Veteran services

Hays receives $400,000 for services to veterans

By Sahar Chmais

Two veterans service systems have received a collective $400,000 to help veterans in Hays County.

The Hays County Veterans Affairs Office received $100,000 and the Hays County Veterans Processing Court received $300,000 through the Texas Veterans Affairs Commission (TVC). The TVC awarded $6.8 million in grants to Veterans Services in Central Texas, with a big check ceremony held at the Hays County Government Center on Wednesday, September 15.

“Two words that should never be in the same sentence: homeless and veteran,” said Hays County Veterans Services Officer Jude Prather. “It helps keep veterans off the streets.”

32 Central Texas veteran organizations have received funding through the Texas Veterans Commission.

The County Veterans Affairs Office assists veterans, dependents, and surviving spouses with rent, mortgage, and utility bills. Recently, the program began paying auto insurance and car payments so veterans can get to work, as well as cell phone bills and internet bills so veterans can stay connected, a said Cheryl Robinson, case manager at the Veterans Affairs office.

“We have homeless veterans who come into our office every week,” Robinson said, “and that way we’re able to connect them with other resources, or if we can’t help them , we’ll find someone who can.”

The Hays County Veterans Affairs office helps 70 veterans a year, Robinson added.

The $300,000 portion of the grant will help fund the system that diverts veteran defendants, typically charged with criminal offenses, from traditional or specialized courts into a specialized criminal court role specifically created for them. The court caters to their unique cultures, attributes, and needs.

Veterans Treatment Court is a 12 to 24 month three-phase treatment court that promotes sobriety, recovery and stability.

“Virtually all of the services we provide will be funded by this grant,” County Court Judge No. 2 Chris Johnson said. “…we have a very high success rate because we are able to partner with private service providers to provide the kind of treatment veterans need in my court.

Sometimes it might be halfway through the program that they can figure out what services are really needed, Johnson said.

The money helps fund private service providers, such as one-on-one sessions with psychologists and psychiatrists. Providers are available 24/7, providing fast, flexible and immediate care, Johnson added.

Veterans can seek help from the Veterans Administration (VA), which is a more regulated and rigid system than it needs to be, Johnson said, but it simply won’t have the same flexibility and same immediacy.

The $300,000 will see the court through to the end of the year, according to Johnson.