By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2011 – From benefits and compensation to education and training, an online directory is providing wounded warriors, veterans and their families a direct connection to thousands of state, local and national resources.
“There’s so much information on the Web right now, it’s nice to have one place to access all of the content, the services, the information you need,” John R. Campbell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy, told American Forces Press Service. “It really permits the service member and family the ability to get information directly.”
The Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs departments created the National Resource Directory — located at http://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/ — to link wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families and caregivers to nationwide resources that support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration, Campbell explained.
Toward that end, the directory contains information on a broad range of topics, including benefits and compensation, education and training, employment, caregiver support, health, housing, and transportation and travel.
With such a vast amount of information, Campbell said, a considerable effort went into creating user-friendly navigation tools to help people pin down resources quickly, whether it’s local grassroots efforts or national-level initiatives. People can search for a resource or program by subject, state or territory. A recent addition is a state widget that people can customize and embed in home pages, blogs and other sites. Once there, the information is updated automatically.
New programs and resources are added to the directory as quickly as agencies and organizations can roll them out. Experts always are working to ensure they’re hitting on the hot topics for troops and their families, Campbell noted, and as a result, the site is constantly evolving.
Campbell cited veteran homelessness as an example.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness is working with the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development departments to eliminate homelessness entirely by VA’s goal of 2015.
The directory has devoted an entire section to homelessness, featuring resources that offer everything from emergency housing to employment assistance.
Spouse employment is another area of growth on the directory, Campbell noted, particularly with new programs and resources in the works. The Labor, Commerce and Defense departments and the Small Business Administration, for example, are working with the business community to expand career options for spouses. Officials will ensure new spouse employment resources are added to the directory as they arise, he said.
While officials always are on the lookout for new information to post to the directory, feedback from troops and their families plays an integral role in keeping the site current, Campbell said. The site includes an easy-to-locate section where people can submit resources for consideration or pass on praise for outstanding service.
“We’ll take that resource and, if we find out it’s a good one, we’ll put it up,” he said. Officials verify each resource before posting, he added. A nonprofit organization, for example, must be in good standing with the Better Business Bureau before it can be considered for the directory.
“That’s the idea: to make it easy, make it efficient, make it valuable,” Campbell said.
To further that effort, he said, a mobile version of the directory will launch in the spring for smart phone users.
“The target audience is younger service members and families,” he added. “We’re really excited about that.”
Campbell said he’s received great feedback on the site, and is encouraged by a vast improvement in visitors, which he attributes to word of mouth. In the last quarter of 2010, the site’s unique visitors jumped by 115 percent, he said.
“We’re continuing to get reinforcement that we’re doing the right thing,” he said.