Harrisburg – October 21, 2015 – At the request of state Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today held a roundtable discussion on helping men and women from the armed services re-enter the workplace as well as their communities.

“With the good news that more and more military personnel are returning home, it is very fitting that we do what we can to make their transition from military life to civilian life as seamless as possible,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton), who chairs the committee.

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Lawmakers, business owners, veterans and advocates discussed ways to help provide veterans with the promising future they deserve. Teplitz has introduced two bills on this issue. Senate Bill 155 would create a “Veteran’s Entrepreneurial Training and Support Program” and Senate Bill 517 would require every county to establish a veterans treatment court.

Teplitz said that many returning veterans struggle with critical issues ranging from trauma and addiction to homelessness. He said veterans also face obstacles to finding good jobs or obtaining business financing and other career supports.

“Our fighting men and women have sacrificed so much for our country,” Teplitz said. “While we certainly appreciate their service, let’s show our appreciation in a tangible and meaningful way – with every available resource to help them pursue promising futures.”

Chuck Leach, Dauphin County Veterans Court mentor coordinator, described the success of Dauphin County’s Veterans Treatment Court. Thirty-five men and women have graduated from the program, and the recidivism rate is very low, he said.

Leach noted that the participants grow significantly during the intense 18-month program.

“What we get to see is men and women change their lives,” Leach said.” They come in a wreck and leave a proud soldier.”

The Dauphin County Veterans Treatment Court was created in 2011 and is modeled after the county’s Drug Court, said Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico.

“It’s successful for variety of reasons. The men and women in the program had to have been successful at some point,” in the fact that they served their country honorably, Marsico said. “Also, having mentors there really provides an extra layer.”

“You see a brotherhood that forms between the individuals,” added Tony DiFrancesco, director of Dauphin County Veterans Affairs. “It’s amazing to watch, not only before we go into court, but when we’re in court.”

Currently, there are veterans treatment courts in 18 counties, and these courts are also seeing success, according to Brig. Gen. (Retd.) Jerry Beck, deputy adjutant general at the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“There are four hundred fifty veterans going through veterans courts in Pennsylvania,” Beck said. “It’s being run very well. There’s great support from the counties and the judges.”

William Habacivch, veterans entrepreneurial program organizer and adjunct professor at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) said there is a disconnect from combat to classroom, so HACC has developed a program to mentor the students who are veterans. He said he believes programs that incorporate mentoring must ensure that the mentoring component is long term.

“The idea is, that you have to have a five-year mentoring program that involves academia, the business community, and government. There has to be connection and longevity,” Habacivch said. “I am convinced that when we come alongside them and teach them how to do things, we start building cooperation and collaboration between veterans and general population, and in that way we build a better community.”

Col. Robert Langol, director of Service Member & Family Support at the Pennsylvania National Guard said he finds that there are numerous resources available to veterans and their families but they need to work together.

“The programs that are available to veterans now are better than any point in our history. Where we see biggest challenge is really in trying to synchronize efforts of all organizations and entities trying to help,” Langol said. “There’s so much help out there in some communities that it’s difficult to stay current and connected with organizations and programs.”

David Gui, service officer at Disabled American Veterans Department of Pennsylvania, said he meets many veterans coming back who want to be productive. “The veteran doesn’t just want approval. They want someone to be upfront and honest with them,” he said.

Gui also assists veterans at Teplitz’s Harrisburg district office on the third Tuesday of each month by appointment.

Boscola praised Teplitz for forming a local Veterans Advisory Committee to give him additional guidance and input on issues and challenges that veterans face. Members of this committee, as well as Teplitz’s Small Business Advisory Committee, took part in today’s discussion.

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), and state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Monroe/Luzerne) also participated in the discussion.

In addition to committee members, the following took part in the discussion:

  • Col. Robert Langol, Director, Service Member & Family Support, PA National Guard
  • Brigadier General (Retd.) Jerry Beck, Deputy Adjutant General, PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
  • Frank Campbell, Board Member, Perry County Econ. Dev. Authority
  • Larry Mitchell, Owner, AllSafe Construction
  • Deb Beck, President, Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization (DASPO)
  • John Salvadia, President, Dog T.A.G.S.
  • Edward Marsico, Dauphin County District Attorney
  • David Gui, Service Officer, Disabled American Veterans Department of PA
  • Tony DiFrancesco, Director, Dauphin County Veterans Affairs
  • William Habacivch, HACC Veterans Entrepreneurial Program Organizer and Adjunct Professor
  • Charles “Chuck” Leach, Veterans Court Mentor Coordinator, Dauphin County

Contact: Charlie Tocci

Phone: 717-787-5166

ctocci@pasenate.com

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