Veterans helping veterans

Support for veterans can come in many forms. At the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), that support comes in the form of fellow veterans. Last fall, U.S. Air Force veteran Kandyss Touchstone found herself in Texas with two children and only three bags of belongings. She was starting over after more than 12 years of military life, first as a serviceperson then as a military spouse.

Touchstone quickly secured housing, but shortly after settling in Houston, she was hospitalized for approximately a month. That was when the reality of transitioning to civilian life and the challenges of employment began to surface. The holidays were quickly approaching, and Touchstone had exhausted her savings, was unable to find a job and faced possible eviction. Reluctantly but desperately, she reached out to a Veterans Resource and Referral Specialist through the TWC’s Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP).

This unique program provides veterans with assistance in finding employment, education, job-training or referrals to other community veteran service organizations, and to state or federal programs. The TVLP’s Veteran Resource and Referral Specialists are all veterans with firsthand knowledge and understanding about the challenges of transitioning into civilian life. “Peer-to-peer support is very important in building relationships and trust,” said TVLP Director Bob Gear. “Whatever the need is – short-term, long-term − every situation is unique, but with everyone working together, including our partners in other agencies, this program works to connect veterans to the resources to meet those needs.”

The Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP) was formed in 2008 to serve as a resource and to also provide referrals to returning veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and Operation Inherent Resolve; however the TVLP does not turn away any veteran seeking assistance. Touchstone connected with the Gulf Coast region’s Veterans Resource and Referral Specialist Chris Howard who quickly provided her with resources and referrals to address the immediate issues – clothes, food, groceries and housing assistance. Next, Howard helped Touchstone write her resume and polish her interview skills.

He was able to connect Touchstone with Nancy Agravante, a staffing specialist with Workforce Solutions Gulf Coast who led her to job interviews and ultimately, an employment opportunity with a state agency. Recently, Touchstone was promoted and is now settling into her new life in Texas. “Emailing the TVLP changed my life,” said Touchstone. “I don’t know where I would be right now without their help.” For Touchstone, the TVLP program provided her clear guidance during a very stressful time. She advises other veterans to seek assistance from the program. “Just follow their directions. They really help and they really change lives,” Touchstone said. “This was not just for me; this was also for my kids. They helped me to feed them and provide for them and that means everything.”

Since its inception, the TVLP has reached out to more than 22,200 veterans and provided direct services to more than 18,000 veterans. For more on the TVLP, please visit texasworkforce.org/txvlp.