students. CPBN will dedicate a state-of-the-art learning space to these initiatives, to include studios, sound rooms, classrooms, offices, and video production and media arts facilities.