SC Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs holds annual Governor’s Summit

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — The South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs held its annual Governor’s Summit Thursday morning at the Pastides Alumni Center in the Vista.

Councils and partners from around the state provided updates to the governor on their successes, challenges, and ideas throughout the fiscal year, including discussions on expanding partnerships, improving services, and reducing Veteran suicides.

According to this year’s action plan, one focus area remains to reverse the long-standing trend of rising Veteran suicide rates.

“In 2020, the national Veterans’ suicide rate was 31.7 per 100,000. In South Carolina, that rate is 29.7 per 100,000,” says Health Promotion Coordinator Rodney Oldham.

Secretary for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Todd McCaffrey says suicide among Veterans will remain a critical focus.

“When you leave military service, the gap that you often lead behind is the gap, is the camaraderie, the teamwork that you found in military service. And when you leave that and get pole vaulted into the civilian world, that’s often a really challenging gap, and some Veterans struggle with that,” McCaffrey says.

Expanding partnerships remains a focus as well. According to the summary, the SC Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs exceeded its goal of having 30 service providers — with now 84 partners in the coalition serving Veterans across the state.

That includes improving peer-support services in under-resourced counties — with over 120 Pathfinders now available to assist transitioning Veterans statewide.

“If you have a Veteran not thriving due to a mental health issue, that is a priority. If you have a veteran not thriving because they don’t have a good job, that’s a priority. So the issue is not about specifics, it’s about outcomes. And the outcome we’re trying to achieve for South Carolina Veterans is to help them be in a position where they can thrive in this state,” says McCaffrey.

Governor Henry McMaster says another benefit for Veterans is South Carolina’s “PaYS” program — guaranteeing Veterans five  job interviews with potential employers.

“Our Veterans give us great strength. Our Veterans families give us great strength and great talent and great assets. And we want to see that all of the Veterans that need help get it, and all of those Veterans that who are ready to put their shoulder to the wheel of the economy of success of South Carolina have the opportunity to do it,” says McMaster.

And when it comes to education, providing opportunities for military children remains a priority with the Purple Star program — helping students who are moving from state-to-state navigate school requirements and the enrollment process.

“And the goal of this Purple Star is to help our support of the compact, in making sure every child in South Carolina graduates on time, military connected or not,” says Dr. Kim Priester with SCOIS and the Purple Star Program.

Veterans’ Affairs reports over 393,000 Veterans living in South Carolina.

Categories: Local News, Midlands Military Matters, News