The National Association of Counties is getting behind Operation Green Light, an initiative to shine a light on the plight of veterans in counties across the country who are having a hard time connecting with benefits after serving their country, and they want you to join the effort.
America’s counties are home to 17.5 million veterans, and are deeply invested in veterans’ health and well-being, often serving as a veteran’s first point of contact in the community for accessing services. Counties support veterans’ access to stable housing, employment and education and critical mental health services that treat trauma and prevent suicide. County governments often have a difficult time identifying veterans in the community, especially those who have newly relocated. This poses a problem for counties to reach these valuable members of the community with the services and support offered. That is where Operation Green Light steps in to help.
A new program dubbed Operation Green Light for Veterans hopes to shine a light on the plight of veterans in counties across the country who are having a hard time connecting with benefits after serving their country. The new program endorsed by the National Association of Counties (NACo) Board at its meeting July 23, is being promoted by Carbon County, PA Commissioner Chris Lukasevich.
“We’re seeking formal recognition of Operation Green Light to connect veterans with benefits they have earned,” said Lukasevich, who is retired from the U.S. Army and serves as the vice-chair of NACo’s Veterans and Military Services Committee. He noted that the veteran population in his county in Pennsylvania is among the top five highest in the state and has the highest suicide rate.
According to NACo’s blog:
Other statistics about veterans show:
- As of 2019, 11.7 million veterans are over the age of 65, which is about 61 percent of all veterans.
- Veterans make up roughly 11 percent of adults experiencing homelessness.
- Some 70 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness also experience substance abuse, and 50 percent live with mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
With Operation Green Light launching nationwide, counties will literally shine green lights from their county buildings from Nov. 7-13 (Veterans Day is Nov. 11) to “send a clear message to inspire veterans to reach out to their county veteran service officers,” Lukasevich said. He noted that he was inspired to make Operation Green Light a national cause after it first got underway in New York.
NACo is offering a toolkit online for counties to get the word out. The toolkit includes a blueprint for declaring a resolution in your county; sending out press releases; writing a letter to the editor to your local newspaper, writing a letter to Congress and posting information on social media.