Thirteen percent of U.S. adults who are homeless have served in the military, but veterans represent just 7 percent of the overall U.S. population. In 2015, San Luis Obispo County resident Ronald Simon was in danger of becoming one of the 13 percent. But thanks to the staff at the County Veterans Services Department, Simon is thriving as a small business owner.
While in the Marine Corps, Simon was stationed in Iran and wanted to serve a full career in the military. He also served in the ARMY National Guard, where he was again called upon to deploy and served on Operation Iraqi Freedom, which resulted in multiple injuries, some of which he wasn’t even aware. Unfortunately, these injuries diminish his ability to fully function in a traditional work environment.
He tried to get his current conditions recognized as connected to his service, but those early attempts were denied. That’s when he turned to the County of San Luis Obispo Veterans Services Department.
Simon was able to acquire a combined disability award rating of 50 percent for various conditions he incurred while serving in the military. While this result was an improvement, Simon still had difficulty pursuing gainful employment because of these conditions.
Before he decided to file with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to be re-evaluated for a higher rating, the rent at his apartment increased. He again came to the County Veterans Services Department and was connected with the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program.
Through SSVF, the County Veterans Services Department partners with the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) to connect veterans with housing assistance. Simon was soon classified as a veteran in imminent risk of being homeless due to his housing situation and the SSVF program began providing him with rental assistance in order for him to keep him housed.
The apartment complex management considered Simon a valued tenant and provided all the information needed in order to start payment very quickly.
Through the collaborative role of SSVF within the VSO office and because of his classification as a veteran in imminent risk, Simon’s re-evaluation claim was expedited and received a decision within three months. In June 2015, Simon was classified as 100 percent disabled through the VA. After adding both his dependents, he was soon able to afford the increased rent without SSVF assistance.
In addition, Simon worked with the County Veterans Services Department to enroll in VA Vocational Rehabilitation to receive training on concepts necessary to expand the operations of his catering business. This opportunity allowed him to become self-sufficient and now he no longer needs the financial assistance from SSVF and related community programs. He continues to grow his business and can now focus on other goals related to his success without the stress of worrying about where he is going to live.
Simon’s success is a testament to how the County Veterans Services Department works as an advocate for the men and women who serve or served in the Armed Forces of America, their dependents, and survivors in obtaining benefits and services from the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, California Department of Veterans Affairs, San Luis Obispo County and other programs for veterans and their families.
The Veterans Services Department continues to be a bridge connecting veterans, veteran service organizations and the community to promote the wellbeing of our local veterans and their families.
CAPSLO administers the SSVF program to provide a range of services that address barriers to stable housing for low-income veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless. The program also assists veterans who are homeless get permanent housing. Supportive services are available to eligible veterans and other members of the veterans’ household based on an assessment of their needs and an individualized housing stability plan.
The program offers:
- Case management to work with participants and match unmet needs with various resources to get the veterans back on their feet.
Legal assistance to help resolve housing barriers and assist with other civil legal issues.
- Employment counseling, including specialized employment training, job readiness assistance, individualized employment counseling, and skills assessment.
- A housing-barriers assessment
- Emergency housing stability assistance
- Temporary financial assistance
- Housing counseling
- Rental agreement education
- VA benefits assistance and counseling
- Landlord-tenant mediation
- Future housing sustainability planning