Wicomico Veterans Center Losing VA Contract - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Wicomico Veterans Center Losing VA Contract

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

QUANTICO, Md.- A veterans center in Wicomico County aimed at helping disabled and homeless vets may soon be unable to assist anyone.  Leaders of the Veterans Support Centers of America, located in Quantico, said they have been informed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will not be renewing its contract.  So, come Sept. 29, unless something drastic changes, the VSCOA will have to shut down.

Jerry Black, who is the general manager and co-founder of the VSCOA, said his organization has had more than 250 veterans comes through its doors. Along with providing veterans with support and the tools they need to make a transition back into society, the VSCOA also offers the PAWS program. PAWS is an assistance dog training program that many of the veterans have become involved in. Veterans who recently spoke with WBOC said being part of VSCOA and PAWS has been invaluable to them.

"You get out and you're lost," said Brian Farkas, a veteran from Milford who is also part of the PAWS program.  "You don't know what you're going to do and you're frustrated.  You have all kinds of things going on in your head.  This program actually helps with that."

Oscar Gonzales, a Dover veteran also in the PAWS program added, "It's the one out there that are lonely and don't know where to go.  They need it, and they don't know it."

While these veterans have been able to take advantage of the services and programs provided, future veterans may not be so fortunate. Black said he got some bad news on Thursday.

"I got an email from out contracts officer out of Perry Point.  In that email was an attachment and that attachment was a letter basically saying, 'We're not going to pick up your contract or any preceding years. The options that you have - done.  This thing is over with Sept. 29,'" Black said.

The letter sent to Black said the VA will not exercise the contract extension options with VSCOA and reads, "The option no longer fulfills an existing government need."  

Black said he has poured his heart, soul, and financials into the VSCOA and he is not going down without a fight. Black added he is going to explore all of his options.

"If we can get self-funded; if we can get to a point where we didn't actually have to go hand and knee to them every month, we could do a lot more with our program," Black said.

Black has two months to figure out what his next steps for VSCOA will be.  One option he will be exploring is political assistance.

On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is hosting a veterans' conference in Cambridge and Black said he plans on attending.  The VSCOA general manager wants to get some one-on-one time with the congressman who represents Maryland's 1st District and also come face-to-face with the individuals at the VA and find out why his contract was not renewed.

The VA says it is committed to ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.  This is a statement provided to WBOC by the VA:

Using the evidence-based “Housing First Model,” the VA Maryland Health Care System works to find stable housing for Veterans as quickly as possible, which then enables them to access the necessary array of support services. This model has resulted in a decrease in the number of Veterans needing transitional housing and an increase in the number of Veterans who are successfully being placed in permanent and supportive housing. Although the number of transitional bed contracts offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs will likely be reduced as a result of this new direction, these beds will only be taken out of rotation as Veterans graduate to other housing options. No Veteran has been, or will be, asked to leave transitional housing before their housing needs are met. The VA Maryland Health Care System provides health care services to homeless Veterans on the Eastern Shore at two VA community-based outpatient clinics and collaborates with community partners to provide transitional housing. In the fall 2015, the VA Maryland Health Care System will be releasing a Request for Proposals to find a community provider on the Eastern Shore that can offer enhanced services for homeless and at-risk Veterans, such as 24-hour clinical care and easy access to public transportation.

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